The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has solicited for media advocacy towards the activation of Human Rights Fund (HRF) which is yet to be functional despite its existence several years ago.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq who made this call in a Media Parley in Abuja with members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja Chapter noted that the media has a critical role to play in educating the public on the need to support a robust Human Rights Fund that will assist the Commission, Human Rights NGOs, Journalists and those carrying out researches on human rights issues, etc to effectively and seamlessly execute human rights related programmes and projects.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NHRC identified pausity of fund as a major challenge in the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights saying that with adequate funding more grounds will be covered, particularly in human rights sensitization and investigation which have been affected by inadequate funding.
The Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria therefore pleaded with journalists to join the advocacy for proper funding of the Commission and most especially the activation of HRF “using your traditional and social media platforms to reach out to public spirited individuals, philantropists, multilateral corporations, governments at all levels etc to support and fund this noble cause”.
The Executive Secretary stated that the work of human rights is huge and sometimes overwhelming and unpredictable as experienced in the novel COVID-19 pandemic, which he noted has thrown up various forms of human rights challenges including alleged harassment and killings by the some law enforcement personnel in trying to enforce some government regulations pertaining to the containment of the dreaded virus.
“In all of this, nobody knew that such magnitude of human rights challenge was going to escalate, let alone budgeting for it, yet the Commission must intervene as it has always done to addresd such emerging human rights issues and this is why we desire the activation of the HRF which is guaranteed by the NHRC establishment Act.
Ojukwu also assured journalists that the Commission is willing to train them on human rights issues as well as on some human rights laws, like the NHRC Act, Child’s Rights Act, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP), etc to improve their knowledge on these legislations and enhance their reportage of human rights issues.
On the increasing cases of rape and Sexual and Gender Based Violence in the country, the Executive Secretary tasked the journalists to up their game in reporting these human rights violations and sensitizing the public to report such rape cases to NHRC, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) or the Police, while survivors should visit the hospitals immediately to ensure the necessary evidence to secure conviction in the law court is not destroyed.
In his remarks, the Chairman of NUJ, Abuja Chapter, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbeche told the Commission that journalists will continue to partner with the Commission to enable it realise his mandate adding that the media is impressed by the achievements of the Commission.
He also used the opportunity to inform the Executive Secretary that the current COVID-19 pandemic has affected some journalists, as some of them have contacted the virus in the cause of their duties with the attendant stigmatisation and possibility of job loses in the industry.
The Chairman therefore called on the Executive Secretary to intervene and ensure that journalists’ rights and indeed the rights of other Nigerians and foreign nationals living in the country are adequately protected.
At the end of the media roundtable, the Commission distributed some facemasks to the journalists in recognition of their frontline role in informing, educating and entertaining the public despite the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic in the country.