The 10th day of the month of December is World Human Rights Day. Of course ANEEJ was not going to be left out of the worldwide events that were going to mark this day. Our executive director, the Rev David Ugolor, had assembled a formidable team of experts to a panel to discuss the issues of rights violations in Nigeria, and how we could stand to defend the rights of even people we do not know.
In a welcome address on the occasion, Rev Ugolor bemoaned the incessant cases wherein bloggers, journalists civil society activists like the Bring Back our Girls group, religious leaders were being arrested merely for expressing critical opinions on both conventional and social media platforms. ‘These are unhealthy signals for Nigerian Democracy, and calls to question its commitments to international statutes on human and peoples rights’, Rev Ugolor said.
Key contributions to the occasion included that by Professor Yinka Omorogbe, executive director of Edo Women Development Initiative, EDWI. According to the Professor, ‘when you realize that you have certain rights and you insist on them, even the police will begin to treat you differently and reform itself from the inside’.
That position was corroborated by another lawyer present at the Human Rights dialogue, Bar Mrs. Edeko Maria Omozele, who is the Edo State chairperson of the International Federation of Women lawyers. She said that Gender based Violence is an aspect of human rights abuses which must be challenged. To begin this challenged Barrister Omozele said that the girl child must begin to empower herself by taking her education seriously. ‘When there’s no justice in the land, our people usually suffer’, she said.
A representative of the Girls Power Initiative, Maria Obazuwa reiterated her call for parents to resist the urge to sell their children off as sex slaves. ‘Selling off your girl child to be a sex slave is an abuse of the human rights of the child. Let us change our value systems, and pave the way for the respect of the rights of our children.
Prior to all of these presentations ANEEJ deputy executive director, Leo Atakpu who stood in for the executive director made a slide presentation highlighting Nigeria’s position with Human Rights abuses. The picture of these abuses as perpetrated by the authorities was not a palatable one.
But perhaps as a demonstration of how to Stand For Somebody’s Rights, ANEEJ had gone ahead to shoot a movie skit, BUSTED. The movie skit was directed by Collins Ogbonna and produced by ANEEJ’s executive director Rev David Ugolor. The movie highlights the incidence of rape at three levels of Nigeria’s educational institutions – the primary, secondary and universities. Set in Benin City, the movie explores the theme of abuse of power and corruption which can be mitigated through the collaboration of Civil Society groups, the anti-crime/corruption agencies and the victims of rape. ‘Speak out, don’t keep Silent if someone tries to harass you sexually’, a character in the movie encouraged her daughter.
The basis for the decision to shoot the movie arose from a study carried out by Sandra Eguagie, ANEEJ Gender and Environment Officer and RAPEWATCH Coordinator. In a slide titled A SURVEY CARRIED OUT ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BENIN, and which she presented on the Human Rights dialogue session, it was discovered that 98% of the victims of rape were actually females, and had been allegedly assaulted by their teachers. Most who responded to the questionnaire said they were interested in the establishment of victim rehab centre in all universities in Nigeria.
With the release of the movie skit BUSTED, ANEEJ demonstrated that it has the will and the commitment to stand up for the Rights of victims of abuse of power at all levels.