Dr. Benson Olugbuo, the Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation represented by the Program Manager, Ruth Olofin at the Civil Military Relations Accountability Forum organised by CLEEN at Kaduna in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) highlighted the need for security actors to be accountable to the citizens as part of the cardinal principles of democracy and for effective oversight of the security agencies.
The Forum is part of the outlined activities on the project “Fostering Civil-Military Relations in Nigeria’ and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) with the objective to strengthen civil-military relations through sustained dialogues between the military and civilians and respect for fundamental human rights in Nigeria.
The military and other state security actors is expected to be proficient and professional in their duties in defence of the society and citizens as well as protect their interests. Benson explained that the military institution is critical to the Nigerian state and within the framework, it is important that respect to fundamental human rights become the fulcrum of their core functions.
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.
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 relations between the security officials and civil society continues to be fraught with mistrust, characterized by limited interaction, intimidation and, this is deeply rooted in the history of 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 build public confidence and to position security institutions as rights respecting, 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 establishment of Police Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit (PPCRU) 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 has also in her efforts to ensure human rights accountability, 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 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 underscored 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 organized the forum.
The meeting provided the opportunity to share information, experiences and good practices among participants.
At the event, Dr Benson thanked Interfaith Mediation Centre, National Human Rights Commission, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), the Kaduna State Peace Commission and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for collaborating with CLEEN in the project.
He also appreciated the participants, security agencies, the media and civil society organizations and resource persons who made the forum a success.