December 3, 2022

NHRC Boss, Ojukwu to Be Conferred OFR

…Mgt and Staff of The Commission Expresses Satisfaction, Says Honour is Well Deserved

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Executive Secretary NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu Esq

By Shola Akingboye, 1st October 2022

It is another cap for the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chief Anthony Ojukwu SAN, as all is set for the legal luminary to be conferred with the prestigious National Honours, in the category of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR.

The Official ceremony culminating in the conferment of the Honours on the Executive Secretary and other deserving citizens will be performed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

This is not the first accolade the human rights defender will be receiving in recent times, as a career technocrat par excellence.

It would be recalled that the Chief Human Rights Advocate of Nigeria,  was awarded the high-status rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The well-deserved honour was bestowed on Ojukwu sequel to his numerous publications in the field of law and human rights, which have contributed immensely to enriching our legal and human rights jurisprudence including the field of administration of criminal justice.

Above all, Ojukwu’s exemplary character and humility,  proclivity for hard work among others, undoubtedly are measures behind the litany of accolades and recognitions trailing the ES NHRC.

Anthony Ojukwu, as we also recall, is the first Executive Secretary to be appointed from among the staff of the Commission, hence his unparalleled performances, and has carved a niche for himself following the numerous achievements recorded by the Commission during his tenure and as one who understands the system better, compares.

Hitting the ground running following his appointment as the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, Ojukwu no doubt was quick to come to terms with the fact that there are many miles to cover. His declaration of emergency disposition on the state of affairs over the human rights situation in Nigeria and the attendant gains by the nation was being monitored, leading to his elevations and honours in recent times.

At the NHRC, one of his first assignments was the unbundling of the single existing Investigation department into four thematic departments for effective performance.

Presently, under Ojukwu’s able leadership are the departments of Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Women and Children and Vulnerable Groups, all carved out of the overburdened hitherto investigation department.

The idea, however, is to ensure that every complaint that is received by the Commission is resolved in a record time of between three and six months. Though this sounded like a tall order, the truth of the matter is that these four departments are living up to the expectations.

Determined to improve accessibility across the 36 states of the federation, the incumbent Executive Secretary ensured the establishment of state offices in additional 12 states that did not have the presence of the Commission. These offices are today very productive and sterling in human rights promotion, protection and enforcement.

Ojukwu, a fearless human rights defender has always exhibited his zero tolerance for injustice irrespective of who’s ox is gored, especially those perpetrated by agents of the state, and would always tell the media he is ever ready to forfeit his appointment in the defence of the rights of common Nigerians on the street.

Recall in 2018, the federal government directed the establishment of a panel to investigate the excesses of the personnel of the Nigerian Police. He chaired the then SARS Panel and made far-reaching recommendations to the federal government leading to the disbandment of SARS.

Following the END SARS protest in 2020, and the federal government directives, the Commission under the present leadership of the Executive Secretary set up another SARS panel which was headed by Justice Suleiman Galadima, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court.

The federal government showed its unflinching support to the panel and has paid nearly half a billion naira to 100 Nigerians who were victims of Police brutality.

Still, on the commission’s efforts on the END SARS Panel,  a prominent legal luminary once expressed a lack of confidence in the panel at its inauguration. He called the investigation assignment, spearheaded by Ojukwu led Human Rights Commission a charade, a waste of time and carpeted the inauguration as ‘na today?’.

Asked what he meant by that, he told the media there were similar panels of enquiry in the past and too many of its kind, that were set up by the federal government but all ended in the mud without any substance out it, according to him.

The lawyer thus went further to tell us how he advised his client to withdraw her petition from the Abuja segment of the panel, the IIP-SARS, though the action both the lawyer and the client later regretted.

Recently, in another media encounter with the lawyer, he hailed the NHRC led Ojukwu high as he monitored how true reconciliations were achieved through the panel and appreciable monetary reliefs were doled out in compensations to victims of rights violations one way or the other, which is contrary to the lawyer’s earlier ‘na today’s presumptuous, and more kudos to the present leadership of the Commission having excelled where others failed.

It is also recalled that, earlier, the Human Rights Advocate also masterminded and chaired other Human Rights Violations Investigative Panels such as the Special Investigation Panel on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), and the Shiite Panel which made independent inquiries into the clash between the Nigerian Army/Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
In the same manner, the working relationship between the Commission and Civil Society Organisations, the law enforcement agencies has become even more cordial.
This has impacted positively on the ease of releasing information and documents needed to investigate human rights violations.

The Executive Secretary has enhanced the image of the Commission in many ways and has set up a working template in line with international best practices for human rights protection.

In the North East which has witnessed a series of gross human rights violations occasioned by the unfortunate insurgency, he has collaboratively worked and is still working with development partners like UNHCR, UNDP, EU etc to address the various human rights and humanitarian challenges bedevilling the area.

His choice of a Transitional Justice System to handle the high scale human rights violations by the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations in the North East is highly commendable. This strategy is less expensive, faster, more result-oriented, workable and justice prone. It has worked in other countries like Rwanda and South Africa where the Gacaca court system and Truth and Reconciliation Commission respectively were leveraged to address mass atrocities and human rights violations. The transitional Justice project which is still in its pilot stage is aimed at achieving lasting peace in the North East.

Only recently, the legal icon was appointed the alternate Chair of the National Committee Against Torture, which has its secretariat domiciled in the NHRC. This is a mark of honour and recognition of the contributions and commitment of the Commission to the cause of human rights.

Little wonder, the Commission has maintained its Grade “A” status as granted by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.

As the next peer review at the UN beckons, it is expected that the Commission will proudly retain this important status.

It is worthy to note that Ojukwu is the first Executive Secretary to be conferred with two honours of SAN and OFR while in office. What a great feat indeed.

The Governing Council, management and staff of the Commission say it is wishing to use this opportunity to say a big congratulations to the Executive Secretary for his well-deserved elevation

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