National Policy on Protection of Civilians, Harm Mitigation to Serve as Safeguard — NHRC

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The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), says the adoption of the proposed National Policy on Protection of Civilians and Harm Mitigation will safe guard civilians against armed conflicts.

The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Mr Tony Ojukwu said this at a news conference on Wednesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Centre for Civilians in Conflict, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) organised the event in collaboration with the commission to give visibility to the proposed policy.

The Federal Government had recently announced its willingness to introduce the policy to specially protect civilians which unarguably constitutes the highest percentage of casualties during conflicts in the country.

Ojukwu said the policy was a demonstration of Federal Government’s commitment to the protection of civilians, while also adhering to other international and domestic laws during the planning and conduct of security operations.

“In a recent event in Washington DC, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated that Nigeria would very soon adopt the policy.

“Though civilian harm is a tragic and often unavoidable consequence of the use of force during conflicts.

“ It stands to reason that there should be a National Policy that all security operations involving armed forces must be hinged to minimise the negative effects of conflicts on the civilian population.

“Minimising civilian harm will further enhance the protection of civilians, improve operational effectiveness of law enforcement agents, and help to maintain the support of vulnerable population, especially in the operations of counter-terrorism.

“When adopted, the policy will apply across Nigeria during all armed conflicts, internal security operations involving use of force and will also be applicable to all civilians harmed by actors.

“The government by this policy acknowledges that men, women, boys and girls experience different forms of harm and experience the same type of harm differently.

“As such, Nigeria by this policy will resolve to mitigate harm to all civilians,’’ Ojukwu said.

He further said the commission was on the verge of embarking on consultations with the Department for State Service (DSS), the Nigeria Police Force as well as the National Assembly to produce a robust draft copy of the policy.

According to Ojukwu, the policy when adopted will serve as an indicator for the measurement of good governance and respect for the Constitution and Rule of Law.

“All stakeholders are enjoined to support the adoption of the National Policy for the Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm Mitigation in Nigeria’’, the executive secretary said.

Also speaking, the Director, Centre for Civilians in Conflict, Mr Willaims Meeker described the proposed policy as well intended.

Meeker said the government’s intention to adopt the policy had been applauded by the global community which included the UN family.

He said the centre would always support the development of policies and programmes to better protect civilians around the world.

“Now is the time to recommit to the protection of civilians, and the Nigeria’s proposed POC policy does just that.

“We all know that civilians suffer disproportionally from conflicts. In the northeast, many civilians have lost their lives or suffered grave injuries over the last nine years.

“Many more have lost husbands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and community members.

“People have lost their homes and their means of livelihood. Security forces have likewise faced death, injury and incredibly difficult conditions.

“If adopted, this would place Nigeria in a select group of countries in the world that are raising the bar on protecting civilians and well-being.

“This is an opportunity for Nigeria to send a signal that it will be leader in Africa and beyond on improving the protection of civilians.

“The centre strongly endorses the policy and stands ready to assist the government and communities in its implementation,’’ Meeker said. (NAN)

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