A call has been made on all relevant organisations to work in synergy to ensure maximum protection of civilians and human rights in the country
The call was made on Tuesday by stakeholders at a two-day workshop and photo exhibition in Abuja, which also coincided with the celebration of the Center for Civilian in Conflict (CIVIC) at 20 years.
The event which was put together by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), CIVIC and the European Union (EU), the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Chief Tony Ojukwu, said the Commission and other stakeholders have worked on, and submitted to the Federal Government, a draft Policy on the Protection of Civilians.
Ojukwu explained that: “This policy is aimed at addressing all issues related to the protection, treatment, and rehabilitation of civilians as well as remedial and accountability measures for perpetrators of violence and human rights violations”
He noted that the draft policy seeks to protect civilians in conflicts, reduce or eliminate civilian harm through planning and early warning assessment of civilian harm during and after operations, harm acknowledgment, and remedial service provision.
He said; “We are hoping that in response to the upsurge in violence, the new administration will approve this policy. The NHRC commits to playing a leading role in the implementation of this policy and to ensure that all stakeholders play their parts in the protection of civilians.”,
He also said the major outcome of this workshop is the drafting of a policy brief on the Rights-based Approach to the Protection of Civilians in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges, and Options which will serve as a roadmap for the new administration and heads of security agencies for the protection of civilians in Nigeria.
Ojukwu thanked the Centre for Civilians in Conflict and the European Union for their support in hosting the event even as he congratulated CIVIC on its 20th anniversary “for which we are today launching a photo exhibition on the works of CIVIC in the North East”.
The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Beatrice Jeddy-Agba said that the Ministry is committed to working with stakeholders towards addressing the challenges of civilians in conflict-related areas such as gender-based violence, recruitment of child soldiers, abduction, early/forced marriages, and sex slavery.
Agba, who was represented by a Senior Staff of the Ministry, Ms. Jamila Akaaga Ade said that recently a handover Protocol was signed by the Federal Government with the United Nations and the Lake Chad Basin region to reaffirm the government commitment to prevent or reduce the detention of children encountered by military and security forces during armed conflicts.
The Country Director of CIVIC, Dr. Benson Olugbuo in his opening remarks regretted that over 2.2 million people have lost their lives as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in North East Nigeria, adding that in the aftermath of the conflict, many schools were closed and several women and children displaced.
He therefore urged the government and other stakeholders to consider a renewed and holistic approach to protecting civilians in conflict, which will among other things build trust and confidence among civilians affected by conflicts.
He also commended the efforts of the NHRC in playing a leading role in the development of the National Action Plan which touches on the overall strategy to bring about an all-round development and human rights protection in the Country.