Banjul, 14 May 2009 — Nigeria has urged ACHPR to disregard IHEU’s submission about caste-based discrimination in the country. Mrs Mercy Agbamuche told the Commission that IHEU’s allegations of human rights abuses and discrimination against Osu people mentioned in its statement were unfounded, misleading and inaccurate. She claimed that there was no Osu community in Nigeria and that the caste system was no longer practiced. Mrs Agbamuche added that Osu people had been integrated into their communities and unlike in India, caste-based discrimination was unknown in Nigeria.
IHEU’s delegate to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Leo Igwe, responded, “This reply by the Nigerian government is unfortunate, insensitive and irresponsible. Nigerian leaders should stop pretending and lying to the world that caste discrimination does not exist in the country. The practice of untouchability is alive and well among the Igbos in south east Nigeria. The best way to tackle such a pernicious tradition is not to deny or dismiss it or to behave as if it does not exist, but to acknowledge it and take necessary measures to address and eradicate it.
“The refusal by the Nigerian government to admit that Osu discrimination exists will only hamper efforts to understand and combat this cultural scourge and to bring to an end the indignity, abuse and degrading treatment Nigeria’s untouchables have suffered and endured for centuries”