From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Individuals involved in human rights defence in Africa gathered in Abuja, on Thursday, to launch the Nigeria chapter of the Network of Human Rights Defenders (NHRD), a platform designed to strengthen actions on protection of human rights in Nigeria and Africa.
Itoro Eze-Anaba, Managing Partner, Partnership for Justice, told journalists at the launch of the Network in Abuja, that the objective was to provide protection platform for lots of people involved in human rights protection across the continent of Africa.
She said: “As human rights defenders, we are well known for speaking for the voiceless, for taking a stand against tyranny and oppression, for our commitment to eradicating violations of human rights in Nigeria and holding to account those who violates these rights. As a result, we put our lives on the line, every day, to protect and promote human rights in Nigeria.
“The question is, who protects the protectors? As we march the length and breath of Nigeria, from the North to the South, from East to West, HRDs face different challenges depending on your location and your thematic area. As a woman HRD, it becomes an added challenges as you go about your duties.
“So again, who protects the protector? What laws and policies give protection or recognize the peculiar role played by HRDs in Nigeria? Or the risks and challenges faced by HRDs and at times their family members as they go about defending the rights of vulnerable ones in the country? I will ask again, Who protects the protector?”
She said the launch of the Network represents not just an idea realized but a vision embraced, as it signified the coming together of individuals and organisations from all corners of Nigeria with, each driven by the belief that every person, regardless of their background and circumstances, deserve to live a life free from discrimination, oppression and injustice.
She explained that the platform that will serve as a unifying force, a nexus of strength, a beacon of hope for those who protect the rights of others. “We recognize that our collective impact is far greater than any one of us can achieve alone. By joining forces, we amplify our voices and fortify our ability to effect meaningful change.
“The Network is not just an organisation, it is a movement, a testament to the power of unity in diversity. It is a promise to uphold the principle of equality, fairness and justice for all. It is a declaration that we, as defenders of human rights, will work tirelessly to hold those in power accountable and to protect the vulnerable and marginalized. It is declaration that as HRDs, we stand committed to protecting the protectors of human rights in Nigeria.”
Dorothy Amah, Deputy Director, Legal, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in her remarks, assured the Network that the Executive Secretary, NHRC, is happy with the launch of the Network in Nigeria, and was committed to the cause of giving voice and protection to the people involved in defending the human rights.
Francis Ndegwa, a representative of Protection International, said the reason for their support for the NHRD was because of the fact that it will provide a platform for the defenders of human rights in Nigeria who are often exposed to dangers as well as to get justice when and where necessary.
He confirmed that human rights are increasingly being entrenched in African countries as against what was the case in the past 10 years. “I have been in the business of defending human rights in the past 13 years, and I can confirm that we are making progress, though slow.
“The challenge is that many individuals who are involved in defending human rights are often not protected neither do anyone make case for their physical and mental welfare, thus becoming a prey in some cases. That’s the essence of the Network.”
Pierre-Clauer Dekpoh from West African Human Rights Defenders, Togo, in his remarks, solicited the support of all stakeholders to ensure that NHRD gets stronger and bolder to protect the interest of the people involved in human rights defence.