Centre Kick-starts Forum To Prevent Rights Violation During Pandemic

The African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) has kick-started its forum on promoting accountability in the security sector governance in Nigeria. The forum which began on Monday in Abuja is also expected to begin in Lagos where citizens brainstorms on ways of preventing violations of human rights, especially during pandemics. The two forums are expected to complement the Centre’s newly launched programme tagged “Strengthening Pan-African Citizens Voices for Security Sector Accountability (SPaCVOSSA). The SPaCVOSSA programme which is sponsored by Trust Africa, is meant to reveal instances of human right violations during the COVID-19 lockdown as well as provide ways to prevent it in the future especially when there is a lockdown during pandemics. Members of the civil society, security agencies including retired military officers and members of the human right community are the key participants in the forum.

Speaking at the forum, the two key notes speakers; Ambassador Chijioke Wigwe, the Provost of the centre for strategic research and studies, National Defence College and Ruth Olofin, Programme manager Cleen foundation, gave insight into the various ways human right violations can be prevented during pandemics.

For Ambassador Wigwe; “The need to set up mechanisms that would deepen the engagement of Nigeria’s security forces, local authorities and citizens (including women, youth and other groups typically left out of decision-making processes) and ensure that security responses are more tailored towards enhancing trust and collaboration, addressing community needs and dealing with other root causes of conflict. The need to frame programmes which would rebuild confidence between Nigerian communities and the security agencies. Nigeria’s security forces should be able to engage with communities to make decisions on setting up temperature control checkpoints, maintaining public order and respecting social distancing guidelines; and The Nigerian system must invest in peace-building within the security sector, to create a fertile ground for constructive participation of security forces in everyday life as in emergencies”.

Ambassador Wigwe was represented by Commodore Cyprian Ononeme (rtd).

For her part Olofin gave the following recommendations: “There were platforms and emergency numbers published by some of these institutions. We need to re-activate the process and move forward with the documented citizens’ complaints towards ensuring justice. This is a call to the MOI, NHRC, MOPA, PSC, NPF, NSCDC, the Military and all other security outfits that were involved in enforcing lockdown laws and those oversight institutions that received citizens’ complaints. The RBA can be applied to various fields and is particularly useful for policing as a vehicle through which rights can be claimed and upheld by all state institutions. RBA should form the spirit behind the policy and practice of policing in Nigeria. The RBA promotes the principles of participation, inclusion, equality, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability. These are the cornerstone of democratic policing. The high level of rights violations witnessed during the lockdown reinforces the need for a re-calibration of the current approaches. This will entail following through with implementing recommendations for accountability and justice by the oversight agencies and. During the lockdown, the accountability sessions with the various institutions in Nigeria revealed known challenges that constrained the process of justice and accountability. These existing challenges included weak investigation structures and skills, funding constraints, low public awareness of their mandates and establishments and bureaucratic bottlenecks across board. Unfortunately, these are known problems but the lack of a strong political will has been the bane of security sector reforms and governance in Nigeria

Undertake capability based development planning that is futuristic and scenario based. Before the virus got into Nigeria, what was our state of preparedness? Policing and security sector service delivery needs to be focused more on undertaking periodic assessment of the task environment. The task environment in Nigeria is rapidly changing as well as the strategies of violent non-state actors for example. This strategy regularly assesses the capabilities of the personnel with a view to tailoring the right capabilities and resources together so as to proactively mitigate emerging threats to the nation state.

Development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on Policing in Complex Emergencies. Truth be told, our state of preparedness was low and reactive. However, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity for security agencies including the Police to develop robust codes of conduct, protocols for policing in complex emergencies including pandemics. We need to train the personnel particularly those who will be at the fore front of enforcement and set up institutional structures for compliance.”

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