Protection of civilians in conflict A Sacred Duty of all – NHR insusts

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As CIVIC marks its 20th anniversary

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the government and other stakeholders to rally around and protect civilians and human rights of all kinds, saying that doing so remains a sacred duty of not only the government but also non-state actors.

The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu OFR, SAN who stated this in Abuja Tuesday at the workshop and exhibition on the protection of civilians and human rights in Nigeria noted that “It is for this reasons that the NHRC and other stakeholders have worked on, and submitted to the Federal Government, a draft Policy on the Protection of Civilians.

The learned Silk 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”.

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According to the Chief Human Rights Officer of Nigeria, the draft policy is applicable to: the Nigerian government, including, but not limited to the armed forces, security agencies, law enforcement agencies, intelligence services, and any other group conducting operations in conjunction with, on behalf of, or with the support of the government and (or) sub-national government during all armed conflicts, security operations, internal security operations and all military operations involving the use of force.

The draft policy, the Executive Secretary noted, 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.

“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”, stated.

He 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.

Also, the NHRC Boss thanked the Centre for Civilians in Conflict and the European Union for their support of the hosting of this event even as he congratulated CIVIC on their 20th anniversary “for which we are today launching a photo exhibition on the works of CIVIC in the North East”.

Similarly, the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, the Federal 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.

The Permanent Secretary 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.

In his address, the Country Director of CIVIC, Dr. Benson Olugbuo 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.

Other participants at the occasion are the representative of the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Air Commodore A.O. Akinsanya, and Interim Executive Director CIVIC, Jude Udo Ilo etc.

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