Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has said it would petition the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over the non-constitution of the governing board for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by President Muhammadu Buhari.

It said the absence of the governing council as required by the law means the Commission was unable to make decisions concerning cases of human rights abuse.

To this end, the Rights group, however, gave Buhari 78 hours to reverse this anomaly by setting up a governing board for the commission or the group will be compelled to send a petition to the UNHRC to downgrade the NHRC, because operating without a board denies it of the element of independence and vibrancy and in violation of its laws.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja, National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, regretted that since the coming to office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to reconstitute the governing board with the expiration of the last governing board headed by Chidi Odinkalu whose tenure elapsed soon after Buhari was sworn into office in 2015.

According to the non-governmental organization, Nigeria’s human rights rating has become appalling just as government officials have become very insensitive of their constitutional responsibility to the citizens of Nigeria in line with the principle of the rule of law.

The group claimed that ministers are using the police to clampdown on media houses and detention of critics who write stories considered offensive to the personalities of those in political authorities.

HURIWA maintained that the United Nations ‘Paris Principles’ provide the international minimum standards for effective, credible National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), which require that NHRIs have a broad mandate, pluralism in membership, broad functions, adequate powers, adequate resources, cooperative methods and engage with international bodies, adding that among the six main criteria that NHRIs require to meet as set out by the Paris Principles is autonomy from the government.

“The lack of a governing board for the NHRC of Nigeria has crippled the Commission and is currently denying it of the global status as an independent, impartial and courageous overseer for the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights of all citizens as clearly spelled out in the universal declarations of human rights, African Charter on peoples and human rights and the Nigerian Constitution.

“We reiterate that with the deliberate weakening of the NHRC by President Buhari, the cases of genocides, mass killings and extralegal executions by security forces have become rampant and the rights commission is just a passive observer because there is no governing council to lead the process of investigations and recommendations of binding sanctions for such violators of human rights.

“Therefore, gentlemen of the media, we are by this statement demanding that within the next 78 hours, the Nigerian Government led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) should arrest and reverse this anomaly by setting up a governing board or we will be compelled to send our already prepared petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council to downgrade the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), because operating without a Council denies it of the element of independence and vibrancy and in violation of its laws, ” HURIWA stated.

Onwubiko, therefore cautioned the government not to fill up the governing board of the commission with politicians but should nominate Nigerians best suited to defend the human rights of Nigerians, stressing that it is better to select absolutely non-partisan citizens and patriots to the board so as to create a great legacy for the current government after it has gone.

“They need to ensure that the Rights commission maintains her independence as provided for in the amendments to the enabling law setting up the commission cannot be overemphasized.

“So the governing board being in place as at when due, the NHRC should inevitably be in the correct position to play her pivotal role as the national ombudsman for the promotion and protection of the human rights of citizens enshrined in chapter four of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) and a plethora of other global-wide human rights laws, conventions and treaties that Nigeria is a party to as a member of the United Nations,” he said.

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