The State Coordinator of National Human Right Commission (NHRC) Ebonyi State, Mr. Christopher Onyekachi Okorie, in his recent exclusive interview with Citizens’ Advocate reporter, Okereke Wilson Ogbonnaya disclosed that children usually suffer the effect of problems involving husband and wife.
Sir, how is your assessment on spousal violence in Ebonyi State?
Women battering and other forms of domestic violence involving husbands and wives are on the increase but not reported adequately because of the indoctrination on the part of the women who believe that beating them is part of their marriages.
There is low percentage in reporting domestic violence against women perhaps because of ignorance or fear of exposing some families but whichever way, children of the couple involving in the problem usually suffer the effect ranging from total abandonment and neglect.
Some women had been brainwashed to believe that experiencing beating from their husbands is normal, that is why some people after complaining to us, they will decline from following up the matter while some women would even come only to complain in our office that they were overbeaten by their husbands as if there is already a stipulated standard on how they could be bullied.
I always tell them that none has the right to encroach on the rights of another because marriage does not reduce any of the party’s right and based on that, husband should respect wife and vice versa.
Sir, what’s the mandate of your office?
NHRC was established by National Human Right Acts in the year 1995 in line with the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations with the mandates to deal with matters relating to promotion and protection of human rights and other relevant issues as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on human and other people’s rights.
The Commission is saddled with the responsibility to monitor and investigate all allege cases that border on human rights violation in Nigeria, assist the victim in seeking appropriate redress and remedies.
What are your strategies towards those degrading treatments commonly found in rural areas?
It is in view of this, that we spread our tentacles across all corners of the state over human rights violation, this has reminded of the case of a certain Pastor Okochi Obeni who was beaten up by villagers at Amasiri, Afikpo North LGA of Ebonyi State over the allegation that he posted some write up against his people on facebook.
Immediately we got wind of the incident, we went to Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki and interviewed him, thereafter, we spoke with Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area who told us that his men were already on ground to fish out the culprits, in summary, we did not wait for an official petition from the victim before we began to act.
We have gone as far as opening a page on social media where everybody within Nigeria can report his or her complaint and once a report gets into the system, it will be assessed at the headquarters and instantly our staff in the state involved will be mandated to investigate the matter and report back.
At times, efforts of victims of human rights violation normally hit rock in the course of obtaining justice due to lack of money, does NHRC assist such persons?
This is where our core mandate lies, we are always ready to assist whoever that encounters human right violation to seek redress whether the person is rich or poor and to enable us achieve this goal, we had partnered with some Civil Society Organization, Human Right and Conflict Resolution Center (HRCRC) Abakaliki.
We have witnessed occasions where victims would be crying profusely while requesting for our assistance and immediately we began the processes, they changed their decision by telling us not to go further in the matter even when it involves minor who could not take decision by herself.
If we insist that justice must take its course, the complaint will decline from giving witness in the law court but notwithstanding, some cases which were brought to us were handled impressively and I can assure you that provided my office can get full support of the complainants, human right abuses will no longer be an issue in Ebonyi State as far as we are concerned.
What about a situation whereby the victim or a witness faces threat from the oppressor for reporting to your office?
The act establishing NHRC makes it clear that it is an offence to threaten a complainant, witness, informant or even our staff in the course of seeking for justice, it is a punishable offence, in short, there are available provisions to tackle such situation or fear.
How is your experience so far in Ebonyi State?
Really, it has been wonderful, though many are still ignorant of the issues of human right violation but in our quest to get the citizenry enlightened, mostly women who are the highly marginalized because of certain precedence already put in place by culture or religion, we had taken our sensitization campaign to some rural communities such as Iboko in Izzi LGA, Aboffia, a suburban of Abakaliki and other places.
How do you handle cases involving accusation of witchcraft and other superstitious activities?
In most cases, the accused persons are always innocent because one thing that people fail to understand is that both Christianity and tradition are separate religion which some persons view the latter as evil practice, this is why I do advise that respect to religious affinity is important.