NHRC, NGOs Want Legal Framework to Address Business-related Human Rights Violations

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THE National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), OXFAM and Connected Development (CODE) said the adoption of National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights remained key to effectively regulate business-related human rights violations.

The stakeholders said this when a delegation from Connected Development (CODE) and OXFAM paid an advocacy visit to the commission, to discuss some of the challenges witnessed in oil-bearing communities.

CODE in partnership with OXFAM, is working to domesticate the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in Nigeria (NAP) as a tool to support the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at the federal and state levels.

The Executive Secretary, NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, said the adoption of the NAP was mandated by the United Nations General Principles on Business and Human Rights, demanding that countries should leverage on them to protect human rights in businesses.

“This is because there have been a lot of issues, as the business climate in Nigeria so far, has been one of making profits alone, without looking at the consequential effects on promotion and protection of human rights.

“This is not proper; now, the adoption of the NAP on business and human rights , obviously will improve the business climate

“If human rights are protected, companies will have a better climate to do their business and make better decent profits, not blood money.”

Ojukwu said that some parts of the country were experiencing gas flaring and soot, with a lot of effects on the environment and health of Nigerians, yet much was not being done.

“How long can that go on? so the issue of adoption of the NAP on business and human rights is the way to go; we cannot shy away from this for too long.

“For us as a commission, we have identified this and already, we have a draft plan on business and human rights,” he said

Ojukwu, however, said the broader NAP for promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria was also being reviewed.

He said that the draft NAP had been submitted to the Attorney General of the Federation who would present it to the Federal Executive Council and hopefully before the end of this administration, it would be adopted.

Mr Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive Officer, CODE said the organisation highlighted some human rights violation and abuses from oil companies in oil host communities, leading to environmental degradation and health issues.

Lawal said the environment itself took over 20 years to recover ecologically, adding that the soot would make people develop cancer and all these were human rights violation that needed to be checked.

“So, I am thinking about a tripartite collaboration among the NHRC, CODE and Oxfam, where we can document lessons, share them and engage government and hold these agencies to account to ensure proper regulation.

“This is because if we have proper regulation, then there’ll be less or no human rights violation.

“So, we need a stronger framework that highlights how we can jointly as civil society and human rights organisations and international partners, work together.”

Lawal said that the engagement would help to properly implement and accelerate action around the National Action Plan.

Mr Henry Ushie, Project Coordinator, Fiscal Accountability for Inequality Reduction, said there was need to engage more with companies to make them adhere to the rules and regulations of doing business.

Ushie said this was because although some laws already existed in terms of protection, the companies had not quite been compliant in respecting those laws.

“That is why you see a lot of environmental issues, particularly with oil and gas companies in the Niger Delta; they do not respect this framework.

“So, the campaign over time has been how do we ensure that these companies become compliant?

“If there are issues as a result of their operations at committee level or at any level in the entire value chain? How do we ensure that they remedy all of those anomalies.”

Ushie said that was the reason the group thought it okay to come to NHRC, the body housing the framework, to know how it had been campaigning and tackling the issues of business-related abuses.

He added that the group also wanted to know how well the commission was working in getting the NAP rectified for companies to now see it as a legal document to abide by. (NAN)

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