Civil Society Organisations in the country on Wednesday told the visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, that corruption and impunity are the major human rights issues in Nigeria.
The CSOs made the complaint in a report they presented to Pillay when she visited the national headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission in Abuja.
Speaking on behalf of the CSOs, Mr. Chinonye Obiagwu told the UN High Commissioner that corruption and acts of impunity, particularly extra judicial killings, are on the rise in the country.
“Our concern is the issue of impunity and accountability – corruption and impunity are the key human rights issues facing the country today,” he said.
He drew Pillay’s attention to the proliferation of small arms in the country, a development which he said has contributed to the rise in extra judicial killings.
“Since 2003 there has been an increase in extra judicial killings not just because of terrorism but also because of the government’s failure to check the spread of small arms,” Obiagwu said.
He blamed the failure on a lack of political will on the part of the government.
Although he commended the Federal Government’s efforts in the campaign against terrorism, Obiagwu described the Terrorism Prevention Act as too wide and drastic.
The representative of the CSOs further informed the UN High Commissioner that the Federal Government has not shown a serious commitment to prosecute politically exposed persons.
In the same vein, he expressed reservations that government agencies are undermining the Freedom of Information Act by failing to respond to enquiries brought under the provisions of the legislation.
The CSOs equally frowned at the continued retention of the death penalty in the country’s laws.
They also informed Pillay of the “escalation of sex crimes” in the country, especially the rape of minors.
But, in a short response, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said she was not in the country to criticise the government.
“I want to know what the government is doing, I am not here to criticise.
“I want to encourage them to do more,” she said.
Earlier, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, commended Pillay for visiting at a time the country is facing severe security challenges.
However, he assured that the Commission was determined to defend the rights of Nigerians despite the security challenges.