Summary of Global Rights Nigeria Three Day Workshop on the Rights of Civilians in Armed Conflicts Which Held in Abuja on 17th - 19th August, 2016 with the Theme: 'The Rights of Civilians in Armed Conflicts.'
GlobalRights Nigeria is a human rights organization whose core responsibility is to advocate for a just society, based on the universal principles of regard for human dignity, freedom, and access to justice amongst others.
It was based on the excessive abuse of the above values that the workshop was organized to sensitize all stakeholders on their duties in conflicts situations; and to partner with them in developing an enduring methodical templates in confronting and bringing under control violent activities without any form of excesses - as has been widely reported in the North-East, Middle-Belt, South-South, and other violence-infested regions in Nigeria.
The occasion began with the National Anthem, reception and acknowledgement of guests by the organizers, and was quickly followed by goodwill messages from representatives of various institutions; after which the keynote address was presented by Prof. Bem Angwe, E. S from National Human Rights Commission.
After observing the official pleasantries, speakers were given the floor to make their presentations.
First on the list was Prof. Oshita O. Oshita of Institute for Peace and Conflicts Resolution (IPCR) who brainstormed on the topic: An Introduction- Understanding Non-International Armed Conflicts. He took the audience on a journey of what the subject matter and asymmetrical warfare is all about, as well as the roll of IPCR in advocating for a peaceful coexistence between individuals and groups irrespective of the provocation; in order to pave way for growth and national development.
Next on the list was Ms. Idayat Hassan of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). She focused on the overview of: The Rights of Civilians in Non-International Armed Conflicts; taking the participants through the various provisions and sections of the law that safeguard citizens' rights in such chaotic circumstances.
According to Ms. Hassan, the primary function of CDD is to partner relevant agencies for the engendering of democratic and developmental policies for the benefit all.
The Regional Manager/Conflict Analyst; Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) North East, in person of Hajiya Hamsatu A. Allamin spoke on the theme: 'Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Women in Armed Conflicts.' She began by reminding the participants that the cultural and social norms across the globe are already unfavorable to the women fold, and why care must be taken to avoid further compounding of the debilitating trend.
In the cause of her presentation, Hajiya Allamin highlighted several prejudices which have mitigated against the women, especially during crises situation as it is currently being recorded mostly in the North East. On what she referred to as the CURRENT TRENDS, she outlined several humiliating challenges plaguing the women as: illiteracy, disease, poverty, insecurity, and subsequent infringement on their rights without any recognizable voice to make a case for them; thus making the North East the epicenter of IDPs totaling about 2.4million, out of which 2million (85%) are in Bornu, 9% at the IDP camps, and the host communities containing 90%.
On the GBV EMERGING TRENDS in the NORTH EAST, the analyst said that whilst there's an intensified efforts against terror and other predominant crimes by relevant stakeholders; however, there have also been an increase in the abduction of women and children; thus preventing them from realizing their dreams. Worse still, she noted with nostalgia that women who were victims of rape, forced marriages and abduction are further stigmatized, rejected, and secluded from the group... a situation which has made the rehabilitation process an unproductive venture because such unsympathetic treatment metamorphosed into another rounds of emotional and psychological breakdown which is very difficult for them to overcome.
In conclusion, Hajiya Allamin made reference to the 5 pillars of UNSCR 1325 which are:
*Effective Prevention and Monitoring Strategies.
She postulated that the women cannot be said to be partners in progress, neither would the lyrics of gender equality make any sense, if these prescriptions are ignored by all stakeholders in all sphere(s) of human endeavors.
Thus, the need for relevant authorities to roll up their sleeves and get down to serious business; in order to subdue the incessant abuses and subjection of women and children to unimaginable proportion of suffering during crises.
The last speaker for the day, Ms. Abiodum Baiyewu-Teru of Global Rights Nigeria dealt with the topic: Responding to Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict. Her reality-based presentation painted a gory picture of the women and underage girls who are consistently being subjected to varying forms of sexual abuse without any strong legal action and disciplinary measures being instituted against the perpetrators (some of whom unfortunately, are the state actors, the very instruments that are supposed to protect them from harm).
The workshop continued on the second day with the same vigor by guests with each speaker taking the audience into a deeper atmosphere of genuine concern for the affected persons during conflict situations; as it is presently in many parts of the country, particularly in the North East region.
Ms. Amina Alkali, of the Nur Alkali Development Initiative (NADI) spoke on the topic: A Situational Analysis of IDPs and Refugees in Nigeria’s North-East Crisis. She intimated the house on the dynamics of the crisis in the North-East region of Nigeria which has brought about many issues. One of the most important issues is the existence of displaced persons and families. Because of the crisis, persons are either forced to flee their localities or are left with no homes to shelter them. Thus, they're left to seek refuge and shelter either externally or internally, thereby, being referred to as internally displaced persons or refugees.
Furthermore, Ms. Alkali enumerated the obligations of Government towards IDPs as follows:
• To prevent and avoid arbitrary displacement
• Make the camps habitable
• Protect and assist during displacement
• Provide security for all persons in the IDP camps
•Seek durable Solutions.
Another captivating topic was centered on: Accounting for the Missing and Dead in Armed Conflicts by Makmid Kamara of Amnesty International.
He emphasized on the LEGAL FRAMEWORKS AND RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS IN CRISES SITUATIONS BY MAKING REFERENCE TO RELEVANT SECTIONS OF
CUSTOMARY INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW which reads: “...With a view to the identification of the dead, each party to the conflict must record all available information prior to disposal and mark the location of the graves.” Rule 116. Accounting for the Dead.
“...Each party to the conflict must take all feasible measures to account for persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict and must provide their family members with any information it has on their fate.” Rule 117. Accounting for Missing Persons.
The amnesty boss concluded his presentation by suggesting the measures that would help in forging ahead in the right direction as follow:
•States must fulfil their obligations to conduct effective investigations regarding missing persons.
• Parties must notify the families of the dead, because they have the right to know.
•Parties to a conflict must facilitate enquiries about individuals missing as a result of hostilities. The Fourth Geneva Convention in Article 32.
• Efforts should be made to identify dead persons in order to preserve their identity.
•Each party to the conflict is required to search for persons who have been reported missing by the adverse party.” Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1977.
Also on the list of speakers was Mr. Tony Ojukwu of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) who spoke on the topic: STANDARDS FOR DETENTION IN SITUATION OF ARMED CONFLICTS.
He outlined the role and duties of the NHRC which according to him has been very alive to their responsibilities. Although Mr. Ojukwu admitted that there have reported cases of human rights abuses across board, he also blame most of the victims on their unwillingness to speak out or corporate with designated agencies for proper investigation and follow up of the case to a logical conclusion.
On the final day of the workshop, a number of resource persons and stakeholders whose sole responsibility it is to carter for the IDPs took turn at the podium to intimate the house on what their agencies, organizations and departments etc have been doing to alleviate the monumental sufferings in various camps.
Amongst such personalities include the Maiduguri NEMA Boss, Garba Abdullahi S.
He provided a breakdown of the Agency's activities and their efforts in ensuring that an appreciable level of success is achieved with the meager resources at their disposal.
The following(s) are some of the short and long term measures that he listed as being the agency's areas of concentration:
1. Beyond the provision of food and clothing; shelter, cooking utensils, and fuel woods are made available.
2. NEMA provides support also to affected persons outside the borders of Nigeria (ie Chad, Niger and Cameroon).
3. Over 2,400 tons of relief materials, medications and other essential needs are provided monthly to keep the affected persons going while at the camp.
He listed other achievements so far recorded by the agency since the inception of the insurgency crises in Nigeria especially in the North East, and acknowledged the effort of the government, groups and individuals; but added that the seemingly and widely reported incidents of hardship in various camps is because the support is inadequate as a result of the huge number of IDPs and the multi-faceted challenges... a similar view which was also expressed by his colleague from Jos Zonal office, Abdulsalam B.Muhammed.
Muhammed lamented on the state government's apathy and lack of political will to align with the federal government in order to alleviate the excruciating sufferings of the IDPs. According to him, this administrative highhandedness is perhaps, the most critical factor why there have not been significant success and improvement on the overall well-being of the victims.
At the end of the presentations by all the speakers, the entire members were divided into four groups to brainstorm on the issues raised and come up with vital recommendations and map out strategies through which it would be realised.
Everyone agreed that the time to act is now, and that all hands must be on deck because an injury to one is, and should be an injury to all. This, they said is the surest way to safeguard the future of Nigeria.