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Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views. Criticism of the Government's past human rights' record was abundant in various media; however, during the year the Center for Law Enforcement Education (CLEEN) sued the Government in Federal Court over the seizure of more than 2,000 copies of the report "Hope Betrayed? A Report on Impunity and State-Sponsored Violence in Nigeria" in 2002, which the court recognized as a potential human rights violation. At year's end, the court had not heard the case.
Human rights activists continued to complain that President Obasanjo and members of his Government did not meet with them as frequently as they did during the early years of his administration.
The Catholic Secretariat continued to hold a monthly open forum in Lagos on various subjects relating to past and present human rights issues. Discussion panels included a number of NGOs, media, and religious leaders. Each session ended with recommendations to the Government on how best to resolve these issues. The Government had not responded to any of these recommendations by year's end.
The NCR's report from it's 2002 fact-finding mission to assess Ogoni living conditions in Ogoniland was pending at year's end.
The ICRC was active, with offices in Abuja and Lagos under the direction of a regional delegate. Its primary human rights activities during the year involved the training of prison officials on human rights, sanitation, and prisoner health (see Section 1.c.).
The Commission of Inquiry into Communal Clashes in Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau, and Taraba States completed its investigation, but its report was not made public by year's end. A number of groups continued to call for a full investigation into the 2001 killings of civilians in Benue by soldiers.
The NHRC, which was tasked with monitoring and protecting human rights in the country, enjoyed greater recognition by and coordination with NGOs, and worked to establish its credibility as an independent monitoring body. The NHRC was chaired by retired Justice Uche Omo, included 15 other members, and had zonal affiliates in each of the country's six political regions. Since its inception, the NHRC has been denied adequate funding to do its job properly. The NHRC created a strategic work plan for the year and inaugurated steering and coordinating committees for the national action plan to be deposited with the UNCHR in December 2002.
During the U.N. Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) in March and April, the NHRC was selected to become a member of International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (ICC).
The HRVIC, commonly known as the Oputa panel, was a one-time commission to investigate human rights abuses from 1966 to 1999, presented its findings to the President in 2002 and recommended compensation for victims of the worst human rights abuses; no one was compensated by year's end.
In 2002, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Professor Jerry Gana, reported that the Government would wait for all pending lawsuits, including one filed in 2002 by former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida that sought to ban the implementation of the panels' findings, to be decided before determining whether to publish the panel's recommendations.
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