Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, has said the military is setting up measures to curtail the level of civilian casualties and collateral damages incurred during conflict situations, especially the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North-east as well as Niger Delta.
Olonisakin who was represented by the Chief of Administrations, Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Rear Admiral Augusto Dacosta, disclosed this in Abuja yesterday, during a two-day High Level Inter-Agency Dialogue on Strengthening Civilian Protection Policy and Practice organised in collaboration with the Centre for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC).
He said protecting civilians during conflicts is important as it, facilitates post conflict development assistance, integration and also creates a conducive atmosphere for humanitarian organisations to operate in the conflict areas.
“In the context of Nigeria’s current counter-terrorism/counter-insurgency operations in the North-east and South-south regions, despite the best intentions of our men and women in uniform, incidental or accidental harm to innocent civilians can occur. It then becomes instructive to factor in civilian protection in our planning, training and actual operations,” he said.
According to him, the implementation of civilian protection measures would better position the military to achieve the objective of restoring security, while minimising casualties among their personnel and preventing incidental harm to civilians.
Against this backdrop, Olonisakin urged the armed forces and security agencies to continue to evolve civilian harm mitigation policies, practices and procedures for their operational guidance.
He however, noted that the solution should be national and comprehensive covering both combat and internal security operations, reflecting Nigerian realities while borrowing from global best practices.
To this end, the CDS said the dialogue aims at “presenting the executive with a national policy on civilian protection and harm mitigation during all military/security operations in accordance with global best practices and design tools and processes that would be reinforced through constant training and practice, civilian harm mitigation through our operations.”
He said it would also provide the security forces with realistic scenario-based training on civilian harm mitigation based on the lessons learned in both the North-east and Niger Delta operations.
Earlier, the Director of Civil-Military Relations (DCMR) DHQ, Maj-Gen. Richard Duru, said the observance of human rights and rule of law by the military are sacrosanct with democratic ideals.
Duru however, clarified that protection of civilians in conflict includes not only human rights protection but measures that also prevent abuse, exploitation, intimidation, illegal detention and extra-judicial killing, while ensuring people in need or in desperate conditions are treated humanely.
“These challenges can be overcome if personnel are adequately trained, tutored and guided on the protection of civilians in conflict and harm mitigation,” he said.
In a related development, Olonisakin who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations (CTOP), Maj-Gen. Ahmed Mohammed, at the opening ceremony of Collateral Damage/Targeting Training Course called for the protection of civilians.
He said: “Collateral damage remains one of the challenges encountered in ongoing kinetic operations to further isolate the insurgents and deny them freedom of action.
“While efforts are being made to avoid collateral damages, techniques for mitigation vary depending on the theatre of operation and the service involved.”