MORE than a year after the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) report, the federal government has finally launched a register to document missing persons in Nigeria.
Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tony Ojukwu disclosed this in Abuja on Wednesday at a Public Lecture organised by the commission and CLEEN Foundation to commemorate the 2021 International Day of the missing.
Ojukwu said the pilot project would be launched in Borno State that has been heavily affected by armed conflicts.
Ojukwu said the register aimed to raise awareness on the missing persons in Nigeria, their plights, that of their families, and to ensure that authorities acknowledge the missing and the rights of their families.
“This day gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the number of persons who go missing on account of armed conflict or related violence, natural disasters, migration, abduction or kidnapping, trafficking, accidents, detention, crimes or any other situation,” Ojukwu said.
The NHRC boss also said a review on whether to continue implementing the pilot project or expand it to other states would be decided after a period of three months after the launch of the pilot project in Borno state.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, said the federal government was committed to protecting the rights of the disappeared and their families.
Tallen said such cases have always come with serious trauma and that protecting the rights of victims and their families will bring closure to all affected families and communities.
During his remark, the outgoing Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation Benson Olugbuo said there were about 22,000 reports of missing persons in Nigeria.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Nigeria accounts for more than half of the total number of missing persons in Africa.
ICRC said about 82 per cent of the missing persons in Africa were from seven countries with armed conflict.
The ICIR report detailed how Borno women were seeking justice for their missing men, some of whom were believed dead or detained by the Nigerian military.
Some women who had lost their sons, husbands, decried the pain of living without their breadwinners, worse still, the trauma of not knowing their whereabouts.
The lawmaker representing Borno South senatorial district Ali Ndume had promised to sponsor a bill at the National Assembly to create a missing persons’ register in Nigeria.
Ndume made the verbal commitment during a round-table meeting on Justice for Missing Persons in the North-East organised by The ICIR in Abuja.
“As we leave here, we will do a motion. I’ll take a look at it and raise it on the floor of the House. I will talk to the Speaker if there is a need for that to make sure that the resolution is passed on the floor of the House of Representatives for government to initiate it,” he said.
The NHRC, human rights activists and other civil society organisations were also present at the roundtable event.