Taraba and Ekiti states have come tops in a survey to determine Nigeria’s most human rights friendly states.
Taraba dwarfed 18 other states in the North to claim the title in the region while Ekiti became most human rights friendly state in the South by beating 17 others in the West, East and South.
It was followed closely by Akwa Ibom State.
The survey was carried out by Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative (CRALI), founded by an activist-lawyer Adeola Oyinlade.
CRALI’s report was unveiled on Tuesday at the 2019 Human Rights Conference organised by the United States Consulate in Lagos in commemoration of this year’s International Human Rights Day.
U.S. Consul-General Claire Pierangelo who spoke on ‘Respect for Human Rights; a Panacea for National Peace and Development and the roles of State Government in Nigeria’ commended CRALI for the survey.
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She noted the importance of human rights to peace and development in Nigeria and the role of state governments in promoting and protecting human rights.
She also observed that the US State Department publishes an annual Human Rights Report, which, over the years has documented several human rights issues in Nigeria.
According to her, they include “substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; criminalisation of status and same-sex sexual conduct based on sexual orientation and gender identity; unlawful and arbitrary killings; and lack of accountability concerning violence against women, amongst other issues.”
Pierangelo added: “Given Nigeria’s large population, it is very important that local leaders are empowered and encouraged to protect the rights of citizens.
“The United States has a strong bilateral relationship with Nigeria, and we will continue to work with the government, civil society, and others to strengthen Nigeria’s democratic institutions.”
A guest at the event, Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku, expressed pleasant surprise at the survey’s result.
He agreed with the Consul-General that states had a vital role to play in upholding human rights, but that unlike in the US, Nigerian states were constitutionally handicapped, especially in the area securing life and property.
One solution, he suggested is a constitutional amendment to allow for state police.
He also identified quality education as another step to broaden and deepen human rights.
CRALI’s founder, Oyinlade said the survey was conducted by 50 lawyers in Nigeria’s 36 states, adding that it set out to “identify human rights friendly states and set a standard for others.
The lawyers, he said interviewed people from all walks of life including the police, the military and parliamentary personnel, without each government’s knowledge.
They found that Taraba, Ekiti and Akwa Ibom had made “a quantum leap” in respect of their people’s human rights, he said.
Other guests and speakers at the event included Ekiti State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Olawale Fapounda; a former Ogun State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Olumide Ayeni, Dr Babajide Ajibade SAN, among others.