By Progress Godfrey, Abuja
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with Centre for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), with support from European Union engages in a one-day forum to brief and mobilize support for the Presidency on the strategy towards the policy on “Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm Mitigation in Armed Conflict (PoC-CHM) in Nigeria’.
The multi-stakeholders meeting, which held in Abuja on Tuesday, had representatives from the National Human Rights Commision (NHRC), Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. The meeting seeks to deepen the understanding of stakeholders and mobilize interest to support the notification and Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of the ‘Draft National Policy on PoC -CHM’ and agree on the roadmap and effective implementation of the policy.
The meeting also aims at enhancing cooperation and Collaboration between state actors, as a collaborative response to achieve the desired protection of Civilians in armed conflict, as well as harvest the commitment and raise awareness on the PoC Policy document.
In an overview of the Policy and Trajectory, Julius Gaiya, the communications and Advocacy Officer of CIVIC explained that if the policy is adopted, Nigeria would be the first country in Africa to have a policy that seeks to further safeguard the citizens from harm, especially with the current situation in Nigeria; where we have increase of sporadic loss of lives of civilians either from direct actions or security apparatus.
Threats to civilians during conflicts, he said, have taken many forms. Hence the concept of PoC seeks to address these threats by mitigating harm, facilitating access to basic needs and establishing a safe and secure environment for Nigeria.
The PoC goes beyond physical persons, it also covers objects and encompasses all efforts made to avoid or minimise the negative effects on civilians, arising from military operations.
The Executive Director of CISLAC and head of Transparency International, Auwal Musa while addressing newsmen, stated that in view of the daunting challenges of loss of human lives and properties and several casualties seen by Nigerians on a regular basis, government needs to take necessary steps as enshrined in our constitution to protect civilians.
He decried the amount of casualty Nigeria records as a result of the violence and conflict that is taking the lives of Nigerians, explaining that a holistic approach is required to protect and secure the civilian population.
“CISLAC is working towards advocating and demanding that Nigerian lives matter and must be protected,” he said
According to him, “The PoC document is one of the steps needed to have this kind of policy and ensure sustainable peace in the country. The absence of this legal framework is creating gaps in the protection, and promotion of peace in the country.
“We cannot afford to continue to lose the lives of Nigerians on a regular basis. You could see what is happening – actually, no part of the country is safe and secure as a result of the activities of either bandits, insurgents, terrorists or other criminals that are terrorising Nigerians. In some cases, even the security personnel engage in inflicting pain on the people; that is why we need to have a legal framework that will help to protect Nigerians from these unwarranted and unjustified killings that Nigerians are facing.”
The Acting Country Director of CIVIC, Mujidang Sitdang, stated that the organisation in the last three years has had several engagements in the North East on advocacy, where it continues to work with stakeholders to protect civilians and also carry out trainings in institutions in terms of building capacity for security agencies and officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces on protection of civilians.
The drafting, he said, started 3 years ago with loads of consultations supported by various ministries and agencies and the communities themselves, especially in the North East and now, other states in Nigeria.
“Once the ‘Protection of Civilian’ police is accented to, I see that as a huge opportunity for the entire Nigeria and especially communities, to be able to understand how they will best protect themselves working with the security agencies. Because the gap has been that once military or security forces are deployed, the community also feels everyone is doing their business. So the policy would be that framework that would provide opportunities for communities to continue to engage with security forces to better protect themselves.
“For the Nigerian military and other security agencies, it would be an opportunity to better understand communities while they also try to achieve their objectives.”