The 5th Nigeria-European Union Human Rights Dialogue was held in Abuja on February 18, 2020. The event was jointly chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen. In the Nigerian team were representatives of the Ministries of Justice and Defence, the National Human Rights Commission, and the Office of the National Security Adviser, as well as the Heads of Nigeria's Missions in Brussels and Geneva. Also in the EU team were 13 Ambassadors and four Chargés d'Affaires representing the EU Member States with diplomatic missions in Abuja.
During a technical session that lasted for almost four hours, the parties discussed a wide range of pre-agreed human rights issues. Among these were the rights of civilians in conflict and post-conflict situations; compliance with international human rights instruments; the fight against corruption; the rights of women, including the incidence of gender-based violence and the need for greater gender equality and empowerment; the rights of the child; the cross-cutting need to protect the most vulnerable groups and to fight discrimination of all kinds.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Onyeama stressed the importance of the dialogue, which he described as a stepping stone for sustained engagement. The first human rights dialogue was held in 2009. He noted that the Dialogue provided an opportunity for "peer review" and appreciated the EU's frank reflection on Nigeria's human rights challenges. Recalling that Nigeria is an active member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Minister further underlined the country's efforts at upholding human rights, including guaranteeing press freedom, providing space for the civil society, and ensuring equal treatment for all citizens before the law. The Minister was positive about justice sector reform and Nigeria's commitment to international instruments in this area.
Recalling that the EU is built on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Ambassador Karlsen said all aspects of its internal and external policies are anchored on these principles. According to him, the EU seeks to partner with Nigeria on the key issues that will ease its path towards a peaceful and prosperous future. Nigeria, he said, should enjoy a robust democracy that allows all citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights unhindered. He noted that the EU had adopted an integrated approach in its work - one where all available tools are brought together in support of a coherent and comprehensive set of actions. According to him, the new EU leadership in Brussels is committed to re-invigorating relations with Nigeria, in line with its engagement with Africa at the highest political level - starting with Nigeria as a priority.
Overall, the 5th session of the Nigeria-EU Human Rights Dialogue was deemed a success, with the parties agreeing to remain engaged throughout the year. The next full session of the Dialogue will hold within the first two weeks of February 2021, at a venue to be agreed.