10th December 2010 Chevening, UK

Human Rights Day 2010 – a view from Nigeria

My name is Francis Moneke, Chevening Scholar 2010. I have an LLM in International Human Rights Law from SOAS, University of London.

As we celebrate this year’s international human rights day, I wish to call the attention of the international community to the massive economic discrimination going on in Nigeria. Increasingly, the poor and the youths are being marginalised economically by acts of fraud perpetrated by government functionaries and authorities of public institutions. Corruption in Nigeria is assuming alarmingly destructive proportions. It has emerged that the remuneration of members of the Nigerian National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) amounts to 25% of the country’s annual total overhead cost. With each member receiving about USD 1.5million/annum. This is a country were the monthly minimum wage of civil servant was only recently increased in principle to N18,000 (less than USD120, i.e. USD1440/annum).

This scandalous jumbo pay has emboldened other public institutions to seek for avenues of raking in their own windfall. For instance, it is now a common practice in Nigeria for government Agencies and parastatals to request job seekers to pay huge sums of money in order to be shortlisted for recruitment aptitude tests or interviews, only for the few available vacancies to be filled with predetermined candidates who are connected with the ‘powers that be’. Similarly, education is now becoming a commodity for the rich only with all sorts of illegal and unreasonable fees being levied by public schools so much so that the poor have no hope of sending their children to school.

These fraudulent practices economically disadvantage millions of poor and suffering Nigerians in that the commonwealth (tax payers’ money) which should be applied for the welfare of the people are commandeered by those in government. At the same time the efforts by the poor to acquire education and jobs that may extricate them from poverty are further stifled by unreasonable fees that again go into the private pockets of the ‘political aristocrats’.

I have, through my Organisation (Human Rights & Empowerment Project) filed several public interest cases against some of these social/economic discriminative injustices in Nigerian Federal High Courts. These cases have suffered unnecessary delays due to institutional bottlenecks in Nigeria’s judicial system. I have also received anonymous threats to discontinue the cases. However, I am hoping that as we celebrate this year’s International Human Rights Day, the United Nations and the international community generally would pay heed to the cry of millions of suffering Nigerians by supporting my, and similar, crusade against corruption and economic discrimination in Nigeria.

The Human Rights and Empowerment Project is publicizing the Human Rights Day by distributing over 10, 000 fliers and 5,000 posters.