The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has launched a register for missing persons in Nigeria in line with its mandate of protecting the rights of citizens and foreigners living in the country without any form of discrimination.
The project hopes to raise awareness on the missing in Nigeria and the plights of their families, it is also to ensure that authorities acknowledge the missing and the rights of their families
The inauguration of the missing persons register in the country is beginning with a pilot project in Borno state which is the epicentre of insurgency with the attendant human rights and humanitarian issues, including enforced disappearance and kidnapping among other challenges.
According to the organisers, the idea of keeping a register for the missing is a welcome development that will help the government and other meaningful stakeholders to resolve the issue of people disappearing.
The Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu during a public lecture organised by the NHRC and CLEEN Foundation to commemorate the 2021 International Day of the missing said, “This day gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the number of persons who go missing on account of armed conflict or related violence, natural disasters, migration, abduction or kidnapping, trafficking, accidents, detention, crimes or any other situation”.
Ojukwu said maintaining a Register of missing persons in Nigeria is in line with the mandate of the Commission to protect the rights of every citizen and other nationals resident in the country, pointing out that the same is provided for in Section 245 (j) of the Police Act.
According to him, the Commission had embarked on widespread advocacy in Borno state to sensitise relevant agencies and bodies on the project, stating that affected persons, families and communities are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to address their anxieties, hoping for a favourable result.
“Effective today, jingles on the project will be aired in Hausa and Kanuri, in local radio stations in the state and members of our staff in Borno state office are ready for the work”, the Executive Secretary added.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen expressed the commitment of the federal government towards protecting the rights of the disappeared and their families, saying that such cases have always come with serious trauma and that protecting the rights of victims and their families will bring closure to all affected families and communities.
According to the Minister, the trauma experienced by the disappeared and their family members cannot be explained and to address the issue, all hands must be on deck to clarify the situation of the disappeared and give hope to their families. She said everyone needs to share in the responsibility of working towards bringing closure to the lingering traumatic experience people feel having a loved one declared missing for a long while.
Outgoing Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Dr Benson Olugbuo expressed concern about the 22,000 reported cases of missing persons, being the highest in Africa, saying that Nigeria and the entire African continent should rise up to the occasion.