By Emeka Nwokocha
The National Director General of the Conference for Actualisation of Human Rights (CAHR), Barrister Omemiroro Ogedegbe, has inaugurated CAHR Executives in Delta North, and Asaba Unit with resonating applause.
The event, which was coordinated by the State Director of CAHR, Comrade Monday Enudi, took place on Friday, 13 November, 2020, at Bellers place, Asaba.
In his keynote address, Barrister Ogedegbe, spoke eloquently on the activities of CAHR, stating that the human rights group was conceived to protect the rights of vulnerable Nigerians and ensure the society is safe, conducive and lawful for everybody to live in.
While reflecting on the challenges bedeviling the activities of CAHR over the years, Barrister Ogedegbe, stated that unabridged cooperation from the police was important for CAHR to make meaningful progress in its activities. On that note, He said, “When a police command or unit is headed by a police officer who does not tolerate acts of human rights violation by the personnel of the police force, it makes our work easy. But, when a police command or unit is headed by a police officer who is not in tune with the laws that protect the rights of the citizen, and feigns ignorant of obvious violations of the rights of the people by operatives of the police force, it makes our work very difficult.”
Continuing, Barr. Ogedegbe said, “in recent times, our job has been a bit easier because the Delta State Police Command is headed by a Commissioner of Police that is human rights friendly. l can boldly say, as a lawyer and an activist that prior to CP Hafiz Inuwa’s assumption of duty as Commissioner of Police, Delta State, we had endless cases in court bordering on human rights violations. But currently, as l speak, most of the human rights violations and abuses traced to police officers are being addressed at the command level; they are settled out of court, because we have a Commissioner of Police that has been able to show to the personnel of the police force that there is a new cop in town. He has saliently proved to his men beyond reasonable doubts that he does not condone flagrant violations of the rights of the citizens.”
Barr. Ogedegbe further stated that, “CP Inuwa has continuously displayed competence, professionalism and concern in matters bordering on human rights violation. He has shown readiness to walk his talk and has proved his mettle as a confident, courageous and committed cop anytime any day. He responds to phone calls even at odd hours. In a nutshell, what I am invariably saying is that we have a dependable police boss now that gives us the needed cooperation that makes our work easier. He deserve a thunderous applause”
The renowned legal practitioner posited that the Nigeria police force is a creation of law, saying that the police force was set up for the purpose of preventing, detecting and prosecution of persons suspected of crimes. He said that in line with the law that established the police force, a police officer, upon detecting that there is likelihood of a man committing an offence, should take proactive steps to prevent the commission of the offence. But when the offence had been committed, the law empowers the police officer to investigate the commission of the offence for the purpose of prosecuting the offender. Barr. Ogedegbe however, expressed concern that over the years, the operations of the police personnel had always been carried out in breach of the laws that established the police force.
Barr. Ogedegbe, described the event as a memorable one, even as he charged the newly inaugurated executives to acquaint themselves with the fundamental rights as spelt out in chapter four of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended).
His words, “as Executive Members of CAHR, you are expected to be fully abreast of the extant provisions of the constitution as it relate to fundamental rights. In that case, you will be able to know when these rights are abused or violated so as to be able to play your roles as human rights defenders.”
Continuing, Barr. Ogedegbe added that in the months ahead, lectures would be given to members of the Asaba unit to educate them rightly on the basic tenets of human rights and their roles as activists.
The renowned lawyer went further to emphasize sanctity of right to life, noting that right to life is a natural given right that is inherent in the human person.
His words, “in line with the law, the moment a man is born, he automatically enjoys right to life and that right cannot be taken away from him save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.”
Continuing, he said that when a person is caught committing a crime, no matter the weight of the crime, the legal process of prosecution must be followed to bring the person to Justice, but not to be executed extra judicially.
His words, “if a person is caught committing a crime, no one has right to execute him or her. The procedures of the law must be followed to ensure legal prosecution. In the event of extrajudicial killing, the perpetrators of the act have taken the law into their hands; they would be arrested and charged with murder.
“Even if a man is caught committing a crime, or an armed robber is arrested, the law forbids instant execution of that man without a valid trial in the court of law. That a man was caught in the act of committing a crime is immaterial to justify extra judicial killing. According to the constitutional provision on homicide and murder, any killing not authorized by law is murder,” he emphasized.
Barr. Ogedegbe stated, “for purpose of emphasis, when any person authorized to bear firearms kills anybody caught in the act of committing a crime, it is known as extrajudicial killing. But when it is done by anybody who is not authorized to bear firearms, it is known as murder.
Speaking at the event, CSP Imade Graham, representative of the Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, tasked the members of CAHR to always conduct their activities in tandem with the laws, saying that the Delta Police Command would work in synergy with CAHR to ensure a better society where the rights of the citizens are protected. Continuing, CSP Graham, stated that the role of police in ensuring law and order in the society cannot be overemphasized. He tasked human rights organisations to extend their advocacy to protecting the law enforcement agents, noting that often times; the welfare of the police seldom gets the attention of the civil society organisations.
Dwelling on the tenets of human rights, CSP Imade Graham, said that the major instruments that provided for human rights are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, and the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). He defined Human rights as moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and regularly protected in states and international laws.
Reacting to the public’s perception of human rights vis a vis the constitutional duties of the police, CP Imade expressed worry that often times statements and views being expressed on social media by Nigerians critically vilify and condemn police officers. Continuing, he expressed concern about the gory manner some police men while in line of duty, were killed during the EndSARS protest, a sadistic development that seems to suggest that the law enforcement officers do not have rights to life.
CSP Graham, stressed the crucial roles of the police to protect lives and property. He asked, “if there are laws and there is nobody to enforce it, would the law enforce itself?” He stated that every law enforcement agent of government is duty bound to serve the public, even as he reiterated the readiness of the Nigeria police force to protect the rights of Nigerians. He however called on Nigerians to be law abiding, stating that in the event of an infraction of the law, the right, with regard to the liberty of the individual who committed the infraction may be put to check in line with the laws of the land. He urged CAHR to make it a duty to educate its members on the applications of the fundamental rights in the course of their activities. “Your right stops where another person’s right begins; protect your right and that of others to ensure a better society,” he stated.
In his speech, the National Adviser at CAHR, Pastor Edewor Egedegbe, tasked the executive on transparency and due diligence in piloting the affairs of CAHR in their jurisdictions. He said, “in addition to what the DG has said, we need to establish a distinction between human rights advocacy and money making venture. Human rights advocacy is not primed on money making. Over time, we have seen persons under the guise of human rights defenders exploiting some people.
He said, “as members of CAHR, we do our activism for the sake of the downtrodden; we do activism for humanity and by extension, we are doing activism for God.”
Continuing, Egedegbe said that the activities of CAHR, over the years have been carried out centrally to defend the rights of persons across board without sentiment. He said, “in all that we do, we do not leave any segment of the society untended. We mainstream everybody into our work, including the law enforcement officers.
Recalling CAHR’s interventions on behalf of the police, Egedegbe said, “just yesterday (Thursday 13/11/2020), the National body of CAHR filed a petition before the Delta State Judicial Panel of Enquiry to demand Justice for the first policeman, Corporal Stanley Etaga that lost his life in Ughelli, during the EndSARS protest.” Continuing, Egedegbe said, “but for the prompt intervention of CAHR and other good spirited Nigerians, Ebrumede police station would have been on fire when some protesting youths attempted to touch it during the EndSARS protest. Also, we have undertaken several fact finding tours to police barracks and quarters to ascertain their state of disrepair with a view to calling on the governments at different levels to come to the aid of the Nigeria police.”
Continuing, he said, “we are trying very hard using several mediums to advocate to all and sundry that the right of the Nigeria police and other sister agencies must be respected, and we hold every citizen in high esteem.” He advised the executives to conform to the law of the land. “We cannot say we are freedom fighters, we are human rights activists and still flout the law. We are a voice to the voiceless,” he reiterated.
Pastor Egedegbe, expressed optimism that the newly inaugurated executives would surely hit the ground running by diligently doing the needful for the good of the society.
In the same vein, the representative of the Delta State Coordinator of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Orobosa Idemudia, applauded CAHR for raising the bar in defense of human rights in Delta State, despite the inherent challenges that bedevil the society. He said NHRC would continue to partner with CAHR to ensure Delta State is free from abuses of human rights.
The high point of the event was taking of oath of allegiance by the newly inaugurated executives which was administered by Comrade Austin Ozobo. And presentation of the constitution of CAHR to Delta North Coordinator, Comrade Victor Ojei, and Comrade Ganagana Francis, Asaba Unit Coordinator, by Comr. Adjarho Jonathan.
Comrade Victor Ojei, on behalf of the entire executive, thanked the National Director General of CAHR, Barrister Omemiroro Ogedegbe, for giving them the opportunity to pilot the affairs of CAHR in Delta North, and Asaba Unit.
The newly inaugurated executive members are: Comrade Victor Ojei, Delta North Coordinator; Comrade Kelly Gilor, Assistant Coordinator, Delta North; Engr. Kenneth Nwaobi, PRO, Delta North; Barr. Micheal Ogbodogbo, Delta North Legal Adviser; Comrade Ganagana Francis, Asaba Unit Coordinator; Comrade Femi Malka, Assistant Coordinator, Asaba Unit; Comrade Mozea Emeka Emmanuel, Asaba Unit Secretary; Comrade Florence Ogonegbu, Asaba Unit Assistant Secretary; Comrade Thomas Ochaga, Asaba Unit Financial Secretary; Comrade Omogba Akpos, Asaba Unit PRO; and Comrade Ajukwu Jessy, Member, Asaba Unit.