Published On: Mon, Sep 5th, 2016

ISSUES OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT BY TONYE FUAYEFIKA

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Government has to do with the act of implementing plans with a view to providing an enabling environment for the people. This is why it has become necessary that the people particularly those of the Niger Delta region should be properly informed and enlightened on issues of Human Rights and Sustainable Development.Nigeria political map of Nigerian

True human development originates from a peaceful and positive mental re-orientation of our values, attitudes and approaches to life in the mist of daunting challenges, to better the lot of humanity and our environment, bearing in mind the fact that development is not a matter of charity but a right, which requires conscious, deliberate and frantic planning efforts by all and sundry.

Human Rights guarantee universal legal protection of individuals and groups against actions which interfere with fundamental freedom and human dignity. It also obliges Government to do things and prevent them from doing others.

Human Rights are intentionally guaranteed and legally protected; they focuses on the dignity of the human being by protecting individuals and groups; they obligate States and State Actors; they cannot be waived or taken away; they are equal, interdependent, and universal.

One of the purposes of international cooperation as outline in Article 1 of United Nations Charter, since its establishment in 1945, basically has to do with promoting and encouraging respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.

There are two principal sources of human right namely: Customary International Laws and Treaties. Customary International Laws are those developed through a general and consistent practice of States, where as Treaty Laws includes the laws of human rights as set in many international agreements, treaties, covenants, conventions collectively either bilaterally or multilaterally developed, signed and ratified by States such as; the International Covenant (TIC) on Civil and Political Rights, TIC on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention (TC) on the Rights of the Child, TC against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. TIC on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families. It is Important to note that these instruments are legally binding on the States which are parties to them, Others are enshrined by way of declarations, recommendations, bodies of principles, codes of conduct and guidelines.

Some examples of human rights and fundamental freedoms are well outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in various treaties, declarations, guidelines and bodies of principle of the United Nations and by regional organizations. They include a broad range of guarantees, addressing virtually every aspect of human life and interaction such as; the right to life, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or Degrading treatment or punishment, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, the right to a fair trial, freedom from discrimination, the right to equal protection of the law, freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence, freedom of association, expression, assembly and movement, the right to seek and

enjoy asylum, the right to a nationality, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to vote and take part in government, the right to just and favourable work conditions, the right to adequate food, shelter, clothing and social security, the right to health, the right to education, the right to property, the right to participate in cultural life, and, of course, the right to development.

The States themselves who are members of the United Nations made these rules, through the development of customs, treaties, declarations, bodies of principles and other similar instruments. The States agreed also on the content of the sources and agreed to be bound by them. In the case of human rights law, while it is individuals and groups which are protected, it is the conduct of States and State actors which is regulated.

These Human Rights Standards are developed and codified in various international forums, through a process in which representatives of State members of those forums meet, usually repeatedly over a period of years, to work out the form and content of international human rights instruments, article by article and line by line. States are invited to attend and participate in the drafting of the laws so as to ensure that the final document reflects the views and experiences of all regions of the world and •all major legal systems. There is therefore no exception to the rules.

Similarly, a number of important regional human rights instruments have been developed by the major regional organizations, e.g., African Union. The Untied Nation, described Sustainable Human Development as development in an integrated multidisciplinary way that stresses not just economic growth but equitable distribution, enhancement of people’s capabilities and enlargement of their choices with due consideration of Human Rights. It gives highest priority to, the elimination of poverty, the Integration of women in the development process, self reliance and self determination of people and governments most importantly the rights of indigenous peoples.

The case of the Niger Delta Region in Nigeria that produces more than 65% of the national income of the country should not be an exception not to enjoy products of these fundamental treaties, particularly as affecting the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources.

The region, since it was declared the main stay of the nation’s economy in 1958 have not witnessed corresponding development given the attendant hostile consequences of oil and gas exploration activities.

This is a gross denial of the fundamental rights of the host communities to attract some benefits from the proceeds of these resources that is endowed with the region.

For instance the inability of the federal law makes to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill that was being contemplated over a decade now is indeed unfortunate.

It should be noted that sustainable human development, places people at the centre of development and advocates the protection of the life opportunities of present and future generations, by respecting the natural systems on which all life depends.

This can simply be expressed as follows, “That everyone has the right to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development.” It includes; permanent sovereignty over natural resources, self-determination, popular participation, equality of opportunity and the advancement of adequate conditions for the enjoyment of other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.

 

The right to development is claimable by individuals and, collectively by the people, as the human person in the subject of all human rights. Importantly, the right obligates both individual States to ensure equal and adequate access to essential resources and the international community also to promote fair development polices and effective International cooperation.

Therefore, the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari should consider to adequately addressing the clamor by various component regions of the Nigerian State to restructure the country along the dictates of the 2014 National Conference report as the only ultimate panacea to move the country forward.

This distinction of development into right and need based approaches become importantly essential bearing in mind that Development is not a simple matter of charity, but a right.

Defining development as a right means that someone or the populace holds a claim to it as their legal entitlement, and another holds a corresponding duty to be performed as their legal obligation. This means that Governments, and their agents, are accountable to the people for fulfilling such obligations, while the people being governed should make positive contribution to good governance through peaceful need assessment and articulation and by being law abiding.

The establishment of a set of rules is not enough to ensure their, application. The implementation of Human Rights Standards is closely watched at several levels for example, the National Institutions and Organizations Monitoring Human Rights are: the Concerned Government Agencies and Services, Independent or National Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Groups and other Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community-based Organizations, the Courts, the Parliament, the Media, professional Associations such as lawyer’s or doctors’ associations, academic institutions and regional organization such as Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

It should be noted at this point that the International Human Rights Law obliges States to take all necessary measures to give force to the standards contained in its treaties and customary principles by, inter alia, ensuring redress for victims, prosecuting offenders, preventing abuses and combating impunity.

Thus, it is the individual States themselves that must act to enforce the standards, principally through their domestic legal systems. Where they do not, cannot or will not do so, States may be compelled, in certain circumstances, to extradite, transfer or surrender an alleged offender for prosecution elsewhere, some treaties, like the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, expressly require States parties to try or extradite offenders.

To adequately redress the prevalent restiveness in the Niger Delta region, the Federal Government should engage the constituent communities into units of development, so that the people may have a say in planning and carrying out their own development.

The top-down master plan technique in the formation of OMPADEC and NDDC has so far not yielded any meaningful results.

 

What the region needs at the moment is firstly, to control over the economic resources of the region by way of political autonomy appropriate within a true federal system.

Secondly, a development agenda, driven by internal forces from the ground upwards is preferred for the needs and aspirations of the people of the region.

Thirdly, a development planning that uses local resources with a view to conserve, preserve and provide for generation of the region yet unborn.

And lastly, to create an economy that locates the Niger Delta region in its proper place within the Nigerian nation and global economic in the process of defending the economic interest of the region.

Certainly, the people of the Niger Delta Region cannot continue to be restive without creating disorder to the Nigerian government, neither can man kill, kidnap or rob whomever he pleases without causing the society to collapse.

Governments that are known as provider of liberties should not contemplate the destruction of same liberty – by militarizing the region in the face off with the Avengers.

Tonye Fuayefika – A Public Affairs Analyst Writes from Port Harcourt.

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