The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen has expressed the the commitment of the federal government towards protecting the rights of the disappeared and their families, saying that such cases come with serious trauma and that protecting the rights of victims and their families will bringing closure to all affected families and communities.
The Minister who stated this at a Public Lecture organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and CLEEN Foundation to commemorate the 2021 International Day of the missing, observed on 30th of August annually stated that the trauma experienced by the disappeared and their family members cannot be explained and that all hands should be on deck to bring hope and clarify the situation of any missing persons in the country.
The Women Affairs Minister commended the theme of this year's observance, "Commemorating their lives: Taking Stock and Charting New Directions in the Search for the Missing", saying that it reminds everyone of the joint responsibility of working towards bringing closure to the lingering traumatic experience of having ones loved ones declared missing for a long while.
She used the opportunity to commend President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR in assisting the rescued Chibok Schoolgirls and other students who were rescued after their kidnap experience to acquire high quality University Education, pointing out that it is a demonstration of the President commitment to protect the rights of the victims and give them an opportunity to pursue a better living.
The Minister of foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema commended the United Nations for setting aside 30th of August to commemorate the Day of the Disappeared just as he lauded the Executive Secretary of NHRC and CLEEN Foundation for organizing the Lecture to raise the necessary awareness concerning the plights and condition of the missing and their loved ones.
The Minister who was represented at the occasion disclosed that some expatriates and foreigners were also victims of kidnappings and that the idea of keeping a register for the missing is a welcome development that will help government and other stakeholders to resolve the issue of the disappeared.
In his welcome address, the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu Esq. said that "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".
The Chief Human Rights Officer in Nigeria used the opportunity to inaugurate the Pilot Project that will maintain a Register of Missing Persons in Nigeria as provided for in Section 245 (j) of the Police Act.
He revealed that Maiduguri, Borno state will be used as a Pilot Project saying that before now, the Commission had embarked on widespread advocacy in the state to sensitize relevant agencies and bodies on the project.
"Effective today, jingles on the project will be aired in Hausa and Kanuri, in local radio stations in the state and our staff in Borno state office are ready for the work", the Executive Secretary added.
On the purpose of the project, Ojukwu said that the project hopes to raise awareness on the missing in Nigeria and plights of their families, ensure that authorities acknowledge the missing and the rights of their families and advocate to clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in the country.
The outgoing Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, Dr. Benson Olugbuo expressed concern about the 22,000 reported cases of missing persons, being the highest in Africa, saying that Nigeria and indeed the entire African continent should rise up to the occasion.
Olugbuo highlighted the trauma and harrowing experience of not knowing the whereabouts or circumstances of loved ones who have gone missing even as he made reference to the yet to be rescued Chibok Schoolgirls that are missing since 2014.
Highlight of the Commemoration was a Public Lecture delivered by Air Commodore Darlington Abdullahi (rtd), who brought different perspectives of the issues of the missing as it affects the continent of Africa and the need to work assiduously to bring hope and succour to victims and their families.
He quickly pointed out migration from other African countries into Nigeria has further fueled crises especially when such migrations are resisted by locals in the affected border communities.
He opined that deliberate policies on peace building and dialogue will go a long way to reduce tension and nip in the bud any crisis that could lead to disappearance of persons.
There were goodwill messages from Kamari Clarke (Professor University of Toronto/UCLA, Chief of Defense Staff, Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution, Representative of the Inspector General of Police, all emphasizing the need to assist the disappeared and their families to get over the traumatizing experiences they go through.
In addition, testimonies from the families of missing persons in Plateau and Kaduna states rented the air as participants reflected soberly on the painful narratives of the trauma of victims’ families.