Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, on Saturday, urged legal practitioners to step up pro bono legal services to poor litigants.
Ozekhome said this in a lecture he delivered at the 30th Anniversary of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Lagos State Branch.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was tagged: “Human Rights Situation in Nigeria. CDHR as an Intervention Group — Prospect and Challenges“.
Ozekhome said: “Legal practitioners working with the CDHR should step up their pro bono legal services to poor litigants whose rights are abused so that we can make Nigeria a better place.
“Sensitisation campaigns should be held more often to educate or enlighten the masses on the existence of their rights.
“Religious and traditional institutions should be encouraged to enlighten their subjects on their rights and how to seek redress when such rights are violated.”
According to him, the CDHR should begin to make full use of diplomatic pressure and sanctions to deter security agents from actions that constitute violations of human rights.
He urged the CDHR and legal practitioners to stop watching as other citizens’ fundamental human rights were being breached with no regard to the laws of the land.
“The issue of human rights is not one that should be handled with kid gloves. It goes beyond condemning the acts that amount to such human rights breach.
“The law needs to go further to ensure that the fundamental human rights of her citizens are not violated.
“A society that encourages human rights violation is giving way to anarchy and chaos in an era of civilisation.
“A country where citizens’ rights are not respected or protected is a grooming ground for crisis and violence.
“Citizens’ lives will be at the mercy of those courageous enough to take up arms and violate the rights of another citizen,” Ozekhome said.
He said that factors responsible for the aggravation of human rights violations in Nigeria include illiteracy, lack of adequate training of security agents and lack of diligent prosecution of violators.
According to Ozekhome: poverty, ethnic and religious sentiments, attitude of concerned authorities, lack of sufficient legal aidas well as lack of accountability for ammunition are also contributory factors
The activist frowned at disobedience to court orders and arbitrary arrest by law enforcement operatives and the use of torture against suspected offenders.
The lawyer berated the Nigeria Police and its Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) for human rights abuse, citing the recent killing of Mr Rotimi Adeyemo, a LASTMA officer at Iyana-Ipaja and Mr Kolade Johnson at Mangoro, both in Lagos.
He called the government to take decisive action and secure the lives and property of citizens.
Ozekhome also demanded justice for victims of violent killings across the country, by unmasking the identity of the perpetrators of such heinous crimes against humanity and ensuring that they were punished.Source: