By Shola Akingboye – 26th June 2020
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu Esq, has lend credence to the works of the media practitioners for their crucial roles and immeasurable supports, particularly in the fight against the resurgence cases of Rape and Sexual & Gender Based Violence related crimes in the country.
Ojukwu made the submission as he hosted journalists covering the agency’s activities to a media parley at the headquarters of the commission on Thursday.
While commends the roles of the media in the recently concluded 5-days of activism organized by the Commission to draw attention of stakeholders to the urgent need of combating the rising cases of rape and other Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), the NHRC highlighted the excellent roles played by journalists he described as a dependable ally.
“The media in Nigeria have continued to play a tremendous role in assisting us to accomplish the statutory mandate of the Commission which primarily is the promotion and enforcement of human rights since the establishment of the Commission in 1995.”
“The presence of the Commission was felt across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT during the period of activism; I salute your tenacity in spreading the gospel of human rights even in the difficult situation of the COVID-19 pandemic” Ojukwu said.
Ojukwu dwelled further on the significance of hosting the media men to the parley. He submitted that the human rights situations in Nigeria has improved since the return of the country to civil rule, which he attributed to the untiring roles played by the media, and therefore calls on the media that the Commission wants to remind journalists of their obligations as a fourth estate of the realm as spelt out in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
“We are here to let you know that you are the veritable tool that Nigerians rely upon in disseminating information that affects their lives especially on issues of human rights including how to seek redress when certain rights are violated.”
“We appreciate the fact that traditional media have been used to promote human rights in different ways, including editorials, features, discussion programmes etcetera”
“Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that the human rights situations in Nigeria has improved since the return to civil rule, this is attributed to the untiring role you have played”
“Civil and political rights which were substantially eroded during the military regimes are now broadly respected.”
“The Nigerian people are gradually becoming accustomed to enjoying their civil liberties because the media has played a critical role in the reestablishment of democracy and respect for human rights.”
“Our records shows that although the Nigerian media has done a lot in the promotion of human rights, as we have observed over the years, there is a need for them to do more”
“The violation of human rights as we have observed over the years is either as a result of impunity or share ignorance, meaning you have to do more in assisting the Commission to promote human rights in the country”
“Consistent report of violation perpetrated with impunity could reduce such violations.”
“Today, nations are judged by the nature of their human rights records, every country would want to stand tall among the country of Nations to claim the best human rights records.” Ojukwu stressed.
Described journalists as a dependable ally, Mr Ojukwu admitted that without the media the work of the Commission will not complete as he revealed gray areas the Commission demands the services of journalists in a time like this.
“The Commission is doing a lot of work that needs to be propagated in order for people to understand that the Commission exists for them.”
“So it is your responsibilities to bring to limelight violations that are capable of destroying the country’s image and to drive the government to nip them in the bud or account for them”
“We are using this opportunity to call on you to use your medium to carry out surveillance responsibility to help monitor and report human rights violations to us.”
“This can be done through constant vigilance on infringement of human rights. It could also be done by exposing law enforcement agents through”
“It could also be done by exposing law enforcements agents’s brutality, repression and how victim can seek redress.”
“You can help us highlight the inadequacy of funding to the Commission. The need for government to provide the specific budget for Rape and SGBV and corporate organisations to contribute to the Human Rights Funds to galvanise human rights promotion and protection”
“We need you to analyse existing laws that are in place for protecting human rights like the NHRC Acts, Child Rights Acts, the Violence Against Person’s Prohibition Act, the PCC Act, the Consumer Protection Act and a host of others” He stressed.
Ojukwu therefore charged the media on the need to do more and maintain a sustainable partnership with NHRC, particularly on cooperation with the National Human Rights Commission in its battle for the rights of the people in the country.
He assured the media of the agency’s plans to honour human rights defender among the media practitioners during annual International Human Rights Day.
In his reaction, the Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), FCT, Chapter, Emmanuel Ogbeche, who led the team of journalists at the event, commends the high regards the NHRC boss has for media practitioners in Nigeria, but laments how the media has been at the receiving ends of social injustice.
Ogbeche cited the COVID-19 experience as a case study of how terribly the media practitioners are being treated, particularly among the front-liners in the combat against COVID-19 pandemic. He used the occasion to solicit for NHRC’ voice for the Media Intervention Fund.
He speaks: “The worries we have as media practitioners is that, we are members of the realm without an estate, the other three are estates with government budgets, and COVID-19 has exposed how fragile the media is in Nigeria.”
“Without a media fund, most of us you see here may be out of jobs in the next three months. Hundreds have been laid off, and there is no better forum for us to race our concern on why there is an urgency for a Media Intervention Fund”
“We have made the point and we will reiterate it, that there is no reason why there should be an intervention fund for the creative industry, but for the media critical to the sustenance of democracy, promotion and entrenchment of the Human Rights not to be so recognized by the government.”
“So we want you to use your good office to make this appeal once again, that the media needs to be bailed out. It’s been done in other parts of the world, and there is no reason why Nigeria should be an exception if we want our democracy to be inclusive, deepened and sustained.” Ogbeche laments.
While declares cogent areas the Commission must address to make the synergy with the media a resounding success, Ogbeche assured the Commission of the media assurances of a sordid partnership in the struggle for human rights.
“You have an issue at hand and I know that bothers on funding, but we are impressed over what you have done.”
“This commission is doing the job of National Orientation Agency, which has failed in its entirety and that is why your commission should not relent in its effort”
“We want you to count us as willing partners in this endeavor, that can help your agency in realizing its objectives, including training for our members.”
“You need people such as civil society organisations, the media, social workers among others to be well informed on the issues of the Human Rights”
“Without proper knowledge, adequate training, we cannot be equipped in helping your commission in ensuring that the rule of law is observed, honoured, respected by the agencies and organs of government”
“We are confident that you have not failed in this responsibility or shy away from this critical period, especially as we matched towards 2023”
“I am optimistic that the dividend this parley will yield will help us promote and entrenched Human Rights as enshrine in our constitution” Ogbeche assured.
As parts of challenges faced by his men on duty, which is an integral parts of the media parley with the NHRC, particularly during the COVID-19 essential services as categorised by the federal government; the NUJ Chairman intimated the Human Rights Commission of specific cases of abuse and discrimination against media practitioners, which he calls on the Commission for its intervention.
Ogbeche went further to narrate how a female journalist went through the Isolation Center, and was discharge but suffered another trauma of stigmatization within her Garki, Abuja neighborhood home.
The NUJ boss demands the quick intervention of the NHRC to save the journalists of unwarranted psychological trauma.
“I want to appeal that your Commission intervention in this matter urgently before we have another suicide on our hand, and we all began to say ‘oh if we had known. It is an urgent matter, I will provide her detail to you, to see how this Commission can offer a remedy to such person” He pleaded.
In the same vein, the case of another slain journalists, Alex Ogbu, also brought to limelight by the Editor-in Chief, RegentAfrica Times, Shola Akingboye. He reminded the Commission of how the Police authority abandoned the widow and the little child left behind by the journalists who was shot dead by the police during one of the clash between the Police and members of Shi’ite movement early in January.
The Executive Secretary, Mr Ojukwu, reacting to critical issues raised, further sensitized journalists on the use of language when reporting. He cautions the media to always guide against frivolous reports that places victims of rape and other gender based violence on the defense, or subject them to ridicule over claims of abuses by making such victims a “double victim”.
In keeping his words on the late Alex Ogbu however, Mr Ojukwu has since met with the widow of the slain journalist, Mrs Francisca Ogbu, in his office at his request. While received documents relating to the circumstances of Alex’s death, the ES assured the family of the Commission’s willingness to get to the bottom of the matter within the ambit of the agency’s power.
He therefore rendered a hearty commiseration with the widow with a promise of the Commission’s moral support for the unemployed widow and the two years old child of the diseased.