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Secrecy Oath: Former HHRC Boss, Odinkalu Berates Commission

PROFESSOR CHIDI ODINKALU 

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has been lambasted for demanding that its staff sign an oath of secrecy.

The condemnation came through its former chairman, Professor Chidi Odinkalu in a series of tweets, wherein he insisted that an agency like the NHRC which is bound by the Freedom of Information, FOI, Act ought not to be drawn into such needless controversies.

According to Odinkalu, “Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, a public body bound by the Freedom of Information Act, has in the past week ordered all its staff to sign and subscribe to forms of ‘oath of Secrecy’- very much like a secret cult.

“Contrary to the claims of the leadership of the NHRC, the standing orders and rules of procedure of the commission don’t in any way support secrecy oaths.

“The leadership of the commission had only chosen to deliberately misrepresent the relevant rules guiding the agency.

“The fact that this idea of administering a secrecy oath on staff of NHRC misrepresents the standing orders and rules of procedure which can easily be verified by anyone interested from the full text of the rules which is downloadable.

Going by the terms of secrecy oath, it seeks to ensure that information on the activities of the commission is not unofficially given to a third party or members of the public.

It would be recalled that in a memo signed by one Ibe Obidigwein on behalf of the executive secretary of the NHRC and dated July 3, 2019, the commission had demanded that all staff members to sign the oath and submit before July 10.

The memo reads:  “I am directed to send to you a copy of the commission’s oath of secrecy to you for copies to be made available to all staff of your department/ unit/state office/ to sign.

“Please note that all signed oaths are to be collated and returned to HRM (Human Resources Manager) department on or before July 10, 2019.”

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