Dr Chijioke Wigwe, the Provost, Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, National Defence College says a programme should be developed to rebuild confidence between Nigerian communities and the security operatives.
Wigwe made the call at a citizen’s forum titled: “Trust Africa, Strengthening Citizens Voices for Security Sector Accountability in Nigeria’’ organised by the African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), on Tuesday in Abuja.
Represented by retired Air Commodore Anayo Cyprian, he said the call became imperative to change the perception of Nigerians on security agencies, especially after challenges of the lockdown enforcement for citizens to stay at home.
He said that as the world reflected on the secondary impacts of COVID-19 and its implications for peace and stability, adding that it was important to assess the role of the security sector’s responses.
According to him, this is because it is particularly related to accountability.
“We need to be able to carry out a post-mortem into the inclusiveness, legitimacy and accountability of security and justice institutions as well as on concerns surrounding security sector responses at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That is why I think this forum today is a very useful venture in our quest to have a more accountable.
“We do note, however, that there were some shortcomings in their responses and that there are issues that need to be addressed to improve accountability in the security sector,’’ he said.
Wigwe said that the college came up with some resolutions which included the need to set up mechanisms that would deepen the engagement of Nigeria’s security forces, local authorities and citizens.
He said this was aimed at ensuring that security responses were more tailored toward enhancing trust and collaboration, addressing community needs and dealing with other root causes of conflict.
He said that Nigeria’s security forces should be able to engage with communities to make decisions on setting up temperature control checkpoints, maintaining public order and respecting social distancing guidelines.
He said that the Nigerian system should invest in peace-building within the security sector to create a fertile ground for constructive participation of security forces in everyday life also in emergencies.
Ms Ruth Olofin, the Programme Manager, Centre for Law for Enforcement Education in Nigeria (CLEEN Foundation) said the foundation had worked with security agents and always being in touch with citizens, so it made some recommendations.
Olofin said that there was need to reactivate accountability for human rights -related violations to document citizens’ complaints toward ensuring justice.
She said there was need to promote a rights based approach to policing and law enforcement because it would promote the principles of participation, inclusion, equality, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability.
She said these were the cornerstone of democratic policing, adding that the high level of rights violations witnessed during the lockdown reinforced the need for a re-calibration of the current approaches.
She said that the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity for security agencies including the Police to develop robust codes of conduct, protocols for policing in complex emergencies including pandemics.
“ We need to train the personnel, particularly those who will be at the fore front of enforcement and set up institutional structures for compliance,’’ she said.
The Executive Director, Centre LSD, Mr Monday Osasah said that strengthening citizens voices for security sector’s accountability in the Nigerian project was conceptualised to help citizens demand accountability in the security sector.
Osasah said that this was because of the violations and harassment citizens experienced from security agents, while carrying out the COVID-19 lockdown rules.
He said Trust Africa, an NGO was supporting the programme to be carried out in four countries in and in four regional economic communities to help strengthen citizens’ voices and educate them on the issues.
He said that the aim was not to criticise security agents but to create a platform to address the challenges citizens face with security agencies and understand the plight of security agents in line of duty.
“There is need for us to come together to review issues and chart a new cause to move Nigeria forward so because of that, we commenced this project with a research that is ongoing.
“At the end of the research, there will be policy recommendations and with those policy recommendations, you can only bare your mind on some of the issues that really transpired.
“It is critical because the overall intention of this project it to come out with a legislation that will strengthen the way and manner security forces do their enforcement ,’’ he said.
A representative from the Police Headquarters, Dr Ruth Okunbo commended the Centre LSD for the initiative.
Okunbo said that forum was a good place for everyone to air their minds and clear misunderstandings to seek the way forward rather than engaging in protests.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that security operatives from various outfits were in attendance including CSOs and some Nigerians. (NAN)