Ojukwu harps on oversight functions of Human Rights Institutions to protect rights of drug offenders

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has advocated for the strengthening of oversight and watchdog functions of Human Rights Institutions to enable them to address myriad of issues around drug-related offenses.


The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu (SAN) stated this at an online side event of the ongoing 65th Session of the United Nations Commission.


He stressed the need to comply with the relevant principles and guidelines for addressing issues of drug use in Nigeria and elsewhere.

According to Ojukwu, the Commission had recently embarked on the 2022 audit of detention facilities in Nigeria to ensure adherence to international best practices in handling all categories of detainees, including alleged drug offenders.


The Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria stated that proffering useful advice in respect of drug-related offenses to relevant stakeholders like the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, as well as working in collaboration with the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), will help to reduce human rights violations while addressing issues of drug offenses.


The Senior Advocate of Nigeria restated the need for relevant authorities to ensure the provision of free legal services to vulnerable persons and drug-related suspects, and to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use, saying that such a measure will reduce health challenges that might have been exacerbated with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.


In his remarks at the webinar conference, the representative of the UNODC, Philip Meissner stated that it is important to consider nature and magnitude of any drug-related offenses as well as the background of the alleged offenders, so as to understand them better and ensure justice for all parties at the end of the day.

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He recalled that all Member states of the UN made commitments to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention and to observe best practices especially as it relates to drug offenses.


Similarly, the EU Permanent Representative in Vienna, Ambassador Stephane Klement tasked the CSOs to design a standardized template for monitoring the trend of drug offenses and actions being taken by the national authorities, so as to point out any form of inhuman treatment against alleged drug offenders.


He stated that there has to be strong advocacy to ensure an immediate release of persons illegally detained in relation to drugs to avoid further violation of the rights of such individuals.

Similarly, an advocate for fair treatment of drug users, Kenya Cuevas Mexico told the Conference how he suffered different forms of human rights violations from the age of nine years when he had to leave his home to the wide world in search of survival.


According to the drug user, he spent 20 years on the street depending on drugs for survival before he was eventually sentenced for 24 years for possession of wraps of cocaine without trial, which he noted was a gross violation of his human rights.


He said he was criminalized for engaging in sex work and that it surprised him when he saw that people were apprehended indiscriminately and that some of them were migrants, sex workers, persons with HIV/AIDS.


He narrated further, saying that even after he was released, he could not secure a job and he decided to work together with a population of women who were released from prison.

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 According to him, working with the vulnerable group gave him an opportunity to empower more women in the larger society and make their lives better.

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