As the world marks Human Rights Day 2014, Anambra CLO wants government to walk the talk on austerity measures
In 1950, the UN General Assembly decided that every December 10th would be celebrated as Human Rights Day.
This is the direct fallout of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights Document which is regarded as the world’s reference point from where different nations fashioned out their constitutionally enshrined human rights laws.
This year 2014, the UN Human Rights Office proclaimed the theme of Human Rights Day as Human Rights “365”which encompasses and proclaims that each and every day of the year, all 365, should be considered Human Rights Day.
The theme celebrates the fundamental ideas in the Universal Declaration on which the holiday was originally established, reminding and reinforcing the ideal that every human on earth, despite location, sexuality, race, political, economic or social background is at all times entitled to the full range of human rights, and that human rights belong equally to each of us. Further, the 2014 theme of “Human Rights 365? seeks to remind people that these equal rights bind us together as a community, not just locally, but globally and create a place of equal values and ideas.
This year’s theme seems more topical than ever, and the UN Human Rights Office stands together on this day with millions of men and women globally, who risk their all for human rights. 2014 will unfortunately be remembered as a year of several human rights violations, and daunting challenges to overcome. According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, this year’s theme is important to remember throughout the coming year, mainly so the world does not meet the same challenges again. In 2014, countries and communities that were recently breaking ground and finding progress in terms of human rights are now retreating and fast, so that conditions for people are worse than ever. However, the UN Human Rights Office reminds us that this is a constant battle and despite the failures of 2014, there have been, significant, ongoing, global advances in achieving our human rights. More success is on the horizon, 2014 marks the 30th year anniversary for Convention against Torture and in addition this year saw the 25th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
It is in line with the reality that the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said about this year’s theme and I quote “I call on States to honor their obligations to protect human rights everyday of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account”
Unfortunately, despite all efforts by the global rights body and other human rights groups, there are still several violations going on under different guises. As we speak right now, many are being tortured in various detention centers both in Nigeria and across the globe to own up for offences they never committed. The Rights of the Child have been thrown to the dogs, Child labour is still on the increase in Nigeria, human and child trafficking, rape of minors, women are still objects subjected to various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment owing to some archaic and barbaric cultural practices.
It is a grim and pathetic situation that according to a research by Lydia Smith of the International Business Times, UK, “an estimated 27 million people are currently enslaved in the human trafficking trade globally.
In 2012, 112 countries tortured their citizens and 101 countries repressed their people’s right to freedom of expression.
There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today, which is around 27% of children, or more than one in four. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children worldwide die each day due to poverty.
More than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are being exploited as child soldiers in armed conflicts worldwide.
Women make up 80% of all refugees and displaced people and are at heightened risk of physical or sexual violence or trafficking.
Around 15 million girls are forced into child marriage around the world every year. One in three girls in the developing world is married by their 18th birthday, increasing their risk of isolation and violence, and limiting their chance to have an education.
The total number of child laborers remains high, with UNICEF and the International Labour Organization acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged five to 17 are involved worldwide.
Every 90 seconds, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable, but due to gender-based discrimination many women are not given the proper education or care they need.
At least 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide.
More than 3.2 million Syrians are currently living as refugees, in the largest displacement crisis in a generation”
100 years of our existence as a Nation and 54 years down the line as an independent country, no doubt we have much to celebrate but why must we remain in this cesspool of corruption, mediocrity and all motion, no movement?
A land so blessed with abundant natural resources, our problem is self inflicted and man -made.
According to the Global Coalition against Corruption, the Transparency International, Nigeria in its 2014 report ranked 136th most Corrupt Country out of the 174 countries sampled. Some other Countries like Cape Verde, Botswana, South Africa and our neighboring Ghana all towered positively above Nigeria in a better stead but instead of our leaders taking concrete steps to fight corruption, the government mouthpiece started celebrating that the improvement from the 144th position ranked last year was a sign that the Jonathan administration is really committed to fighting corruption.
The continuous rampage of Boko Haram and other insurgent activities have caused untold havoc to the people and the economy. We have lost several soldiers whose families can never be the same again. Many lives and properties gone down the drain while the economy is also seriously affected.
According to the information contained in a report- Global Overview 2014: People Internally displaced by Conflict and violence released by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Nigeria has 3.3 million persons displaced by conflict- the highest number in Africa
According to the report, there are 3.3 million IDPs in Nigeria and 470,500 individuals were displaced in 2013 alone. On a global scale, Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 million IDPs and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs.
Recently, the Minister of Finance and the Supervising Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala told Nigerians that considering the present economic realities on ground, Nigerians should brace up for austerity measures.
Flanked by the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr Bright Okogu; the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla; the Acting Chair, FIRS, Alhaji Kabir Mashi, and other top government officials, Okonjo-Iweala said the Federal Government had decided to adopt austerity measures as a buffer for the economy in the face of a dwindling oil price in the international market.
The minister said that part of the austerity measures is to cut down on foreign travels, payment of more taxes on luxury goods like champagne and private jet owners among others. It is our position that every action of government in this regard is all coated in insincerity. While nothing was said about cutting down on the emoluments of political office holders and their retinue of aides as well as the profligate lifestyle of the various governments, it amounts to do as I say and not what I do for the proposed austerity measures.
Vincent Akanmode , a columnist in a National Newspaper captured the situation concisely when he wrote that “The only misgiving about the latest call for sacrifice is that it is coming from a civilian administration that has little or no regard for prudent management of the nation’s resources. And contrary to Okonjo-Iweala’s claim that the executive arm of government had in its discussions on national budgets with the National Assembly in the last three years consistently advocated prudence and low benchmark to encourage more savings, the records show that the administration has been one of the most reckless. In 2005, the Obasanjo administration successfully negotiated a debt write-off deal of about $18 billion after a cash payment of about $12 billion to free the nation from the Paris Club debts of over $30 billion. Today, the nation’s debt stock stands at more than $44 billion because the government cannot control its propensity to borrow and spend at will.
“The nation’s budgets under the Jonathan administration have seen billions of naira dedicated to all manner of funny items from chewing stick to chewing gum. Why, for instance, would the government budget N2.2 billion for a banquet hall in Aso Rock or propose N34.5 million for the feeding of lions in the zoo at the presidential villa when millions of Nigerians do not know where their next meal would come from? In the 2014 budget, for instance, the government, which already had 10 aircraft in its fleet, proposed another sum of N1.6 billion as deposit for another aircraft to raise the number to 11. In 2011 alone, about N18 billion was said to have been spent to maintain the president’s jet. Consider this against the fact that the Queen of England and the British Prime Minister have no private jets, but depend on the British Airways for their flights, one would begin to appreciate the extent to which our leaders are insensitive to the plight of ordinary Nigerian”
It is also on this premise also that we call for the total scrapping of government funding of religious pilgrimages in Nigeria. Nigerians are so religious but yet we refuse to imbibe the teachings of the various religions in our conduct. Yearly, about 110,000 pilgrims are sponsored to Mecca and Jerusalem where about N14.93 billion are wasted in such exercise. While it is not our intention to cast aspersions on the integrity of the supposed pilgrims, it is an open secret that such pilgrimages have been turned to jamboree and political patronage where those who are government cronies, apologists and other relationships are selected at the expense of the collective treasury of the people.
Though this was also an issue discussed at the National Confab, it is expedient that the federal and state governments take the bull by the horn now and hand off any form of sponsorship of both Christian and Muslim pilgrims without further delay. There are so many avenues where the huge sum expended on this can be channeled to touch the lives of Nigerians positively. Let those who are so passionate to travel several miles abroad to go and pray for Nigerians and to do their personal spiritual exercise which according to them is another precondition for making heaven, do so at their own expense and we can know the truly committed ones among them.

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