COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE PARLIAMENTARY INTERFACE SESSION WEBINAR ON THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS AND CIVILIAN HARM MITIGATION IN NIGERIA
Organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), on the 15th of July 2020, with support from the European Union to CIVIC’s ‘Fostering Stability in Nigeria through the Protection of Civilians Project’
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in collaboration with the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), organized a one-day webinar with parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and the media on the Government of Nigeria’s draft policy for the Protection of Civilians (POC) and Civilian Harm Mitigation in Nigeria. The journey of advocating for the adoption of the POC policy started in 2016, and has gone through several layers of review engagements and consultations with diverse stakeholders, including the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, international organisations, civil society organizations, security agencies, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the North East, and the diplomatic community. The National Human Rights Commission and Minister of Justice are currently championing the policy.
The objective of the webinar was to interface with parliamentarians to further review the progress of the POC policy and to mobilize their voices to expedite action on the accompanying legislation, which aims at greater protection of civilians during conflict. In attendance were Hon. Babajide Benson, House Committee on Defense; Hon. Abdulrazak Saad Namdas, House Committee on the Army; Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, House Committee of the Navy; and Hon. Shehu Koko Mohammed, House Committee of the Air Force. Also, in attendance were Hon. Edim Etim and Hon. Robert Aondona.
After a comprehensive deliberation on the reasons why the policy seems to be stalled, the following observations and recommendations were made:
- Tens of thousands of civilians suffered loss of life and grave injury in the conflict. Presently, 2.5 million people are displaced and 10 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
- The Nigeria Armed Forces plan, prepare, and conduct operations specifically to protect civilians. In other operations, they support the protection of civilians with offensive, defensive, and stability activities that may primarily be conducted for other purposes besides civilian protection.
- Providing adequate protection is a daunting task. It is a task that needs the closest possible coordination to be effective. The parliament has an oversight role to play on civilian casualties. The interface session was an opportunity to provide additional knowledge and contributions will be factored into the next phase of protection advocacy and engagement.
- There have been incidences in the past where military operations led to the death of civilians, such that the 8thAssembly had to set up a committee to look into the situation and investigate whether concepts of operations in various theatres were keeping up with the rules of engagement, or if it was an issue of negligence.
- The 9thAssembly has remained the most responsive to civilian harm and are working tirelessly to ensure the causality rate of civilians during military operations is brought to a minimal level with a framework that is consistent and harmonized with contents already available prior to its emergence in 2016. The POC policy provides an entry point.
- 40 operations launched by the Armed Forces in 5 years has largely increased militarization of the civil space, which further threatens civilian protection and dwarfs equal opportunities. Hence the need to have access to documents, such as the POC policy, to ensure actors incorporate the protection of civilians into legal documents for necessary action. This will largely strengthen parliamentary oversight on the activities of the Armed Forces with protection of civilian optics.
- The meeting resolved that the Security Committee Chairmen will popularize, own, and sponsor a bill on Protection of Civilians using the content of the POC policy as a guide to ensure consistency with its intent, sustainability, and support from both internal and external stakeholders.
- The Legislation on the Protection of Civilians will be a priority agenda item for the relevant defence and security committees considering that it saves the nation huge resources in various theatres, improves civil-military relations, and strengthens trust between security agencies and citizens – which leads to intelligence-led security.
- There should be continuous dialogue with security agencies using the POC policy as an instrument to ensure the lives of civilians are protected during operations in compliance with human rights standards. This can be achieved through timely adoption of the policy and possible accompanying legislation on POC.
- There should be more inter-agency and ministerial coordination around the protection of civilians, and it should be given national attention considering the increased number of fatalities recorded by civilians over the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols. All national security agencies should prioritize protection of civilians and endeavor to minimize the negative effect of conflict on civilians.
- The curve of fatalities and insecurity can be flattened if adequate mechanisms are adopted within a protection framework, which inspires safe spaces within operations of the military. This will largely influence internal military practice, doctrine, regulations, and engagements.
The parliamentary interface session will be a periodic engagement to keep the conversation on the frontlines of national discourse. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), with support from European Union (EU), thank all parliamentarians for spending quality time to discuss a new agenda within the chamber for the benefit of Nigerians.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani). Babatunde Ojei
Executive Director, CISLAC Country Director, CIVIC