The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, once again, was at the fore front of United Nations observances on Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th December to commemorate the International Human Rights Day, celebrated 10 December every year.
Against the backdrop of human rights issues in Nigerian Prisons, especially as related to inmates on awaiting trial and have spent more years in prison than the number of years they would have bagged if convicted, this year’s observance organized by UNIC, Lagos, in collaboration with the Lagos State Judiciary, was held at the Ikoyi Prison, Lagos on Monday, 9 December, 2013.
On Tuesday, 10 December, the National Human Rights Commission, South-west Zone in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, organized a walk through the streets of Lagos and capped it with an interactive session with representatives of the media and the civil society.
The programme at the Prison which was attended by representatives of the Lagos State Judiciary, National Human Rights Commission, South-West Zone, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Prison authorities, Civil Society Organisations and the media, was revealing as inmates recounted their long wait for trial.
In his message on the occasion, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, noted that ‘promoting human rights is one of the core purposes of the United Nations, and the Organization has pursued this mission since its founding.’ ‘Then, as now, the key to success,’ according to him, ‘is the political will of Member States. It is States, in the first instance, that are obliged to protect human rights and prevent violations at a national level, and to stand up when other States fail to live up to their commitments.’
The Secretary General, whose speech was read by the National Information Officer of UNIC, Lagos, Oluseyi Soremekun, therefore, called on States to fulfil the promises they made at the Vienna Conference; and reiterated the commitment of the UN Secretariat, funds and programmes to vigilance and courage in the face of human rights violations.
Welcoming UNIC and partners to the venue, the Deputy Controller of Prisons, Ikoyi Prison, Mr Emmanuel Bamidele, expressed his gratitude to the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos and the Lagos State Judiciary for bringing this year’s Human Rights Day to the Ikoyi prison. He disclosed that the prison authorities in Lagos state were very proactive and efficient; he added that there were no cases of Human Rights abuses in the facility.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Phillips, represented by the Chief Registrar of the Lagos State Juciciary, Mrs Olamide Akinkugbe, reiterated the commitment of the Chief Judge to prison decongestion and ensuring that inmates’ fundamental rights are respected always.
In her message, the President of Campaign For Democracy and the International Women of Courage Award winner, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, charged the inmates to remain positive as they still had a lot to contribute to the development of the society. She enjoined them to respect the fundamental rights of one another even after the completion of their terms.
Adding his voice at the event was the Representative of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Human Rights Adviser to the UN Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team in Nigeria, Mr Oke Martin Ejidike, who called on Nigerians to be rejuvenated in their commitment to the struggle for the promotion and protection of human rights.