African Commission on Human Rights visits NDDC

— The new Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba on Tuesday received members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) in his office in Abuja.

The members of ACHPR were in the office of the NDDC chairman as part of their routine visit to engage with various stakeholders in countries that are signatories to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights also known as the Banjul Charter.

In a chat with media professionals after a meeting with the ACHPR delegation, which centred on environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, Ndoma-egba said: “The environment has an impact on human rights and the commission (ACHPR) is concerned about the state of human rights. And fortunately, I think the Niger Delta area is already on the agenda of the African Commission on Human Rights. The commission will be holding governments and operators in the region to a certain level of setting standards. And I believe that it will enhance our work because we now know that people outside Nigeria are also watching what we are doing.”

The NDDC chief noted that the fundamental solution to the continued agitation by the people of Niger Delta which triggered off militancy in the oil-rich region was a rapid development of the area.

He said: “There are structured mechanisms under the law establishing the commission (NDDC) for engagement, and we are going to deploy those mechanisms to the fullest. I believe that the underlying solution to the agitation in the region is development. And the moment they begin to see development coming quickly, their anger will subside. And when I talk of development, I mean physical, economic and social development.”

Asked what he intends to do on the issue of paucity of funds, Ndoma-Egba stated that, “The key thing is judicious use of what is available. We must use whatever is available judiciously. And we are also working very, very hard to ensure that whatever the commission is entitled to is given to it.”

ACHPR Commissioner and leader of the delegation, Mrs. Lucy Asuagbor said: “The purpose of our mission is routine. As I mentioned in my introductory remarks, we have our mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent. And also we are mandated to pay visit to the respective countries in order to evaluate their compliance with their international engagements. And it is in line with this mandate that we are here. It is a routine visit and in the course of it we engage with various stakeholders. And that is why we believe that it is important for us to be here today to engage with the commission (NDDC); engage in a discussion to find out the mandate of the commission, the challenges they face and the prospects they have in future. At the end of this mission, we intend to write a report. We will be writing a report which will be made public after its adoption by the (African Union) Assembly of Heads of State and Government. But primarily it is not a secret that there are issues, environmental issues in the Niger Delta. And that is why we are here to be able to discuss with the competent authorities to see what plans they have. Our interest is to know what plans the authorities have in order to quell the agitation (in the Niger Delta). You’ve heard that there is need for development. And that once development comes in, at least, it is going to quell the agitation.”

Mrs. Clara Braide, Special Assistant (SA) to the NDDC Chairman on Communication, stressing the importance of the visit said: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a participating member of the Organization of African Unity, OAU, (now African Union – AU) and a committed signatory to the ‘Banjul Charter’ which stipulates that ‘Freedom, Equality, Justice and Dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples.’ The commitment to achieving such objectives make up the core pillars that form government institutions like the Niger Delta Development Commission which gives credence to conversations with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, a commission vested with oversight and interpretation of the Charter.”

The ACHPR is a quasi-judicial body of the African Union (AU) inaugurated on November 2, 1987 in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, but was later relocated to Banjul, Gambia in November 1989. The commission is officially charged with the responsibility of protecting and promoting human and peoples’ rights and also interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The NDDC as an intervention agency was established in 2000 with “the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.” Part of its mandate include: “Formulation of policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area; Implementation of all the measures approved for development of Niger Delta region by the Federal Government and the states of the commission and tackling ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta region and advising the Federal Government and the member states on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution.”

FROM MICHAEL JEGEDE

MEDIA PROFESSIONAL, ABUJA