12 March 2020. Voice of Nigeria: The Nigerian House of Representatives has passed the second reading of a bill for an act to outlaw all forms of discrimination and stigmatisation of victims of insurgency and other criminality such as kidnapping in the country.
Offenses to the bill attract a fine of not less than ₦500,000 to an individual or imprisonment for a period of not less than one year or both, while Two million Naira was proposed as a fine for an institution.
Mr. Ben Rolland Igbakpa from Delta State, sponsor of the bill in leading the debate says the Bill makes for the protection of the victims of insurgency from stigmatisation in the society that may hinder them from functioning optimally or enjoying their basic and rightful due in the community.
“The Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria has intensified development challenges in terms of human and infrastructural development.
”A key challenge now before the Nigerian State and non-governmental actors working in the region is how to reintegrate over 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are victims of the Boko Haram insurgency?
”However, there are numerous challenges to the process of reintegration. The lack of initiatives to address the stigmatisation of insurgency and militancy victims is a major constraint that reflects more widely upon the impact of the insurgency on human development in the country,” he said.
According to him, stigma is damaging to the psyche of the individual and emotionally damaging to those who suffer it, citing Section 42 of the Constitution that need to be strengthened to provide for specific types of stigmatisation.
He said; “It’s a damaging social phenomenon, discriminatory and a gross violation of the age long fundamental rights of citizens of this country.
”Human rights make it illegal to discriminate on a wide range of grounds including association. In fact, the right to freedom from discrimination is internationally recognised as a human right. The right to freedom from discrimination is particularly relevant for groups that have been historically discriminated against and vulnerable groups.”
Supporting the bill, Mr. Ahmad Jaha from Borno State said that the intentions of the Bill seem to have been misunderstood as the sponsor was referring to victims of insurgency and not the insurgents.
He stated that he knew some professionals, such as medical officials, ex-military personnel and judges that were kidnapped by the insurgents, kept for years and forced to work with the insurgents. He said after being eventually released, were afraid of been discriminated against.
The Bill was voted on, passed for second reading and referred to the House Committee on Displaced Persons and Refugees.