- Category: Society
- Published on Monday, 29 November 2010 09:42
- Written by Sun
- Hits: 1864
Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, a journalist and human rights crusader served four years as a federal commissioner and council member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). After his stint with the commission, he championed the formation of a non-governmental organization, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) to fight cases of human right abuses.
In this interview, he bared his mind on issues bordering on human rights abuses and says that Nigerian workers are treated like slaves in their own country by expatriates. He also called for the passage into law of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) currently pending before the National Assembly.
The idea behind HURIWA
As at the time we came together to start this NGO, there was no such organized platform that would bring together all human rights activists that have the talent to project issues that bordered on human rights. HURIWA is not limited to any particular class of human rights, but it is all encompassing. We believe that all rights are universal and inter dependent both the social economic rights. Rights to life, freedom of expression, media freedom and other relevant human rights provisions. We believe that all these rights are basically intertwine and interwoven. We at the level of our NGO, wherever we noticed a breach of these human rights we used the medium of mass communication to shout that government should do something about it.
Wherever it occurred whether in the public or private sector.?We believe that journalists by their profession are human rights activists that is why they are called the watch dog and conscience of the nation. The most important role a journalist should play is to defend the fundamental rights of the citizens. If we don’t have a regime of respect for fundamental human rights, we would not have a good atmosphere to practice as journalists in the first place. If there were no respect for press freedom, there would be inhibitions and limitations in gathering information.
In Nigeria we have lots of problems bordering on press freedom. The issue of Freedom of Information Bill [FOI] is currently pending before the National Assembly. Without the passage of the bill into law, the freedom of journalists to practice their profession would be greatly limited.
Dangers and challenges
The challenges of having an organized civil society group is basically about finance because human right activism is not a tea party. It is not just something you can do in your portfolio. It is an organized thing and you must have an office that has a well-equipped library including trained staff and a team of lawyers. Once you don’t have that capacity and the funds to attend international seminars, capacity to organize workshops etc., then you are out of it.?This is the biggest challenge because Nigerians are not very generous to NGO’s. People have a false perception that NGO’s are floated basically for moneymaking ventures. It is only when a big man runs into trouble that he or she begins to run to a group.
Most Nigerian elite believe that the only use of the NGO is political campaign or when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] is after them. That is when politicians begin to run looking for NGO’s to make noise for them. That is why you see some groups come out and fade very quickly. The motive for their establishment is not clearly spelt out but politically motivated.?Besides, there is no institutional support even the so-called donor-agencies have their cartel. If you don’t belong to the cartel, you don’t earn their support.
Casualisation of workers is evil
Take the banks, hotels and the construction companies for instance, the chunk of their staff are casual workers. This is a violation of the labour rights of citizens to keep a person for more than the required number of months, up to a period of five years as a casual worker and you pay him peanuts. That is enslavement. Most of these corporate firms are slave drivers.
We are collecting signatories against the conveying of Nigerian workers in trucks meant for goods. We are presenting this to the Ministry of Labour and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. are several violations that we don’t even see in companies that are run by foreigners. If you go to Lagos for instance, you see how these companies maltreat Nigerians like slaves. There is even an allegation that one foreign company in Lagos has a dressin