The National Human Rights Commission has launched an official register for missing persons in Nigeria in line with its mandate to protect the rights of citizens and foreigners living in the country devoid of discrimination.
The Commission Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu made the statement at a public lecture organised by the NHRC and CLEEN Foundation to commemorate the 2021 International Day of missing persons.
The inauguration of the missing persons register in the country wil begin 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.
“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,” he said.
Okukwu reiterated that maintaining a register of missing persons in Nigeria is in line with the mandate of the Commission of protecting 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 the 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.
On the purpose of the project, Ojukwu said that the project hopes to raise awareness on the missing in Nigeria and the plights of their families, ensure that authorities acknowledge the missing and the rights of their families.
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 commended the theme of this year’s observance, “Commemorating their lives: Taking Stock and Charting New Directions in the Search for the Missing”, saying that it reminds everyone of the joint responsibility of working towards bringing closure to the lingering traumatic experience of having ones loved ones declared missing for a long while.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema commended the United Nations for setting aside the 30th of August to commemorate the Day of the Disappeared just as he lauded the thoughtfulness of the Executive Secretary of NHRC and CLEEN Foundation for organizing the Lecture to raise the more awareness concerning the plights and condition of the missing and their loved ones.
The Minister who was represented at the occasion disclosed that some expatriates and foreigners were also victims of kidnappings and that the idea of keeping a register for the missing is a welcome development that will help the government and other stakeholders to resolve the issue of the disappeared.
The 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 indeed the entire African continent should rise up to the occasion.
He opined that deliberate policies on peacebuilding and dialogue will go a long way to reduce tension and nip in the bud any crisis that could lead to the disappearance of persons.