Last updateMer, 28 Jan 2015 10am

Security: UN body asks Nigeria's neighbours to aid in fight against Boko Haram

Abuja, Nigeria - The United Nations Office on Human Rights (UNHR) has called on Nigeria's neighbours to collaborate with Abuja in fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in north east Nigeria.

The High Commissioner of the UN body, Navi Pillay, made the call here Friday at a press conference, urging that as the conflict in the region takes a monstrous dimension with civilians caught in the crisis, combating the menace should be made a regional affair with the broader international community also lending a helping hand.

Pillay noted that so far, close to 500,000 have been displaced inside Nigeria while some 57,000 have spilled across borders into neighbouring countries, saying that many more victims have been indiscriminately killed or maimed, a situation which has made the fight to have gone beyond an internal affair.

She said 'With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter. I suggested to the National Security Adviser that a regional approach to combat terrorism, resolve the conflict and alleviate the hardship of all civilians that are caught up may be an option worth exploring with neighbouring countries and the broader international community,

'I also raised this issue with the Nigerian minister of foreign affairs. I call on States within the region to enhance their collaboration with Nigeria,' she said.

Pillay also raised the issue of human rights violation against civilians by government forces fighting insurgency in the region.

While calling for transparent investigations into such allegations, she noted that it is important that government forces do not exacerbate the problem by taking actions that displace, endanger and kill civilians.

'Many people I have met with during this visit openly acknowledged that human rights violations have been committed by the security forces, and these have served to alienate local communities, and created fertile ground for Boko Haram to cultivate new recruits.

'While the scale of such abuses is not clear, the government is evidently aware they are counter-productive and I was assured by the National Security Adviser that steps are being taken to rectify excesses,' she said.

Another issue addressed by Pillay was corruption. She noted that aside President Goodluck Jonathan's commitment in New York to tackle corruption, the government of Nigeria has also informed her during the visit that an independent investigation was being launched into the allegation of massive corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

'From human rights perspective, widespread corruption is extremely damaging. It undermines rule of law, and perverts systems that are designed to protect the rights of the people and provide justice. it exacerbates economic inequalities and fuels poverty and accompanying frustrations and resentments. It diverts resources from much needed social services including education and healthcare. Its corrosive impact is felt most acutely by those least equipped to deal with it -- namely the poorest and most marginalised members of society'.

'I urge everyone in Nigeria to pull together and push each other, to tackle this scourge which is holding back the development of the country and undermining many people's social and economic rights.

'Poverty and socio-economic disparities are also among the root causes not just of the original emergence of Boko Haram but also of the outbreak of violence between pastoralists and farmers in the middle belt, and the rise in violent crime and lawlessness in the north west and other areas in the country'.

'I hope the recent announcements mark the start of a serious effort to confront corruption head on, at all levels, federal state and local. There are few greater gifts any government can bestow on subsequent generations than a society that is largely free of the shackles of corruption,' she added.

To show that the West is still not pacified by the explanation that gay practice is not in the African culture and is not acceptable to it, Pillay who says this is the first time any High Commissioner was visiting Nigeria since the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights was created 20 years ago, condemned the passage of the law against gay practice.

She said: 'The law violates international law in that it is discriminatory and seriously impinges on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and could lead to human rights defenders advocating for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people receiving draconian prison sentences.

'There is also concern among specialists that it will have serious negative consequences for public health in Nigeria, by driving (LGBT) underground and deterring them from signing up for HIV educational programmes, prevention, treatment and care services. Given that Nigeria currently has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, this would be a heavy blow to the efforts to combat HIV.'

While commending Nigeria's effort at combating and keeping human trafficking under control, Pillay condemned the various practices of abuse against children and women.

Pana 16/03/2014