The Executive Secretary National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chief Tony Ojukwu SAN has said that conflict situations and other acts of criminality has led to the increase in cases of missing persons in the Country. Ojukwu stated this at a press conference held to commemorate the International Day of the Disappeared. The press conference which took place at the headquarters of the Commission in Abuja was organized in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The NHRC Boss said there have been massive records of displacement and separation of families occasioned by the general insecurity bedeviling the country. According to him people have been killed or maimed while others have been forced to flee from their villages to other places within and outside the country for safety.
The legal luminary posited that the NHRC recognizes the need to respect the rights of families to know the fate of their loved ones. “It is in recognition of this right that the Commission facilitated the establishment of a database of missing persons in Nigeria, a mechanism that would address the gap that exists in documentation of cases of missing persons, and give families a platform to engage with, in addressing cases of their missing loved ones” Ojukwu said.
The Hon. Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Dr. Nasir Sani- Gwarzo stated that the Ministry was working earnestly to develop humanitarian policies and providing effective coordination of national and international humanitarian interventions. He said the Ministry will among other things ensure strategic disaster mitigation; manage the formulation and implementation of fair focused social inclusion and protection programmes in Nigeria.
According to the Minister; “in our effort to prevent disappearances and increase the possibility of identification of human remains, the Ministry is currently working with relevant stakeholders to develop the Mass Fatality Response Plan (MFRP) for Nigeria based on international best practices for proper and dignified management of the dead.” In his statement, the Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mr. Yann Bonzon called on the federal government to generate the necessary political will and allocate the adequate resources for the establishment of an Independent Humanitarian National Mechanism for missing persons which would put their families at the centre. He also revealed that more than half of the over 25,000 people missing in Nigeria are children.
The Director of Disaster Management, Nigerian Red Cross society (NRCS), Mr. Benson Agbro who spoke on behalf of the Secretary General of the organization Mr. Abubakar Ahmed Kende said that “the NRCS/ICRC work to draw global attention to the stories behind those who go missing, as well as make efforts to provide answers. ”We have a huge caseload and we are doing our best to clarify the fate of those who contacted us as much as possible” according to him, “resolving cases of missing persons is a very complex and lengthy process however, we are determined to continue the search as part of our mandate as a humanitarian organization”.