Two months after the world was regaled with the revelation of mutilated, and abused children from Eket in Akwa Ibom state for being witches and wizards, the first official reaction from the federal government has come from far away Geneva.
The Minister for Foreign Affair, Ojo Madueke, leading the Nigeria delegation to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights in Geneva, Monday denied that torture is an official state policy in Nigeria, suggesting however that the “children were paid to say they were tortured.”
Madueke made this comment while answering questions in response to his official statement at a question and answer session after he presented the official Nigerian statement at the UN assembly.
The universal periodic review (UPR) is an assessment of human rights condition in particular countries and the current edition , the fourth in the history of the UN was dedicated to Nigeria, Russia, China and Azerbaijan, considered as trouble spots of official human rights violations.
Madueke declined a telephone interview from Geneva Wednesday to elaborate on this issue saying “I do not grant interviews on phone.”
The children are held in shelters managed by the nongovernmental organisation, child right rehabilitation network centre (CRARN), with support from Nigerian citizens.
Children at the CRARN shelter were reportedly given up by their parents for witchcraft and handed over to pastors who put the children through torture that are beyond words for exorcism.
Civic organisations immediately fired pot shots at the minister Wednesday characterizing his comments in Geneva as “odious and unfortunate.” Speaking to NEXT on Sunday, Chijoke Odum, chairperson civil liberties organisation of Nigeria [CLO], said “The minister told a lie because investigation revealed otherwise.”
“There are evidences of psychological trauma in the children, in their speech, and in their eyes you see the loss of childhoodness” insist Odum who said “The sign of trauma is indelible evidence [of torture]”
The CLO president maintains that: “there are also biological evidences, when you go through their bodies; you will see lacerations, scars, enduring scars, marks that were not sustained during childbirth or childhood play or fun, marks that were deliberately made.”
He also wants paediatricians brought in to determine the degree, depth, and age of the body lacerations, asking “How come no one contradicted any of the evidence months after the children articulated them and cried out except this one purported instance by the minister?”
Odum who stated that “Torture is not something you claim but you prove it” is unhappy that the minister is trying to defend the deplorable act of religious fanaticism, when the offence was not committed by the state/government. He wants to show the international community that all is well in Nigeria particularly at the religious level but this is all lies.”
Odum’s views are shared by Olasupo Ojo, president of committee for the defence of human rights (CDHR), who also flayed the foreign affairs minister. “Maduekwe believes everything should be politicised and sees everything from the spectacle of politics not based on principles.”
Olasupo Ojo maintains too that “What happen in Akwa-Ibom is well known to all Nigerians that there was torture, and for the foreign affairs minister to now go and tell the UN that it didn’t happen mocks the entire nation.”
“Such discrepancies by a nation will never allow the world to take us seriously and that explains our denial a seat in the UN Security Council because we are signatory to so many international treaties particularly on human rights yet we do not honour the treaties domestically” concludes Mr Ojo
Highlighting some of the UN treaties Nigeria is signatory to and ratified some them;
-UN international convention on torture
-International covenant on civil and political right
-UN convention against torture and other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment
-African chatter on human and people’s right
-UN code of code conduct for law enforcement officials
-UN basic principle on the use of force and firearm by law enforcements agents
-The European convention for the prevention of torture and human degrading treatment /punishment.
Also Section 27 and 28 of the Nigeria evidence act derecognises any evidence or confessional statement obtained through torture.
Section 15 of the criminal and penal code prohibits even police and law enforcement officers from bridging fundamental human in the process of law enforcement.