It is a privilege and honour to be in your midst as a Guest at your Leaders Night which I perceive was chosen to examine the Human Rights situation in Nigeria, especially how the Nigerian government has faired in the area of human rights in compliance with the set out rules as prescribed in the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. The issues of Human Rights abuses in Nigeria is a national phenomenon which needed to be addressed hence your putting up this programme is a welcome development.
Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State Branch has come a long way in the history of her fight for just and equitable society, where there should be respect for Freedom of Expression and Association, Right to Live, Shelter, Education and Healthcare, among other basic needs of man, which should be the primary responsibility of the government. The failure of successive Nigerian Governments to imbibe this culture has brought untold hardship to Nigerians and also made living in Nigeria extremely difficult.
CDHR played significant roles in the struggle for just society in Nigeria dating back from 1989 when the organization was formed, to the present dispensation.
It fought the military with other organizations for the enthronement of civilian administration. It campaigned against extra-judicial killings and conditions of suspects languishing in custody, including the deplorable condition of our prisons.
It joined hands with other organizations to fight for the actualization of June 12 electoral Mandate of MKO Abiola. Cdhr also stood behind its leaders when they were locked up in prisons with various trumped charges. During these periods when my husband, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, was severally harassed and detained with other Human Rights activists such as Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Femi Aborishade, Shehu Sani and few others, it joined international communities to campaign for their release. Whenever these Human Rights Crusaders were been hounded into prison, the immediate families suffer unprecedented trauma and Psychological torture, especially wives and children of the victims. The experiences brings depression and never easily forgotten and the denial of access to the accused makes matter worse for the families.
It is therefore important that Human Rights Organizations and civil society should continue to engage the Nigeria Government for the adoption of international instruments that promote the respect for human rights and fights for its inclusion in our local laws. It is only when the international laws are adopted into our local laws and respected that people would seek for redress when such rights are infringed upon. The civil society as the watch-dog of the society must rise to this challenge. The fight for human rights is a struggle for just and equitable society. Freedom has never been won on the platter of gold, it must fought for.
The record of human rights abuses in Nigeria is not encouraging, despite the civilian dispensation. The abuse of rights can also be attributed to the level of corruption in our society. The funds that would have been used for the provision of adequate infrastructures for our Educational Institutions, Health Sectors, Energy etc are been siphoned away by our leaders; depriving millions of Nigerians the rights to enjoy quality health and educational services. The civil society should also lend their support for the fight against corruption in our society in order to protect the down trodden, the vulnerable class.
The current discuss on Constitutional Amendment and Electoral Reform need to be joined by the civil society. The civil society should employ all constitutional means within their power to ensure that the amendment to the constitution should adequately uphold the peoples' rights. It is only when these laws are enshrined in our legal framework that victims would have the capacity and means for redress.
I will use this opportunity to pay tribute to the heroes of democracy who have left the struggle, my husband, Chief Fawehinmi, MKO Abiola amongst others and urge the members of CDHR to ensure that the struggle started by these past heroes are sustained until victory is won for Nigerians.
Mrs. Bosede Ransome-Kuti