The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has described Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) as “one of the most proactive NGOs in Port Harcourt”, Rivers State. The Commission made the remarks through its State Coordinator, Mrs. Chinwe Okoroji on Monday, October 5, 2020 during Advocacy Centre’s presentation of its monitoring report of human rights violations and abuses within the context of COVID-19 to the National Human Rights Commission. The report which was produced with support from Land is Life, USA was received by the Commission at its Port Harcourt zonal office by the Rivers State Coordinator, Mrs. Chinwe Okoroji.

Speaking during the presentation, the Executive Director of Advocacy Centre, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface said “It is the pleasure of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre to present to the National Human Rights Commission and the general public, our report of monitoring human rights violations and abuses in the nine States of the Niger Delta within the context of corona virus diseases (COVID-19). The monitoring was undertaken by Advocacy Centre through its “One Million Youth Volunteers Network of Human Right Defenders and Promoters in the Niger Delta” flagged-off on December 10, 2019 with funding support from one of our development partners, Land is Life”. Mr. Fyneface is his address described the methodology adopted by the volunteers in gathering the report when he said “The volunteers gathered information about human rights violations from both primary and secondary sources. While the primary sources include those that they personally witnessed, the secondary sources include mainstream media reports, Police press statements, human rights activists’ reports, newspaper publications and other online media publications about human rights violations and abuses. The reports submitted by the volunteers were collated, fact-checked and analyzed by Advocacy Centre and made available for general use to demand for justice for victims”. Adding that “This report is not in any way comprehensive and exhaustive enough to cover all human rights violations and abuses that occurred among the over forty million inhabitants of the Niger Delta within the period of the monitoring (February to August 2020). Thus, this report only represents human rights violations and abuses that the volunteers were able to monitor and report in the States that they represented.Mr. Fyneface highlighted the findings of the monitoring report in his speech that “The monitoring reports from Akwa-Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Delta, Imo, Ondo and Rivers States reveals massive human rights violations and abuses within the period monitored especially during the lockdowns. The report showed that Akwa-Ibom State recorded more cases of rape involving minors within the period monitored. Also, more cult related crimes were also recorded in Akwa-Ibom State. In Rivers, more police and task force related human rights violations and abuses were reported more compared to other States. Rape cases also surfaced prominently in Rivers but not as much as Akwa-Ibom and other States. Some of the rapes cases in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Ondo and others States involved minors with some fathers raping the own daughters. There was a particular case in Ondo State where a father, Mr. Femi Onifade, 48years of age raped his two daughters of ages 7 and 9 years old after creating problems in the house to enable him send his wife away and paved the way for him to rape his daughters. Police molestation, harassment, arbitrarily arrest and detention as well as extra-judicial killings during the lock downs are the general theme reported from all the States monitored. In Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Abia, Cross River and some other States, these issues featured prominently”In conclusion, Mr. Fyneface Dumnamene made the following demands on the National Human Rights Commission, the Government and the public that “It is against these brief backgrounds that Advocacy Centre makes the following recommendations that;

  1. Violators of the rights of Niger Delta indigenous peoples during this period of COVID-19 pandemic should be held to account and prosecuted for victims to get justice. Such legal action that keeps human rights violators behind bars would serve as deterrent to others and reduce incidences of human rights violations and abuses in Nigeria.
  2. The government should establish special courts to try cases of human rights violations and rape cases with a mandate to dispose of such cases within twelve Months for quick dispensation of justice.
  3. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should step up its efforts in partnering with non-governmental organizations (NGO) and other civic groups to ensuring that human rights abuses are monitored, reported and perpetrators brought to justice. 
  4. Human rights education should be extended to men of the Nigerian security forces especially the Nigeria Police to enable then better understand what constitutes human rights and how to engage with citizens in the cause of their duties without violating their rights. Adding that “Today, October 5 is World Habitat Day. However, the level of human rights violations and abuses that we experience in the Niger Delta is making the region inhabitable and that is why we are calling on teachers at all fronts who are also marking World Teachers Day today to do more by joining us to sensitize and teach the Police and other security personnels more about human rights and citizens engagements”. 

Responding, Mrs. Chinwe described Advocacy Centre as “one of the most proactive NGOs in Port Harcourt”, Rivers State. She commended Advocacy Centre for monitoring human rights violations in the context of COVID-19 in the Niger Delta which the National Human Rights Commission better understood as the parent human right organization that also monitored human rights violations within the period and also continuing monitoring as “COVID-19” is still here with us. The Commission particularly mentioned its work in training the Police and that they would continue monitoring.

The Commission particularly frowned at a situation in Rivers State whereby “some hospitals were rejecting patients, forcing them to accept that they have COVID-19 when they don’t have it, especially the asthmatic patients”. The Commission further said there were lots of cases of Police brutality and extortion in Rivers State, adding that the Rivers State Office of the National Human Rights Commission received the highest number of human rights violations complaint in the country.  The Commission further commended Advocacy Centre for a job well-done with a promised to partner with Advocacy Centre on human rights defense and act on the report.

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