LAGOS, NIGERIA, 27 October, 2022 — On Wednesday, October 26th, representatives from the business sector, government, and civil society gathered in Lagos for the 2022 National Business and Human Rights Roundtable (NBH2R), which was organised in collaboration with Global Rights Nigeria, to align on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) for Business and Human Rights. The Roundtable, which is held annually, offers a platform for motivating corporations and governmental agencies to advance the business and human rights agenda and fortify a steadfast alliance between the private sector and civil society.
Building on the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights, the Roundtable has been at the forefront of adopting the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAPBHR) in Nigeria.
Naomi Nwokolo, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network Nigeria, in her welcome address at the opening, noted that every individual is entitled to enjoy human rights without discrimination. According to her, businesses must act with due diligence to avoid infringing the rights of others, which includes addressing any negative human rights impacts related to their business, and enjoined corporations to do more:
“Business must also abide by international standards and avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through activities and relationships.”
Ms. Nwokolo further asserted that the adoption of a National Action Plan to mainstream business and human rights in Nigeria is contingent on the formation of strategic alliances and partnerships between the private sector, the government, and civil society, noting that participation in the Roundtable carries significant responsibility.
“As stakeholders, your in-depth analysis of the current state of affairs in relation to the National Action Plan, including accomplishments, and challenges, as well as potential and future actions necessary to be incorporated in the advancement of human rights, will be a crucial contribution to the achievement of positive change,” she added.
In her goodwill remarks, Cynthia Muffuh, Head of Human Rights & Gender, United Nations Global Compact, pointed out that there is a wide gap between business aspirations and business action on human rights.
“Our research has shown that while more than 90 percent of Global Compact participants have human rights in place, really only 18 percent of these participants conduct the human rights impact assessments. So, clearly, there’s an urgent need by business, the ecosystem and governments to drive action on business and human rights.”
Ms. Muffuh also stated that a great way to make a lasting impact on human rights action is through the development of the NAPs, which presents the government with the opportunity to review the extent of its implementation of business and human rights as a framework, including the UN Guiding Principles at the national level. She urged the government to identify the gaps and make reforms to increase coherence with the human rights commitments across businesses in relation to legal and policy frameworks.
Muffuh further commended both the UN Global Compact Network Nigeria and Global Rights Nigeria for their efforts in the crucial partnership, saying that the engagement demonstrates how Nigeria sets an example for other African countries on why it is critical to create a NAP to advance business and human rights and to eventually see to its implementation as it operationalises the UNGPs in specific terms.
“Business respect for human rights can only be achieved if we, all in society, work together—the private sector, academia, the UN, civil society, and, of course, our governments. We are really at a pivotal point in human history, and the reality is that we are at risk of reversing critical progress at a time we need it to be upheld. We must ensure our hard-won progress is not lost, ” she concluded.
Soji Apampa, CEO & Founder, The Convention on Business Integrity (CBi) and Chair of the BHR Roundtable Steering Committee, while making his opening speech, implored stakeholders to make sure that the National Action Plan includes effective measures to identify and prevent abuse.
“When it still happens, we need to have the ability to rapidly detect and respond to abuse, including provisions for remediation for the victims and those who suffer damage or loss. We should also ensure that mechanisms are in place to evaluate the plans and adjust them where necessary, ” he added.
During the presentation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in Nigeria, Pwadumdi Okoh, the Chief Legal Officer, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and co-Chair, BHR Roundtable Steering Committee, called for greater collaboration between government, civil society and the private sector.
Ms. Okoh stated that government actors will continue cross-departmental collaboration, noting that the NAPBHR provides for the formation of a multi-stakeholder monitoring group and defines monitoring modalities.
According to Edosa Oviawe, Program Manager, Global Rights Nigeria, one of the core objectives of the Roundtable is to encourage business sector adherence to the UNGPs’ definition of “human rights due diligence,” which includes evaluating the actual and potential human rights impacts of their activities, integrating and acting upon the findings, monitoring responses, and communicating how impacts are addressed. He urged the creation of best practices for handling security and human rights issues that impact businesses, the government, and host communities in Nigeria in his final remarks.
Speakers at the two-day Roundtable include Dr Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive, Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), represented by Kazeem Lameed; Victoria Ohaeri, Executive Director, Spaces for Change; Prof. Obafemi Ajibola, New Nigeria Foundation, represented by Layide Adesanya; Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative, represented by Sani Suleiman; and Tumi Onamade, Senior Manager, Participant Engagement & Programmes, UN Global Compact Network Nigeria; among others.
The creation of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights began in 2013 with baseline studies and research on the current state of business and human rights. This was followed by support from key stakeholders such as the media, government partners, civil society organizations, and academic institutions. The Roundtable concluded on Thursday, 27 October.