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Government has responsibility to ensure missing persons are accounted for – Odinkalu
FORMER Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu has said the federal government needs to account for Nigerians who are missing and also be accountable to their families.
“Under Nigeria’s constitution, government still has the primary obligation for the safety and security of every person within the country’s territory,” he said.
The former NHRC boss said this in a series of tweets during an interactive Tweetchat, alongside Humanitarian Girl-Child Advocate Bukky Shonibare on “Missing Persons in Nigeria” organised by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).
According to him, the families of the missing also deserve closure in dignity.
He said, “Where people have gone missing because of a crime or violation of the law, these are constitutional values and legal obligations, the duty of government is to bring violators of such things to justice.”
In the standard process of reporting a case of missing persons and who should make such reports, Odinkalu said The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is the safest place to report a case of suspected missing person in a humanitarian theatre – the person reporting has least likelihood of exposure to adversity from belligerents which they, in turn, liaise with belligerents.
“There’s a general aversion in official circles in Nigeria for honest statistics, adding that those who can and feel confident enough to approach security agencies, such as Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police should feel free to do so.”
Bukky Shonibare, on her part, said people go missing for different reasons such as conflicts, crises, abductions, disasters, and accidents.
She, however, said the cause with the highest number is conflict, and it is more in the northeast due to the continuous armed conflict.
On the mechanism to implement when searching for missing persons, the Girl-Child Advocate highlighted some approaches to take into consideration such as visits to IDP camps and host communities to capture details of missing and unidentified persons with a view to creating database, create a collage of their pictures and information for easy identification and reunification as well as pasting the above information in key locations e.g. IDP camps, community halls, airports, etc.
She also emphasised the importance of technology, saying people can go on a website or use a USSD to access details of missing and unidentified persons.
One of the contributors identified as Oluwakemi Olayinka observed that the families of a missing person should submit the names of their family members to the appropriate officials so as to identify those missing and begin a search. The use of local vigilante groups can also aid in searching for them, she said.
Dayo Emmanuel, another participant in the tweetchat said illiteracy is one major problem, even among the so-called educated ones, as well as the slow response from relevant agencies.
Odinkalu urged the relevant agencies to care about the living, the statistics, and record-keeping as well as setting up a standard system that could help the government account for missing persons in the country.