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Nigeria
23.06.06
Urgent Interventions

Nigeria: Dismissal of Mr. Bukhari Bello as Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission

PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, 23 June 2006.

The International Service for Human Rights and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), call on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to revoke the decision to dismiss Mr. Bukhari Bello as Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria (NHRC).

As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Nigeria has the responsibility to uphold the commitments it made upon assuming its seat on the Council. It was on the basis on these commitments that Nigeria was selected to serve on this body in May 2006. Among its commitments, Nigeria pledged “its determination and commitment to continue to promote and protect human rights at home by strengthening and actively supporting the work of the National Human Rights Commission”.

On 19 June 2006, Mr. Bello received a letter from the Federal Ministry of Justice purportedly removing him from the office of Executive Secretary of the Commission. According to the information received, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria instructed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to remove Mr. Bello from his office due to discontent on the part of the Government on the positions taken by Mr. Bello.

In particular, the Government appears to have been displeased with comments made by Mr. Bello regarding proposed amendments to the Constitution of Nigeria prolonging the term of office of the Presidency of the Federation as well as his condemnation of the attacks by law enforcement personnel on members of the media, including the arrest and detention of a television journalist.

The purported removal of Mr. Bello from his position constitutes an interference with the independence of the National Human Rights Commission and violates the United Nations principles regulating the status and functioning of National Human Rights Institutions, which are spelled out in the Paris Principles.

The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria was established by the Act of 1995 as an independent institution mandated to promote and protect human rights, including by monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in the country and submitting recommendations on human rights policies and legislation to the government, the parliament and any other relevant bodies.

The decision to remove Mr. Bello also constitutes an attempt to silence the Commission and to prevent it from carrying out its human rights mandate, an act which falls short of international standards established in the United Nations Declaration on human rights defenders. According to Article 6(b) of the Declaration, “Everyone has the right … to impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The Declaration further provides for the right to hold opinions on the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to draw public attention to those matters.

The International Service for Human Rights and the Observatory call on the government of Nigeria to respect the independence of the National Human Rights Commission and to revoke the decision to remove Mr. Bukhari Bello from his position as Executive Secretary of the Commission.




For more information, please contact:
ISHR: +41 22 733 51 23
OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 20 11
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