The Nigerian Army, Ministry of Justice and the Human Right Commission, on Monday, expressed divergent opinions on certain provisions of the proposed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2020.
The occasion was the one-day public hearing held by the joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters held at the National Assembly.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Ibrahim Atttahiru, who was represented by the Director of Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai, rejected certain provisions of the Bill which excluded the Army, Navy, Airforce, Police and Department of State Services from the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission.
General Attahiru maintained that drafters of the Bill erred not to have considered the Army and other security agencies as stakeholders in human rights in Nigeria.
He said: “Section 2(2)(b) of the bill listed the composition of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission and at paragraph (b) (i) – (iii) ex – officio members were listed with the exclusion of the Armed Forces, Nigeria Police Force, DSS and other security agencies.
“Any mention of stakeholders on human rights in Nigeria would be incomplete without the Armed Forces and the Police because oftentimes, they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human rights violations.”
The security agencies equally kicked against section 5 (j) of the bill which seeks to empower the Commission to make an appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as may deem necessary in each circumstance.
“This raises the jurisprudential question as to whether the Commission is seized of judicial powers since it could investigate and determine complaints.
“It would also amount to travesty of justice if the investigating body determines the complaints and make the same enforceable as it is a principle of justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case.
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“It is also against the letters and spirit of section 36(1) and ( 4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees right to a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal or body.”
In his presentation, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), represented by Anthony Abah, said section 5 paragraph k should be expunged in the Bill as he noted that it could accord the Commission powers that Clash with those of Law Reform Commission.
Malami also submitted that it was wrong to seek power for the issuance of a warrant of arrest for the Commission since only courts of competent jurisdiction are vested with such powers.
The AGF also faulted section 15(2b) of the bill empowering the Commission to seek funds from multinational agencies.
“The multinationals,” according to him, “are already overtaxed and the commission should have no link with them.”
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Anthony Ojukwu, however, differed as he applauded the provisions of the bill seeking to empower it with judicial powers to give declarative awards like the High Courts.
Ojukwu also spoke in defence of provisions seeking for the widening of the scope of funding for the Commission.
He said expanding the Commission sources of funding would save it from being crippled by the government.
Chairman of the Committee and Senator representing Ekiti Central, Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, also backed multiple sources of funding for the commission for impartial and independent operations Senator Bamidele, however, assured the stakeholders that preponderance of opinions on provisions of the bill, will be taken into consideration in the final report of his Committee.