The Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), established in August 1988, is a non-political, non-profit, independently funded community-based structural human rights education, research, public interest advocacy and documentation; national organization with its national, state and rural offices in the oil rich Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Its primary objective is to effectively create a culture of rights and responsibilities through its bottom-up programs in Nigeria. It is duly registered as Trusteeship under the relevant laws with the Corporate Affairs Commission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The IHRHL operates in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other numerous international and regional human rights instruments on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The nature of the IHRHL is best understood against the deprivation and poverty, which has become a way of life in the Niger Delta Region and background of Nigeria?s legal system and the access to social justice, which this does or does not accord. Nigeria is a country of deep-seated corruption and inequality. This takes many forms, and is especially evident in the nature of unaccountable governance and the availability of legal services to individuals. In a country of approximately 120,000,000 people, there are about 130,000 practising attorneys, qualified to meet their legal needs. This means that the vast majority of the populations ? especially those that live in remote rural areas, have no access to legal assistance. Ignorance and illiteracy compound the problem. Particularly in rural areas, people have no concept of their rights under the law, no understanding of the fact that law can be used to serve and protect their legitimate interests, no inkling of how to obtain redress of wrongs from those who abuse public power for private gains.
This situation cause untold suffering to individuals. It is also deeply inimicable to the maintenance of democracy in a post-military era in Nigeria. Democracy rests, we strongly believe, on knowledge of, and respect for, mutual rights under law. It requires understanding of the role of law, respect for the rule of law, and a mutual willingness to accord rights and honour obligations. It demands, in short, a rights-based culture. Yet such a culture is sadly lacking in Nigeria today, especially in far-flung rural areas, where ignorance and poverty abound.
Turning the search light to the Niger Delta region, the majority of rural residents are under-educated or completely illiterate; and have no knowledge of the law, or the economic, social and cultural rights which it accords.