Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has been honoured to be part of this research effort and indeed this official presentation and launch of the four countries reports on Vetting and Selection of UN Peacekeepers.
As Nigeria is one of the United Nations’ (UN) largest troop contributing countries, CISLAC felt it was important to research the policies and practices in the selection of peacekeepers from our country. This is further so because, as many will remember, Nigerian peacekeeping troops have repeatedly been involved in serious human right violations and abuses, which have undermined the country’s image in the international community. For instance, the conduct of Nigerian forces in Liberia in the 1990s where they were implicated in the sexual abuse of many women resulting in many unwanted pregnancies and the recent case in 2011 when a unit of a Nigerian police peacekeeping contingent was withdrawn from Congo for sexual misconduct have damaged Nigeria’s international reputation.
Consequently, CISLAC and its partners with support from Open Society Foundation carried out this critical study to identify recommendations to various challenges facing vetting and selection of UN Peacekeepers in Nigeria.
The 57-page report first provides historical facts and figures regarding the Nigerian Army; and the influence of over 30 years’ military rules through six coups and counter-coups on civilian governance and politics. The Chapter provides historical accounts of the Nigerian Army’s engagements in United Nations Peacekeeping and domestic factors such as persistent killings of innocent civilians by Boko Haram insurgents across the northern part of the country necessitating the recall of some Nigerian peacekeepers from missions in Mali and Darfur.
More relevant to this research are recent reports that Nigerian Army and Police Force personnel have engaged in rape and sexual violence during the anti-insurgency operations against Boko Haram. There has to be serious concern that some of those involved in such violations may be selected for UN peacekeeping and that another Congo situation could present itself. Similarly, some of the Nigerian forces currently serving with the African Union forces in the Central African Republic could become UN peacekeepers. Among them could also be people who have committed serious human rights violations at home in Nigeria.
We regret the lack of a published vetting system within the Nigerian Army; the inadequate cross-referencing between the units and the Department of Army Administration during selection of peacekeepers and the influence of socio-economic and political factors on the process. There is no doubt that these factors have resulted in selection of unqualified candidates for peacekeeping operations and indeed other selection processes. The research found that no fewer than 211 Nigerian soldiers out of 1,377 vetted in 2012 to receive American training were rejected or suspended by the US on the basis of human rights concerns. The high level of corruption that has permeated the selection, recruitment, promotion and abuse of policies and procedures in the Nigerian Army is closely connected to this.
Chapter two of the report provides overview of the Nigeria Police Force and United Nations Peacekeeping. It demonstrates how protracted military rule, widespread insecurity, corruption, ethnic and religious conflicts, annulment of a presidential election in 1993 and the military dictatorship that followed impacted on the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and its policing tasks. The Nigerian Police Force has developed a reputation for being inefficient and unprofessional as a result of widespread incidence of corruption and extortion by a significant proportion of its members.
Consequently, several policy reform initiatives introduced by the Government and Force have failed to re-install the reputation of the NPF. The research also reveals a lack of human right training during recruitment at the existing Police Academies and Police Training Schools in Nigeria.
The continuous expansion in the size of the police force and decline in professionalism and effectiveness in part of the force over the years, resulting in poor policing in the country. It explains how financial rewards have influenced selection for peacekeeping assignments.
As with the Nigerian Army, the research found no published guidelines or standards setting out the peacekeeping selection policies for Police officers. The Force only requires its officers to have a minimum of five years of police service to participate in either UN or African Union operations. Despite documented evidence on widespread and systematic abuse by police, including torture and extra-judicial killings occurring regardless of the government in power, there is little or no accountability and it cannot be excluded that those sent on peacekeeping have been involved in such violations.
The challenges identifies include
1. Lack of transparency in the police vetting system;
2. Corruption during recruitment, selection and the administration of payment of peacekeepers;
3. Lack of human rights policy;
4. Lack of policy on sexual exploitation and abuse;
5. Inadequate content for pre-deployment training;
6. Insufficient mechanisms for public input and oversight bodies; and
7. Gender discrimination.
As recommendations to various challenges facing vetting and selection of peacekeepers from the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Police Force, the report demands prompt development of a National Policy on Peacekeeping Support Operations in line with the 2012 UN policy on human rights screening. Such a policy should detail among other things the principles, criteria, processes and mechanisms for the selection of peacekeeping personnel as well as create civilian oversight mechanisms.
We also recommend:
1. The development of relevant policies on sexual exploitation and abuse, and investigations of human rights violations by the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Police Force;
2. Speedy and full integration of women into the pool of peacekeeping operations in both the military and the police;
3. Establishment of Peacekeeping Operations Offices in all arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces;
4.Thorough screening for human rights violations as a system to monitor the selection of all contributor components for peacekeeping;
5. Development of a functional and easy-to-mine database on the conduct of members of Armed Forces and the Nigerian Police;
6. Involvement of the National Human Rights Commission in vetting for both the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police;
7. Fast-tracking the establishment of a Peacekeeping Training Institute for the Police alongside institutional supports;
8. Adequate review of the curricula of all military and police training institutions with a view to mainstream human rights and gender issues in their programmes and
9.Strengthening oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in the payment of peacekeepers’ allowances, among others.
CISLAC believes workable implementation of these recommendations will help to sanitize the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police Force and result in more accountable forces at home and more disciplined and effective forces abroad.
Finally, our gratitude goes to Open Society Institute, New York for supporting this research; our researcher Engr. Yunusa Zakaria Ya’u, CISLAC staff, the Asia Centre for Human Rights, India for the overall coordination of the report; and all other groups and individuals that contributed.
Auwal I.Musa Rafsanjani