Concerned with the deteriorating human and ecological rights situation in Nigeria, We the
People has launched a Rights Academy in the Niger Delta city of Calabar to strengthen the
capacity of a range of actors to respond to rights abuses. The Academy brings together 17
passionate young people who will be trained for 12 weeks on the nexus between human
rights and the rights of nature, and provide participants the skills to defend those rights.

According to the Executive Director of We the People, “the record of Nigeria’s adherence to
human rights is still dismal and deteriorating in many ways, despite the constitution's bold
commitments and ratification of the most significant human rights treaties in the world. The
country continues to experience alarmingly high levels of abuses committed by the military,
police, and other state and non-state actors, many of which go unrecorded and unreported.
According to a survey by We the People to gauge young people’s understanding of
fundamental human rights and how they apply in Nigeria, up to 67% of respondents were
either unaware that these rights existed or believed they were merely lofty ideals with no
practical relevance. A sizable portion of them thought that law enforcement officials, whom
they saw as the main rights violators, had the constitutional right to do so. The survey found
that even when their rights were routinely violated, the vast majority of respondents had
never demanded the respect for and protection of their human rights”.

Reflecting further on the state of ecological rights, Henshaw said the situation is even worse.
“While the Rights of Nature have been acknowledged and framed in legal instruments in
many societies around the world, enabling nature to have inherent rights that require
protection like people, this is not the case in Nigeria. The environment in Nigeria is seriously
threatened by a number of factors, including extensive deforestation and hydrocarbon
pollution”.

The Rights Academy will run bi-weekly physical and online classes throughout the duration,
based on a solid curriculum. The theme of the Academy focuses on deepening the
understanding that a sustainable future depends on the proper recognition, protection, and    promotion of human and environmental rights, as well as recognising the interdependence of
all rights and equipping active young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to
defend them. The Rights Academy is dedicated to promoting understanding of underlying
rights issues as well as strengthening participants’ capacity to become change agents in the
communities in which they reside.

Speaking at the launch of the Academy, We the People’s Ecological Rights Campaigner
Grace Appolos stated that each of the 17 participants had been carefully selected through a
rigorous process that began with a call for letters of intent. According to her, at the end of the
learning exercises, participants will be supported individually and collectively to initiate
community level campaigns aimed at promoting and protecting rights. She stated further that
the second session of the Academy will commence in August 2023.