SPEECH DELIVERED BY
HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI,
AT THE 135TH ASSEMBLY OF THE INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION AND RELATED MATTERS HELD IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND. OCTOBER, 2016
I bring you greetings from the Parliament, Government and People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am highly honored to share with you the stand of my Parliament on the important issue of human rights abuses, its relationship with conflicts and the role of Parliament in checking such abuses.
2. The entrenchment of human rights provisions in the Constitution of Nigeria was aimed at creating a society which protects political freedom as well as the social and economic well-being of Nigerians. So our constitution recognise the following rights: civil, political, economic, social, cultural, women, children, peace and right to sustainable development.
3. The National Assembly passed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Act 2010 which promotes and protects human rights; monitors and assesses the observance of human rights in the country; investigates all alleged cases of human rights violations; assists victims of human rights violations; and seeks appropriate redress and remedies on their behalf.
4. It is important for us to see the issue of human rights as a global problem because it is only by working together and in synergy that we can truly agree on a resolve. The IPU is right by linking the pervasive lack of respect for human dignity as a source of conflict worldwide. Democracy cannot flourish in the midst of human rights abuses. These are often compounded by poor governance, resulting in injustice, whether real or perceived, national or global. For example, a top United Nations Human Rights official recently called the siege and bombardment of eastern Aleppo as “crimes of historic proportions” and accused all parties of violating international humanitarian law in Syria. In the case of South Sudan, thousands of civilians have been killed often because of their ethnicity or perceived political alliances; where an estimated 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes while large parts of key towns and essential civilian structures such as clinics, hospitals, schools have been looted, destroyed and abandoned. Conflict in the North-East region of Nigeria as a result of boko haram activities, have directly affected over 4.5 million families. More than 1 million people in the North East region are in danger of extreme malnutrition and have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their own country. According to UNICEF, 130 children die everyday as a result of as a result of lack of food. The UN estimates that about 7 million people need assistance especially food off which over 250,000 are under age 5.
5. Parliamentarians are the guardians of human rights. We work for the well-being of the people that we represent and should continue to develop legislative frameworks to ensure that our various human right laws are respected, implemented and properly over sighted.
6. In Nigeria, our legislative agenda emphasized human right issues relating to peace and security, sexual harassment, workers welfare, violence against women and children, amongst others . To address these catastrophic realities, we have passed the Child Rights Act 2003 and the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015. In March 2016, we allocated N10bn to IDPs in the North East in recognition of the dire situation. Parliamentarians agreed on a personal-allocation of an individual contribution to alleviate the plight of IDPs.
7. We have passed the North East Commission Act to ensure accountability and efficient structures for managing the nation’s humanitarian situation and providing special care for our IDPs.
8. On the issue of discrimination and stigmatization of marginalized peoples across Nigeria, in July 2016, the National Assembly passed the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill. The Bill seeks to provide social protection to persons with disabilities and provide safeguards against any discrimination that they may suffer from. The Bill also establishes a National Commission that will ensure that the right of persons living with disabilities to education, healthcare and other social and economic rights contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) are attained. We have also passed the Child Rights Act (2003) and Violence against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.
9. The National Assembly of Nigeria has demonstrated a strong commitment to push the frontiers of progressive engagement and affirmative action through women emancipation and empowerment. We are currently working on a bill for an act to incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the protocol of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa, and other matters connected therewith, 2016. This bill which is at the second reading stage addresses equal access to education, strengthening of the laws on violence against women, ending abduction of girls, gender mainstreaming and female participation in governance, among others.
10. The National Assembly is currently addressing sexual harassment issues in tertiary institutions through a bill that criminalizes sexual harassment in universities and puts stern punitive measures in place that will serve as deterrents for harassment and abuse in schools, workplaces and other institutions.
11. On human development, economic and social rights, we are repositioning the Nigerian economy to effectively meet the challenges of the 21st century, by creating a business environment that would create more jobs and opportunities for the youth, promote and sustain domestic entrepreneurs and facilitate the economic inclusiveness and participation of all segments of society so that the overall standard of living and socio-economic wellbeing of all Nigerians will be raised. Specifically, since the beginning of the year, we are working to fast-track over 40 priority bills recommended by the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER).
12. Dear colleagues, in conclusion, there are available laws addressing most of the human-rights related issues, the major problems are centered around non-implementation, poor oversight and lack of enforcement of these laws. We must however demonstrate courage, make sacrifices, be accountable, and stand up for the people we represent. We must speak out loudly when our laws are not obeyed and work in synergy with the other arms of government to ensure that human right violations wherever it occurs is condemned and addressed.
13. The National Assembly of Nigeria will continue to be a people-centered institution, where the interest and welfare of every Nigerian is paramount. As duly elected representatives of the Nigerian people, we will continue to work closely with every stakeholder in the arduous task of building a prosperous, secured and egalitarian society, where everyone will have a sense of belonging.
14. Mr. President and Distinguished Delegates, it is on this note that I wish to encourage this discourse and also throw the weight of the National Assembly of Nigeria behind the efforts of the IPU in ensuring early response on the part of Parliaments in checking human rights abuses in order to avoid needless conflict.
15. Thank you for listening. May God bless you all.
Senator Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON
President of the Senate
Federal Republic of Nigeria