Human Rights Commission to account for missing persons data

Ebele Okoye, Abuja

The National Human Rights Commission-NHRC has started making giant strides towards ensuring that the data of missing people in the country are well documented and accounted for.

This is in line with commission’s mandate of undertaking studies on all matters pertaining to human rights and assisting the Nigerian government in the formulation of appropriate policies on the guarantee of human rights, maintain a library, collect data and disseminate information and materials on human rights.

This proposed collection and collation of missing people’s data, is necessitated by series of people’s disappearance as a result of various forms of insurrections which has hit nearly every part of Nigeria in recent times.

These disappearances are caused by problems which range from abductions by the boko haram, kidnappings by the Niger-Delta Militants and other forms of ransom kidnappings, to the conventional missing children issues among others.

Furthermore, the rescue missions which have been conducted in recent times by the Nigerian military, has shown that thousands of Nigerians have been missing without the knowledge of the government and its relevant agencies.

Data bank
The National Human Rights Commission in its wisdom has therefore organized a stakeholders meeting in its Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, for the establishment of a National Data Bank for Missing Persons in Nigeria.

In his remarks, Executive Secretary of NHRC, Professor Bem Angwe, explained the relationship between keeping a record of missing people and the protection of their fundamental human rights.

In his words, “in our country today, we don’t have a precise record of births and we don’t have a precise record of deaths. It, therefore, becomes very difficult to give an account and where we are confronted with a situation such as insurgency activities occurring in the Northern-eastern part of the country today, or even the conflict between the herdsmen and farmers across the country, or the various kidnappings that are taking place around the country, it becomes difficult to be exact as to who are the victims of these activities in our country.”

Professor Angwe further stated that, “In this wise, we cannot say with pride that we have put in place appropriate strategies that demonstrates the values we place on the lives of Nigerians. We have reached a point where we must change our attitudes toward providing accountability to the life of every Nigerian. The starting point will be first, in the face of terrorist activities in the country, we must have a data base that will chronicle cases of persons who are missing, who are not seen or who have been killed or have been affected by the activities of the insurgents.”

The human rights boss also went on to encourage all levels of government in Nigeria to enforce a strict birth and death registration policy.

He also disclosed that the presidency, under the Office of the Vice President, is very interested in making sure a good database for missing Nigerians is compiled, kept and duly updated.

“I will here loudly express the concern of our Vice President who is today, the Acting President of this country who also advised that the commission in providing this leadership should also liaise with the various institutions of government that are today represented here. The advice of Mr. Vice President became a clear demonstration of the desire of the government of Nigeria to have every Nigerian accounted for in times of trouble and particularly as the country is battling to contain the issue of insurgency,” he said.

The stakeholders which are drawn from the Nigerian security agencies, data collection and information technology agencies and other relevant government and non-governmental organizations, are expected to look at a framework for the collection and processing of the data which have been put in place by the NHRC and make recommendations for optimal results in the entire process.