The Nigerian Army along with other frontline security outfits on Monday faulted some of the provisions of the proposed National Human Rights Commission Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2020.
This was as the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Anthony Ojukwu; a Professor of law, Ademola Popoola; and others sought for Judicial Power for the Commission.
Divergence of opinions on the proposed bill by the various stakeholders came to the fore during presentations at the one-day public hearing held by the joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Kicking against some of the provisions of the bill, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Atttahiru, represented by the Director of Legal Services, Brigadier General MU Wambai, said it was wrong for drafters of the bill to have excluded the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police and Department of State Services from the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission.
Attahiru 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 often times, they receive the bout of litigations in courts over alleged human Rights violations.”
Aside exclusion from the Commission’s Governing Council, representatives of the security agencies also kicked against section 5 (j) of the bill which seeks to empower the commission make appropriate determination on complaints brought before it as may deemed necessary in each circumstance.
Attahiru said: “This raises jurisprudential question as to whether the Commission is seised 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 same enforceable as it is a principle of justice that no man shall be a judge in his own case.
“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 fair hearing before an impartial tribunal or body.”
Also kicking against some of the provisions of the bill, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, represented by Anthony Abah, said section 5 paragraph k should be expunged for giving the Commission powers that clash with those of Law Reform Commission.
The Attorney General also declared that it was wrong to seek power for issuance of warrant of arrest for the Commission, which, according to him, is constitutionally entrusted with courts of competent jurisdiction.
Malami also faulted section 15(2b) of the bill empowering the Commission to get funds from multinational agencies.
The multinationals, according to him, are already over taxed and the commission should have no link with them.”
But Ojukwu applauded the provisions of the bill seeking to empower it with judicial powers of giving declarative awards like the High Courts.
He also supported the provisions seeking for widening of scope of funding for the Commission in making it not to solely rely on government that may even be petitioned against by any aggrieved Nigerian.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC-Ekiti Central), also explained that there was need to widen the scope of funding for the Commission for impartial and independent operations.
Bamidele however declared that preponderance of opinions of the various stakeholders on provisions of the bill will be taken into consideration in the final report of the committee.