What if I do not want to go to court? What other steps can I take to defend human rights?

You might want to challenge human rights violation or cases of injustice without instituting any action in court. Below are some institutions that provide non-judicial remedies for human rights violations.


Advocacy and campaigns

There are non-judicial enforcement options available. Some of these options include: 

Petitions: which can be written to the National Human Rights Commission, The African Union or United Nations, requesting for intervention.

Letters: can be written to authorities within a country or a State to bring to their knowledge the occurrence of a violation going on within their territory. For example, a letter could be written to the National or State Assembly, the governor or president, or the Attorney General of the State, informing them about a violation being done, especially by a public officer.

A letter can also be written to embassies or human right organizations seeking for help and protection especially when the person’s life is under threat.

Social Media Advocacy/Campaigns:It is recommended to seek support from a human rights organisation that could help you with these strategies. 


Complaints to the Public Complaints Commission or the Nigerian Ombudsman

The Public Complaints Commission is an agency of government set up to deal with complaints lodged by aggrieved people in Nigeria against administrative injustices.

Its function is to investigate complaints against the action or inaction of the government, of local government and of state owned or private companies. The Commission can review complaints of injustice, corruption, unfair treatment and abuse of office by public officers and civil servants.


What is the Commission empowered to do?

  • Evaluate grievances and complaints of citizens against public servants.
  • Investigate such cases of corruption, bribery and nepotism against public servants.
  • Help redress the abuses suffered by the citizens in the hands of public servants.


The Commission can take action against:

  • Any department of the federal or state government.
  • Any department of any local government authority.
  • Statutory corporation or public institution set up by any government of Nigeria.
  • Any company incorporated under or pursuant to the Companies and Allied Matters Act whether owned by any government or by private individuals in Nigeria.
  • Any officer of servant of any of the bodies mentioned above.


What complaints can I make to the Commission?

The types of complaints accepted by the Commission include, and are not limited to:

  • Complaints against PHCN, NIPOST or any other agency that offer services to citizens.
  • Complaints against a wrongful dismissal or termination of appointment.
  • Complaints against the non-payment of pensions and gratuities.
  • Complaints against the non-payment of retirement benefits.


How can I lodge my complaints before the Commission?

You can lodge your complaints by writing a letter addressed to the Ombudsman Office of the Public Complaints Commission office in your state. You may also visit the office to lodge your complaint.

The letter of complaint should contain detailed information and state the reasons for your complaint, whom you are complaining against, dates or events relevant to the complaint and the action that you seek to address your complaint.

For more information on the how to reach the Public Complaints Commission for your state, visit for details such as address, email and phone numbers.

A real-life case:


A letter of complaint dated August 15th 2015 was submitted to the Anambra state branch office of the Public Complaints Commission against the management of Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka. The person that made the complaint argued that the University refused to release her Bachelor of Engineering Certificate. The petition was successful upon investigation by the Ombudsman officers.


What challenges may I face in making my complaints to the Commission?

The Commission is empowered to investigate complaints made by aggrieved individuals. However, it cannot enforce decisions like a court of law. This means that if the Commission reaches a decision and ordering an authority to do something, such authority may take too long to follow the orders of the Commission.


Complaints to the National Human Rights Commission

The National Human Rights Commission is established for the promotion and protection of human rights in Nigeria, and to investigate human rights violations.

If you feel your rights have been violated, you can make a complaint to the Commission.


What is the Commission empowered to do?

The Commission’s functions include:

  • Investigation of all matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.
  • Monitoring and investigating all alleged cases of human rights violation in Nigeria and make appropriate recommendation to the federal government for prosecution and such other actions as it may deem expedient in each circumstance.
  • Assisting victims of human rights violations, and seeking appropriate redress and remedies on their behalf.


How can I make a complaint of a human rights violation to the Commission?

  • Name, address, email, and telephone of the complainant. Note: “Complainant” is a person who brings a claim.
  • In the body of the complaint, include a story of what happened and the name of the violator (individual/ institution).
  • Alongside the complaint, you are advised to include necessary documents that will serve as evidence of the violation.
  • You are required to provide the contact details (Name, address, telephone) of any witnesses.
  • At the end of the complaint, you must state certain things you want the Commission to do and ensure your signature is attached.


The Commission has quasi-judicial powers. This means to help with your complaint it can:

  • summon persons and evidence.
  • visit any place of detention with a view to ensuring that detainees’ rights are not violated.
  • award compensation and enforce its decisions.

The decisions of the commission are enforced by taking that decision to the High Court and asking for it to be enforced. 

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