In its 123-page report on Nigeria entitled Criminal Politics: Violence, ‘Godfathers’ and Corruption in Nigeria released a few days ago, the NGO Human Rights Watch made some unfair submissions about Nigeria on issues of violence, human rights abuse and corruption.
This comment tends to create the erroneous impression that the administration is indifferent to the issues of human rights abuses in the country. Nothing can be further from the truth.
It must be said for this administration that since its inauguration on May 29, the President has not hidden his disdain for issues of violence and violation of citizens’ right.
While the Yar’Adua government regrets the issue of violence and the violation of some citizens’ rights, it does not agree with the implied conclusion of Human Rights Watch that it is in any way indifferent to these grave ills in the Nigerian polity.
Since becoming president some months ago, Yar’Adua has consistently acted and made it clear to all that he stands resolutely for due process and the rule of law. His insistence may have been wrongly interpreted in some quarters as a ploy to be soft on some high-ranking politicians who are suspected to have fallen foul of the law or to shield them from justice. But as a man of great conviction that things should be done in an orderly and lawful manner he will not back down on his resolve.
The administration believes that while the anti-corruption and other law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute suspected offenders these must be done within the bounds of the law because it is wrong for anyone to break the law in the name of trying to enforce the same law.
Human Rights Watch itself acknowledges that the Yar Adua Administration has thus far respected the independence of Nigeria’s increasingly assertive Judiciary. It would therefore be wrong to say that the Federal Government has done nothing to end the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of Nigeria’s abuses.
As a true democrat who respects the principle of separation of powers, Yar’Adua has never sought to interfere with the judiciary and the legislature in the handling of their constitutional responsibility. In deed, the government believes that key reforms talked about by the Human Rights Watch in its Report could only be effectively accomplished through adherence to the democratic principles mentioned above.
Thus even though the National Assembly is still at work on the Freedom of Information Bill, access to governmental information is being made much easier and faster than was the case in the past. In both words and deeds this government has sought to enthrone democratic ethos and reject arbitrariness in any form. This style has contributed in no small measure to the lowering of the political temperature of the country today.
The Electoral Reform programme which the administration has embarked upon is in progress and there is nothing to suggest that it will not be carried to its logical conclusion by the President. At the end of the conclusion of the electoral reform, Nigeria is going to have one of the most credible electoral systems in the world.
Everywhere in Nigeria today, there are visible signs of renewal of the nation on the path of accountability, rule of law and further economic reforms that will enhance the living standards of the people.
Human Rights Watch is challenged to work with this administration in its quest to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed nations of the world by the year 2020. The task of bringing up development in a nation in the world today calls for collaboration of all stakeholders, the government, the non-governmental organizations and the people.
The present administration in Nigeria has no doubt that the Human Rights Watch is committed to the development of humanity and the advancement of democracy world-wide.
The government will partner with all stakeholders in bringing about the development of this country. We want to elevate the living standard of our people. We want to deepen democracy in Nigeria. We want to create a nation that is one of the best nations of the world. These are being pursued through thorough economic and political reforms.
The government is also mainstreaming peace building into every developmental plans and programs being executed in the country. This is the feature of events in every state of the country today especially in the Niger-Delta region of the country where the nation has witnessed some violence in recent past.
The work has started in earnest. Even though there could have been some sorry stories in our past, just as any of the leading nations of the world today had witnessed, the Yar’ Adua administration is greatly convinced that a lot of healing is being brought into the Nigerian body politic.
There is a gradual re-orientation going on in the country and this is beginning to yield fruits across the country as Nigerians are more politically conscious and ready to defend democracy and good governance than ever before. Like every system, there is always room for improvement and the government is not oblivious of this fact.
Nigerians are beginning to see it that more than ever before, this administration is sincere and committed to the welfare of the people. The glory of the country is being restored systematically and surely.
Mr. John Odey
Honourable Minister of Information and Communications
Federal Republic of Nigeria