-- As Justice Minister, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN Commissions NHRC's Lagos State Office at Ikeja

The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights in Nigeria by providing the enabling environment for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to effectively realize its mandate.

The Government also promised to support the NHRC to own its offices nationwide to further entrench its independence and strengthen its strive to protect the rights of citizens.

The Honorable Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN who made this statement on the occasion of the commissioning of the Lagos State office of the NHRC noted that the operational independence of the Commission has been future strengthened with the construction of it own offices. 

"Under the Paris Principles, such national human rights institutions are to be independent in the execution of their mandate, structure and operations" . 

Section 6(3) of the NHRC Act 1995 as amended, stipulates that the Commission in carrying out it's mandate and operations shall not be subject to the control of any authority or person, he added. 

 "Accordingly, the ownership of their place of operations (office) constitutes an important aspect of their independence. I am happy to say that since this administration, the government has not interfered with the independence of the Commission", the AGF said.

The Chief Law Officer of the Federation noted that in fact, during the last dissolution of Boards of all parastatals, the government exempted the Governing Council of the Commission from the general dissolution of Federal Government Boards due to its independence under the enabling Act and the Paris Principles.

In her opening remarks, the Chairperson of the Governing Council of the NHRC, Dr. Salamatu Suleiman, FICMC,  thanked the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and other highly distinguished guests for gracing the occasion of the completion and commissioning of the Lagos State office of the National Human Rights Commission in Alausa, Ikeja Lagos.

According to the senior lawyer, the history of the realization of this project needs to be told as a testimony of the determination of the Commission to strengthen its operations and independence.

She recalled that the Commission was established through the National Human Rights Commission Act 1995 as amended and that in its determination to entrench its independence from the beginning, the Commission commenced its daily operations from its own independently owned buildings in the six geo-political zonal headquarters of Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano, Jos and Maiduguri between 1996 and 2002.

"Over time however, the acquired Lagos office building was no longer befitting and structurally fit to meet the challenges and demands of a modern office suitable for the operations of a national human rights institution like the Commission.

 The need for inclusivity and diversity in the working environment of the Commission necessitated a new office structure after 23 years of the acquisition of the Lagos office building and the other zonal headquarters", the Chairperson narrated.

 She observed that things like ramps, lifts, mediation rooms and conference rooms have become key components of any structure for conducting business by a national human rights institution like ours.

The project, she stated, was fully funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria with no donor support.

"The Commission is indeed grateful to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Budget office of the Federation, the National Assembly for appropriating funds for the execution of this laudable project. It is our fervent hope that the dream of realizing the construction of the remaining State offices of the Commission will soon be a reality", she added.

In his speech at the occasion, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Dr. Tony Ojukwu OFR, SAN said the Commission had identified the ownership of its offices as one of the indices of its independence under the Paris principles from inception, but due to inadequate financial resources in the Commission, it could not continue on the trajectory of owning all its offices, the way it had started at inception from 1996 to 2002. 

The Chief Human Rights Officer of Nigeria recollected that the Lagos office being commissioned today was the first to be awarded in 2019 while the others were awarded in 2020. 

"It is hoped that by the end of this year, the Commission will be completing at least 8 of the 9 projects while the 9th project will hopefully be completed before the end of 2025. The delivery period has been 4 to 5 years. This is due to the lean financial resources available to the Commission", the Executive Secretary stated.

He used the opportunity to appeal to the National Assembly and the Budget office to appropriate more funds to help the Commission further realize its mandate to provide adequate protection to Nigerians when their rights are violated.

 Finally, he thanked the Chief Judge of Lagos state, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, the Hon Attorney General of Lagos state, the Commissioner of Police for Lagos state, civil society organizations, human rights defenders like Chief Femi Falana SAN, and the Media who work with us daily to resolve complaints on human rights violations.

Other dignitaries and stakeholders who also graced the occasion were, Chairman House Committee on Human Rights and Legal Matters, Hon. Abiola Peter Makinde, representative of the Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly, representative of the Commission of Police, Lagos State, Chairman Nigerian Bar Association, Ikrodu, Bayo Akinlade, representative of the Director General Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, representative of International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Victor Lutenco (Senior Programme Coordinator), representative of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mr. Frederick Uche Oko, and the Vice Chairman NBA Lagos State, Esther Jimo, etc.

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