By Emmanuel Udom
CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organization recently outlined how civil-military relations could be strengthened, in order to tackle insecurity in Nigeria.
This is coming months before the 2019 elections, even as tension, triggered-off by the activities of some political parties and politicians in Nigeria seem to be mounting by the day.
Benson Olugbuo PhD, Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, while speaking during a statement of purpose/welcome an accountability forum held on September 13, 2018, at Pinnacle Luxury Hotel, Jinna Road, Balumkutu Pompomri Road, Maiduguri, Bornu state, stated that the foundation organised the forum in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR).
According to him, “the objective of the forum is to strengthen civil-military relations through sustained dialogues and improved understanding between the military and civilians with a view to improving accountability, security and respect for human rights in Nigeria”.
His words: “Accountability from the security agencies is part of the cardinal principles of democracy within the framework of effective oversight of the security agencies”.
The military and other state security actors are expected to be competent and professional enough to defend the society
and citizens as well as protect the interests, institutions and critical infrastructure of the country including respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens.
There has been an increased focus by Nigerians and the international community on the response mechanisms set up by security agencies to address human rights violations and complaints from the public.
In Nigeria, traditional platforms to address past rights violations have come in the form of panels of investigations and national conferences established by various successive governments in Nigeria.
Again, recent efforts to set up accountability mechanisms by security agencies emerged against a backdrop of human rights abuses perpetrated by security officials leading to numerous complaints by members of the public.
The relationship between the security officials and civil society continues to be fraught with mistrust, characterized by limited interaction, impunity, and intimidation among others.
This is deeply rooted in histories of the long years of military rule in Nigeria and the perceived clampdown on the freedom of expression and the shrinking space for civil liberties.
As part of measures to instill public confidence and to reposition security institutions for commendable compliance to human rights standards, accountability mechanisms are being established to address citizens’ complaints and concerns.
These complaints ranging from human rights abuses by the various security personnel to professional misconduct on the line
of duty are part of the human rights/professional concerns being addressed by these Institutions.
One of such efforts by the Nigeria Police Force is the recently established Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit set up in 2015 to address complaints from the public as it concerns Police Officers (this predates several other efforts by the Nigeria Police).
The Nigerian Army equally has also established a Human Rights Desk within the Directorate of Civil Military Affairs in early 2016 and a Call Centre to receive complaints against the Army personnel amongst other accountability units in other military and paramilitary agencies.
One of the missing links in assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of these mechanisms is the voice of the public in strengthening the work of these units. This view is under-scored by the largely opaque feedback mechanisms to complainants to indicate what actions have been/are being taken to address their concerns.
It is against this background on the need to strengthen current accountability mechanisms of security institutions that the CLEEN Foundation has organised this forum.
The forum is aimed at fostering constructive engagement and dialogue between civilians and the security agencies to build trust and collaboration and enhance their roles in nation building.
With today´s meeting, we want to offer a platform to exchange information, experiences and good
practices among participating agencies on civil military relations. We also want to look into issues of human rights violations, the role of security agencies in holding their personnel accountable and finding mutual solutions to these challenges.
would like to extend a special appreciation to our collaborators- Borno Coalition for Development (BOCODEP), the National Human Rights Commission, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), and the funding support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Special appreciation also goes to the participating security agencies, the media and other civil society organizations and technical experts who will provide important
contributions to the discussion..