MLK Day: CSLS President, Prof. Akinseye-George, Advocate For Violence Victims Trust Fund, Laud Otedola’s N1b Donation To LSTF

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…We hear the cries of Human Right victims of discrimination and police brutality — ES NHRC, Dr Anthony Ojukwu, SAN

Deji Adebayo, Abuja

The President Centre For Socio-legal Studies (CSLS), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN has appeal to government, well-meaning organizations, including religious bodies, and Non-Governmental Organizations to urgently establish a Trust Fund to cater to the needs of victims of violence and provide additional support for the law enforcement agencies.

The Legal Luminary said during a Human Right Walk in Abuja to commemorate the 2024 Martin Luther King Jr day that such fund should be used to mitigate the losses of the victims and survivors and help them return to their normal lives and means of livelihood before the violent attacks.

Prof. Akinseye-George pointed out the some of the challenges facing human right defense in Nigeria and possible ways to mitigate the problems highlighted in his speech.

In his goodwill message after the walk, the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Dr Anthony Ojukwu, SAN commend the CSLS for their collaborative efforts. He said; “This approach mirrors the Commission’s belief that human rights cannot exist in isolation but must be integrated into the broader socio-economic, cultural, and political context.

“Just as Dr. King led a movement that transcended borders and resonated across continents, so too must our commitment to human rights extend beyond our shores. From the plight of refugees to the persecution of minorities, the struggle for civil liberties is a global one, demanding concerted action and unwavering solidarity.

“In Nigeria, the challenges we face in regard to the promotion and protection of human rights are stark. We see them in the faces of those denied access to education, healthcare, and basic necessities. We hear them in the cries of victims of discrimination and police brutality. We feel them in the growing climate of fear and uncertainty that stifles our collective voice.

“But let us not succumb to despair. Let us remember that Dr. King did not preach revolution with clenched fists but with a heart brimming with love and a spirit guided by unwavering faith. He taught us that the way forward lies not in violence, but in non-violent resistance, in peaceful protest, and in the power of dialogue and collective action.

“As Nigeria’s National Human Rights Institution, we are unwavering in our commitment to uphold these principles. We will continue to be a voice for the voiceless, a champion for the marginalized, and a defender of the rights enshrined in our Constitution and international treaties.

“But the responsibility is not ours alone. It rests upon the shoulders of each and every one of us. From the corridors of power to the bustling streets, from classrooms to boardrooms, we must all become the torchbearers of Dr. King’s legacy.

“Let us be the change we wish to see. Let us stand up for human rights promotion and protection, not just for ourselves, but for every soul yearning for a life of dignity and freedom. Let us engage in critical dialogue, bridge divides, and build a society where every voice is heard and every right respected”, he concluded.

Those present during the Human Right Walk in Abuja yesterday along the convener Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN are ES NHRC, Dr Anthony Ojukwu, SAN, ably represented by Benedict Agu, SA to the ES, NHRC, Aliyu Abubakar, Director General, Legal Aid Council, Halilu Adamu, Director, Civil & Political Rights, NHRC; Jokkas Matthew, First Aider, Nigerian Red Cross; Odi Lagi, country director of NULAI; Kemi Okenyodo, Executive Director, Partners West Africa, (PWAN) represented by: Nkem Okereke, Partners West Africa; Ekene Arubaleze, Young Lawyers Forum among others.

Full text of Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN unedited below:

15th of January, each year, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK), JR. has been recognized by the Government of the United States of America as a special day to commemorate the contributions of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. to the advancement of Civil Rights, non-violent struggles and unity of humanity.

Today’s walk on the eve of the MLK Day, organized by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies is in keeping with the tradition established by the Government of the United States:
To remember and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his unrivaled contributions to racial equality, access to justice by all and to socio-political change, not only in America but Worldwide.
Reawakening the Conscience of leaders and peoples

This Walk is to reawaken our consciences on the state of human rights in Nigeria today and beyond.
On the eve of the Christmas DAY last year, unknown gunmen cowardly crept into different communities in two local governments of Plateau State and slaughtered scores of persons in cold blood.

On December 2, many civilians, residents of Tudun Biri in Igabi LGA of Kaduna were killed in an air strike said to be targeted at terrorists. The villagers were reportedly commemorating a religious event when the jet dropped the bomb that caused the deaths of many people.

In recent times, bandits and terrorists and other violent extremists have been raiding Nigerians in Bwari, FCT and elsewhere in the country and taking people hostage for ransom.

In fact, it is reported that the Kaduna Abuja expressway which was cleared of terrorists last year, has been besieged again.
It is also reported that Nigeria is one of most dangerous countries in the world where the right to freedom of religion is under deadly attack.
Grave Violations of Human and People’s Rights
These attacks on individuals and peoples constitute grave violations of human rights as recognized by international law and conventions to which Nigeria is party.

The Right to life
The right to life is the most basic of human rights. The loss of lives in these violent incidents represents a grave violation of this fundamental right.
Furthermore, the right to livelihood, peace and security is seriously compromised as communities perpetually live in fear and uncertainty due to mindless violence and the persistent threat of violence.

Impact on families
The impact of these events extends beyond the loss of lives. Families are torn apart, livelihoods are disrupted, and communities are destabilized. Women, children and other vulnerable individuals are usually the worst affected.

The right to security of person is also undermined as individuals are unable to go about their daily lives without fear of violence or persecution.

Taking decisive steps

We applaud the Federal Government for the actions so far taken including the reported arrests of certain elements behind some of these violent attacks. However, in addition to arresting the perpetrators and condemning these violations, the Government must ensure that the persons responsible are brought to book or made to account for their heinous crimes.

Need for decisive actions
Promises are not enough. Rather, it is imperative for the government to take decisive steps to address the situation in Plateau State, Kaduna State and other parts of the country and secure the rights to life, peace, and security of the people.

The Federal government in conjunction with the state government should prioritize conflict resolution efforts that address the root causes of the violence. This may involve engaging with community leaders, religious institutions, youth organizations, local vigilantes, and other stakeholders to promote dialogue and reconciliation on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies should be permanently stationed in the communities that are prone to violence and empowered to maintain law and order and ensure accountability by the perpetrators.

Preventative measures
They should employ the use of Intelligence measures and technology to gather information to prevent these types of attacks and egregious human rights violations in the future.

Justice mechanisms must be strengthened to hold those responsible for the killings accountable under the rule of law.
Need for Victims Trust Fund
The government, well-meaning organizations, including religious bodies, and Non-Governmental Organizations should urgently establish a Trust Fund to cater to the needs of victims of violence and provide additional support for the law enforcement agencies.
Such fund should be used to mitigate the losses of the victims and survivors and help them return to their normal lives and means of livelihood before the violent attacks.
We note with delight the recent contributions by Mr. Femi Otedola of N1Billion to support the Security Trust Fund of Lagos State. The Federal Government should set up a similar Fund at the Federal level to cater to the needs of victims of violence and provide additional support for communities and law enforcement agencies.
We thank all of you who have identified with us to make this Walk a Success. We thank Dr Anthony Ojukwu, SAN, the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission for supporting our Centre. We thank all other partners for their support and commitment to the advancement of human rights in Nigeria.
We appeal to our partners from the media to help amplify the message until the Government takes the needed decisive actions to secure the lives, livelihoods and properties of all Nigerians. This is our message on this occasion commemorating the Martin Luther King JNR. Birthday.
Thank you all.

SGD- Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN
Abuja, Nigeria
🇳🇬 Jan. 14, 2024.

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