Nigeria's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Umunna Humphrey Orjiakor, Wednesday declared that the country does not owe any country an apology over its stand on the contentious issues of the same-sex marriage and death penalty.
Reacting to the requests by some western countries on the report of Nigeria at the ongoing 17th session of the Universal Periodic Report (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Orjiakor stated that Nigeria was a sovereign nation that could not be dictated to by any country.
He said: "Nigeria is a sovereign country and unapologetically so, we have a law in a democratic system which was what the Attorney-General was saying in the international community there, we have a law, and that law is a constitutional law and in a democracy, a president or an executive cannot just come and make a decree and abolish a law.
"So you have to persuade the National Assembly, you have to negotiate with the people and what becomes law should be the overwhelming wish of the people of the country that you are talking about and in the case of Nigeria, the death penalty is still a part and parcel of our laws.
"Yes, we declared a moratorium on the death penalty some years back, but a moratorium does not mean abolition, they are two different so stated in Nigeria, it is a federal system of government, so states have the rights to implement what the constitution allows, that is within their own purview, like what happened in Edo State. So, we don't have any apology for any one. We are simply explaining that Nigeria is an evolving democracy and over time may be all the states will agree on the understanding that death penalty is no more fashionable or the best way to punish crime, so it is work in progress."
Reacting to the presentation of the Nigerian Report by the Attorney General of the Federation, the ambassador said: "The AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, has done Nigeria proud today, all the issues ranging from what our military is doing in the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), child protection rights were all covered, every aspect of the human rights issues that concern the country was dealt with today, Nigeria came out defending its positions very clearly and very persuasively. I think I am very happy today that Nigeria presented itself to the global community for examination and we did not get any condemnation rather we got encouragement mostly."
Also speaking with THISDAY in Geneva, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, said the commission, as part of it mandate, would begin a public hearing on the housing rights of Nigerians, demolitions and forced evictions in the country from November 18.
He said the commission had received over 100 petitions on demolitions and forced evictions.
Odinkalu described the demolition of houses as a social issues Odinkalu which spreads across the countries.
He said the public hearing would be held across the country to give Nigeria the opportunity to ventilate their grievances.
Reacting to Nigeria's Universal Periodic Report, Odinkalu noted that "as a country we have fulfilled an obligation and there are clearly lessons in this for everybody but I think that what comes out of this exercise is the seriousness with which Nigeria regards its obligations to Nigeria and to the rest of the world in respect of human rights and that is a positive thing.
"On the nation's stand on same-sex marriage and death penalty, all those lines have been canvassed I don't think anything new emerged, Nigeria maintained a fairly consistent stand on both issues, the issue is not whether or not you agree but Nigeria has remained consistent on these issues.
"On Nigeria's inability to domesticate some international conventions and treaties it entered into, the question is what is domestication? When you look at the National Human Rights Commission Act, Section 5 gives the Commission a responsibility to ensure national level implementation, the Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, is here and a director of the commission is here, to ensure a national implementation of all of Nigeria's international obligation, including the convention against torture, the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the convention on the rights of the child, universal declaration of human rights, international covenant on civil and political rights, the covenant on socio-economic and cultural rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and all other international instruments ratified by Nigeria.
"For me the National Human Rights Commission Act 2010 ensures domestication of every major human rights instrument ratified by Nigeria."