Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NHRC probes Obasanjo’s claim of rights abuses against Jonathan

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday set up a five-man probe panel headed by its Chairman, Prof Chidi Anselm Odinkalu to investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings and human rights abuses raised against President Goodluck Jonathan by his political godfather, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Other members of the panel which was constituted at the extra-ordinary emergency meeting of the Commission in Abuja are the Executive Secretary, Prof Bem Angwe, Mrs. Eugenia Abu; D.O.C Ezeigwe and Alhaji Ibrahim Nikau.

In reaching its decision to probe, the NHRC considered the claims contained in the transmission from the Attorney-General of the Federation [AGF] to be quite weighty and grave, concluding that they raised issues of serious and systematic violations of the rights to life, access to fair hearing and justice, personal liberty, safety and security, equality before the law and the prohibition against discrimination.

The commission also raised a three-man panel of Mr. Kayode Komolafe, Mrs. Rita Ifeyinwa Njokanmma and Mr. Eric Bell-Gam to investigate, identify and verify the facts and actors involved in the ongoing crisis in Rivers State and any violations of human rights. In the case of Obasanjo's letter to Jonathan, the council considered the referral transmitted to the commission by the AGF and Minister of Justice on December 23, 2013 in relation to the allegations contained in recent correspondence between them.

In taking cognizance of the AGF's referral, the council said that Rule 79(2) (e) of the Standing Orders and Rules of Procedure the NHRC provide for the AGF or state AGFs to refer appropriate cases to the commission. Council is at all times guided also by the provisions of Section 6(3) of the National Human Rights Commission Act (as amended) that "in exercising its functions and powers under this Act, the commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person."

After comprehensive deliberations, the council decided, in exercise of its powers under Sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC and in accordance with Rule 79(2)(a), (c) and (e) of the Standing Orders and Rules of Procedure of the commission to constitute a panel to inquire into the following:

*Whether or not there is or has been state-sponsored killings or assassinations in Nigeria at any time since November 1995 to date;

*If so, what organizations, institutions, agencies or persons were or are involved in or affected by such killings;

*Whether there is or has been at any time since November 1995, a list of persons to be targeted for watching or for such killings;

* If, in any of such cases, the perpetrators, known or unknown, were brought to justice or assisted, facilitated or helped by any persons or institutions to evade justice;

*Whether the victims of any such killings were or have been afforded access to truth or to effective remedies; and

*Undertake any other or further tasks related to or necessarily incidental to the foregoing.

Council authorized the executive secretariat of the commission to immediately issue an invitation or call for memoranda on the above-indicated terms of reference.

The commission also considered the deepening crisis in Rivers State and concluded that the situation calls for urgent action to verify the facts and stem any further deterioration.

Accordingly, the council constituted a panel to undertake a verification mission into Rivers State with the following terms of reference:

* Identify and verify the facts and actors involved in the ongoing crisis in Rivers State and any violations of human rights connected therewith;

* Identify and interact with all parties or actors connected with or affected by the crisis;

*Recommend any interim measures to ameliorate or prevent further escalation of the situation in Rivers State into serious or massive violations of human rights; and

*Undertake any other or further tasks related to or necessarily incidental to the foregoing.

The NHRC authorized the verification mission to work on an expedited time-line and report

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