FG to adopt National Policy on Protection of Civilians in conflict situations – Lai Mohammed

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The Federal Government says it will soon adopt National Policy on the Protection of Civilians in Conflict Situations, to strengthen and entrench its constitutional practice on civilians protection.

The Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed this in Washington, US, while addressing a High-Level Roundtable organised by the Atlantic Council, an American think tank on international affairs.

The minister said that the policy, which would be drawn in collaboration with the National Hunan Rights Commission, would form part of the several measures put in place to address human rights violations.

Mohammed, for the umpteenth time, faulted the Amnesty International’s periodic reports on alleged human rights violations by the Nigerian military.

He specifically dismissed the latest of such reports bordering on violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law by the Nigerian Armed Forces and other government agencies.

The minister said, “the protection of human rights is a cardinal objective of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration, and that the violation of rights is not a government policy”.

He told the Roundtable that the government has taken several measures to address human rights violation in the course of the counter insurgency operations.

He gave examples of such policies as the establishment of Human Rights Desks in all military formations and the quarterly Human Rights/Military Dialogue.

He said the military also organised trainings on Mainstreaming Human Rights into Counter-Insurgency Operations, and Court Martials officers indicted for human rights violations.

Mohammed insisted that Boko Haram had been badly degraded hence “it is incapable of carrying out organised massive attacks beyond using women and children to carry out suicide bombings against soft targets.”

He also told the Roundtable that the incessant farmers-herders clashes were neither religious nor ethnic in nature, as they had been portrayed in some circles.

”There is no question that this (conflict) is driven mostly by an increased contest for dwindling natural resources like land and water.

“This has been worsened by demographic pressure and climate change.

“Nigeria’s population in 1960 was 45 million, and this has ballooned to
about 200 million in 2018, but the available resources have not grown
at all. If anything, they have shrunk.

”As desertification continues to encroach and the Lake Chad that
provided a livelihood for over 35 million in several countries shrank
from 25,000 to 2,500 square kilometres.

“Herders in particular are forced to move south in search of grazing land and water for their cattle,” he said.

The minister said beyond the main causative factors, however, disgruntled politicians and beneficiaries of corruption, who have vested interest in undermining the Buhari Administration through any means necessary, have latched on to the conflict.

The Roundtable, which was convened by the Africa Centre of the 57-year-old think tank, was attended by about 30 current and former senior US government officials, as well as other stakeholders
in the US Policy on Africa.

The participants included retired Gen. William E. Ward, former Commander, US Africa Command, former US Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Sanders and Ms Florizelle Liser, President and CEO, Corporate Council on Africa;

Mr Thierry Dongala, Senior Advisor, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mr Trevor Keck, Deputy Head of Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross and Dr. EJ Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group’s Africa Programme.

The Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Sylvanus Nsofor, led a team of the Nigerian Embassy officials to the event. (NAN)

Biola Lawal

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