The Jos Zonal office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has handled 426 cases of alleged human rights abuses in the last one year, its Coordinator, Mrs Grace Pam, has said.
Pam, who paid a courtesy visit to the Jos Zonal office of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Jos on Tuesday, said that most of the cases had been “effectively and conclusively tackled”.
She said that the cases bordered on family issues, child abandonment, violence against women, rape, child abuse and torture.
“In the course of our investigation, we found some of the cases inadmissible, others were referred to other agencies like the Public Complaints Commission, while some complainants were just advised and their matter settled,” she said.
Pam said that the NHRC had also carried out several advocacy programmes and visits to enlighten members of the public on their rights and the need for them to report any abuse to the commission.
She said that the commission had also organised various sessions with the military, police and other security agencies on the need to respect human rights in the course of their duty.
“We have even had cause to ask the military to hand over some erring officials for prosecution, but that is always rebuffed by the authorities who had always claimed that the armed forces had internal mechanism for handling such issues,” she said.
The official lamented that investigation into criminal cases like rape and torture were usually frustrated at prosecution stages by the police.
“The situation is worse in rape cases. One gets frustrated by the attitude of the police that should prosecute, because they sometimes would not treat the cases as serious as the commission would expect,” she said.
Pam also complained of paucity of funds which she said had affected ability for wider campaigns to reach out to people across the state on their rights as citizens.
“The challenge is worse in the rural areas where we need to enlighten women on the need to protect their rights and report any abuse to the NHRC.
“Most women believe that the husband could always behave the way he wants, but we have tried to tell the rural woman that she has rights and that marriage is not the same slavery.”
Pam said that paucity of funds had also frustrated the commission’s desire for more enlightenment on child rights and child abuse, a vice she said had become very common, especially in urban areas.
The official said that the commission had visited prisons in Jos, where it helped to free some suspects incarcerated without any charge “for a very long time”.
“During one of our visits, we found that a man had been in prison for more than six months for stealing a trouser.
“Our feeling was that such a man would have left the prison long ago if he was tried and even convicted. So, we made sure he was set free,” she said.
She solicited the support of NAN towards the realisation of the commission’s mandate, especially in protecting helpless and most vulnerable persons in the society.
In his response, the NAN Zonal Manager, Mr Ephraim Sheyin, promised to support the commission in carrying out its mandate.
“You can always count on NAN as partners in progress any time any day; your goals are noble and deserve our support,” he said.