The number of petitions submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) jumped from 1.7 million in 2021 to 2.3 million in 2022.
Over 2.3 million petitions were lodged by Nigerians at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2022, data obtained from the agency by PREMIUM TIMES has shown.
The complaints were filed at the NHRC headquarters in Abuja and its branches in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Nigerians, in 2022 under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime, grappled with high cost of living occasioned by rising prices of food amongst other issues.
The complaints in the year under review, were largely filed against individuals, Nigeria’s judiciary system and law enforcement agencies. According to the data, the alleged rights breaches were in 14 broad areas namely – sexual and gender based violence; women and gender rights; child rights; freedom/liberty of persons; right to life; freedom of religion; and law enforcement and human dignity. There were also issues around labour rights; freedom from discrimination; judiciary, rule of law and access to justice; right of the aged; Niger Delta and environment; and others.
Rise In Rights Violations
The raw data PREMIUM TIMES obtained from NHRC showed a noticeable increase in violations against the rights of Nigerians in 2022. The commission attributed the rise in number of complaints from 1,701,357 in 2021 to 2,314,440 in 2022, to “removal of complete restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” which enabled more complainants to lodge their petitions.
But 60 of the petitions were inadmissible based on the rules of procedure, the NHRC said. It also said the rise in violations could be as a result of increased use of social media and the wave of kidnapping and banditry across Nigeria in the first quarter of 2022, among other reasons.
The commission categorised the total complaints filed by individuals, groups or organisations into 14 broad areas of human rights violations in the year under review.
Giving a quarterly distribution of the complaints, the commission received a total of 478,610 petitions in the first quarter of 2022, while 779,543 complaints were received in the second quarter. In the third quarter, the complaints profile further jumped to 781,156 petitions, but dropped by a wide margin to 275,131 complaints in the fourth quarter. With 567,160 complaints said to have been filed, violations concerning the quality of life of Nigerians topped the chart.
In Nigeria, food inflation reached 17.2 percent and 18.37 per cent in March and April of 2022, a situation partly attributed to the Russia-Ukraine war, insecurity and foreign exchange crisis that has since worsened. The data clearly suggested that the high figures might be attributable to “rising poverty and unemployment which impacted negatively on the quality of life” of Nigerians.
From child labour, child trafficking and abuse to denial of the right to education, the data clearly suggested that children were highly affected in 388,700 complaints regarding child rights abuses in the year under review. Complaints on sexual and gender-based violence, women rights violation (SGBV) law enforcement and human dignity also formed a large percentage of the total petitions received by the NHRC between January and December 2022.
While SGBV issues as well as women and gender rights accounted for 193,360 and 198,220 complaints respectively, judiciary and rule of law had 96,740 complaints. Complaints against law enforcement agents bordering on human dignity stood at 109,020, while labour rights issues recorded 157,100 petitions. Other issues bordering on the Niger Delta and environment were recorded in 3,960 complaints.
Right to life were reported in 94,480 complaints, which portrayed the rampant incidents of violence across Nigeria, occasioned by gross rights violations by security agents and non-state actors. The status of the complaints showed that a total of 1,643,018 out of the 2,314,380 admissible complaints representing 70.99 per cent were investigated and concluded by the commission. The remaining 671,362 (representing 29 per cent) complaints were ongoing at various stages of investigation and mediation as of 31 December, 2022.
In terms of geographical distribution of the petitions, Rivers State in South-south Nigeria received the highest number of complaints with 275,057. Kaduna State in North-west Nigeria got the second highest complaints of 242,220, while Delta State (South-south Nigeria) received 222,398 complaints, being the third. Other states that recorded a high number of rights violations included, Imo, Niger, Ebonyi, Lagos and Sokoto states.
The report revealed that the sum of N281,454,093.73 was paid as reparations to 70 victims of various rights violations by law enforcement agents. The commission had set up an independent investigative panel to probe cases of rights violations by the police in the wake of the #EndSARS protests that rocked Nigeria in October 2020.
Many Nigerians had taken to the streets to demand an end to widespread cases of police brutality.The protests compelled the government to disband the rogue Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria police by then President Muhammadu Buhari.
Inadequate Funding For Investigations
In a media briefing on Friday, the Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu, said improved funding was needed to keep up with investigation and resolution of complaints flooding the agency.
Mr Ojukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), juxtaposed the NHRC annual budget of N4.5 billion with the quantum of petitions that throng the commission and operational costs across 36 branches of the federation and Abuja.
He said if the commission was expending N5000 per complaint, it would cost the commission N10 billion to investigate two million petitions, which is more than twice of its annual budget. Mr Ojukwu expressed the commission’s commitment to combating human rights violations despite the challenges.