- NGO wants human rights violations in region probed
Michael Olugbode, in Maiduguri
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has said $1.6 billion (about N5.8 billion) is required for this year’s urgent humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad region.
A call has gone for the inquiry into human rights violations in the ongoing counter-insurgency war in the North-east.
This is as a non-governmental organisation CLEEN Foundation has advocated for inquiry into human rights violations in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.
Secretary General of NRC, Jan Egeland, was quoted as having said this on Friday. He said 11 International Organisations required $1.6 billion (N5.76 billion) for this year’s urgent humanitarian assistance in Lake Chad region.
He said the assistance became necessary as the nine-year conflict in the Lake Chad Basin, had dramatically affected the lives of 11 million people.
The NRC in a statement released in Maiduguri by council’s media and public advocacy, Tiril Skarskin, said Egeland revealed that the victims of conflict relied on humanitarian assistance to survive in Boko Haram insurgency affected basin.
“The insurgency; as well as military operations across the four countries has displaced 2.4 million people and left five million people food insecure, while significantly reducing economic activity,” said Egeland in the statement.
He added that: “The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the local economies and people´s livelihoods, and has also led to a high number of civilian casualties and grave abuses, such as the recruitment of children by armed groups sexual violence and abductions.”
He said, the current security situation further impedes the humanitarian actors’ access to people in need of life-saving support, with over 800,000 people still live in hard-to-reach areas with no access to humanitarian assistance, while military operations in Lake Chad Islands prohibit organisations from providing assistance to victims of conflict.
On lifesaving and protection in region, Egeland said: “This year’s conference must not only continue this lifesaving operation, but must make protection of vulnerable children, women and men a top priority.
“Conflict-affected families depend on the international community to put the lives of civilians over and beyond competing political agendas, such as their war on terror.”
He warned that humanitarian needs remained massive last year and would continue in 2018 and beyond, and lamented that eight months into the year, only 26 per cent of the appeal for funding to Cameroon had been raised and the humanitarian appeal to support people affected by the crisis in Nigeria was less than 50 per cent funded.
According to him, United Nations estimated $1.6 billion requirement for this year’s help to 10.7 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The crisis in North-east Nigeria is far from being resolved,” he further warned.
He said already, thousands of desperate people continue to arrive into congested areas on a weekly basis either from ‘inaccessible’ areas or across borders, stating that some are in state of severe malnutrition.
“It is crucial that we maintain the necessary assistance to continue saving lives, particularly in remote field locations across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states” said the Director of Nigeria INGO Forum, Jennifer Jalovec.
Also Hannah Gibbin, the Country Director for International Rescue Committee in Cameroon, said: “As the protection crisis in Lake Chad region rages on for another year, children make up over half of those displaced.
“Women and girls face gender-based violence daily, are abducted, sexually exploited and abused, and struggling to survive early and forced marriage and intimate partner violence.”
She reiterated the need for participants at the conference to face the facts head-on and join forces to provide lives of dignity and security.
The Plan International’s Country Director in Nigeria, Hussaini Abdu, also said: “All humanitarian actors, including donors, to urgently increase prioritisation, funding and coordination of efforts to prevent and respond to ongoing Gender-Based Violence and Child
“This is to fulfil adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights,” he declared.
According to him, next week’s conference in Berlin constitutes another opportunity to shed light on a crisis that not only requires financial attention, but first and foremost, a political will from governmental actors at all levels.
He said the conference, was to address the root causes of this conflict and ensure the lives and livelihoods of millions of women, men and children living in the Lake Chad Basin are protected.
In the 3-Day workshop, participants drawn from the Police Oversight Agencies, National Human Rights Commission, Office of the National Security Adviser, the Military, Para-military, Civilian JTF, Civil society, traditional/religious leaders, Civil Society and other key stakeholders called for human rights adherence in the counter-insurgency strategy.
Mrs. Chigozirim Okoro, the Assistant Program Manager, Public Safety and Security CLEEN Foundation, said the event was aimed at improving human rights compliance in countering human rights extremism in Nigeria.
She explained that this would be achieved through the review of counter-terrorism laws and strategy by the government.
“This is to ensure that there is respect for the rights of Nigerians by the security agencies in the war against insurgency currently going on in different parts of the country.
“The event seeks to produce a working strategy for state and non-state actors involved in counter extremism in Nigeria with Borno state as a pilot state,” she added
Chigozirim assured that her organisation , CLEEN Foundation, would work with the senior hierarchy of the security personnel to ensure that the working strategy was operational. She also urged the security personnel to respect human rights in their operation across the northeast.
Continuing she said: “Participants at the event narrated heart-breaking stories of human rights abuse in the hands of the state security actors. They called for a public hearing that will provide a platform for victims of human rights abuse to share and narrate their experience in the hands of security agencies.
“Often, victims find it very difficult to tell their stories, they accuse the state of working with the media not to allow complete reportage of what the real situation is in the affected communities. Participants argued that the only way for them to tell their stories is through a public hearing.
“They also accused the security personnel of harassing and intimidating them for not having the national identity cards and appealed to the federal government to facilitate the issuance of national identity cards to all Nigerian citizens that reside in Maiduguri and other northeast states.
“Some of them explained how they were forced to pay between N200 to N1000 by the security agencies for not having a national identity card,” she further lamented.
She however called on members of the public to bring up documented protest on human rights violation by the military and security outfits for prosecution.