UNITED IN SECURITY: A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH CIVILIAN PROTECTION IN NIGERIA
Human rights abuses remain a concern in Nigeria especially with protracted conflict in the north-east, middle-belt, and south-south region, and the emerging allegations of human rights abuses by security personnel which led to the country-wide #EndSARS protests of October 2020. Despite structural reforms that the Nigerian security architecture has undertaken over the years, little has changed in regards to reported abuses, as demonstrated by continued allegations of heavy-handed responses to the Boko Haram insurgency, resulting in entirely displaced communities, the destruction of livelihoods such as farmlands and markets, and retaliatory attacks on citizens. In response, the country’s legislature, judiciary, and the
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been unable to exercise the sufficient level of oversight necessary to address such allegations and hold responsible security actors accountable. As such, a concerted effort is necessary to coordinate the joint efforts of human rights CSOs, security actors, and government authorities, such as the NHRC, to collectively monitor, prevent, and respond to human rights abuses perpetrated by police forces in Nigeria, rather than working in silos.
In Nigeria, authorities have failed to build accountability or bring to justice the perpetrators of gross human rights abuses among the security sector, deteriorating the relationship between security forces and civilians. With new skills and platforms, CSO and media actors can effectively advocate for accountability and a new model of collaborative engagement between security forces and the civilians they are mandated to protect. This project will build the skills and networking capacity of CSOs and media actors to monitor, address, and advocate against human rights abuses at the hands of security actors through collaborative and community-centered interventions.
Goals and Objectives
Search for Common Ground is the largest dedicated peace building non-governmental organization that works to prevent and end violent conflict before, during, and after a crisis; by working with all sides of a conflict, providing the tools needed to work together and find constructive solutions.
Founded in 1982, Search for Common Ground works to transform the way the world deals with conflict - away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. We work with local partners to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities.
Search for Common Ground, in collaboration with its partners Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) and Foundation for Justice, Development and Peace (FJDP) has designed a 24-month project in response to the challenges and opportunities outlined above. The overall goal of the project is to promote collaborative multi-stakeholder engagement and advocacy processes to reduce human rights abuse by police forces in Benue and Adamawa State. This goal is supported by the following two specific objectives and four interrelated expected results:
• Increased understanding of human rights principles amongst police actors.
• Increased constructive interaction between affected communities, key government and civil society stakeholders, and police on issues related to human rights and protection.
Our project is underpinned by the following theory of change: if target CSOs, media, and community stakeholders have increased skills and avenues to collaborate around evidence-based human rights reporting and non-adversarial advocacy, building on existing institutional efforts, and if trust and positive relationships between these actors and police and government stakeholders are nurtured through regular solution-oriented interactions, then human rights violations committed by Nigerian police forces will decrease in target locations, because constructive multi-stakeholder engagement will lead to joint ownership and upholding of accountability efforts in target areas.
Target Areas and Key Stakeholders
The project will be implemented in three local government areas (LGAs) in the Middle Belt state of Benue (Otukpo, Makurdi, and Guma). These areas were selected based on the prevalence of violent conflict against civilians, both at the hands of non-state armed groups and state security forces, and our existing expertise in the target areas.
The primary stakeholder group engaged by this project will be CSOs and media actors working on security and human rights, in particular those led by women and youth from diverse political and ethnic backgrounds. As capacity-building and networking are key components of this project, the project team will select a diversity of formal and informal groups with varying levels of human rights monitoring and advocacy expertise and cater for their specific needs. While some CSOs will be selected based on their past engagement in previous Search-led interventions—to further build upon their skills—a concerted effort will also be placed in selecting new and less experienced organizations. As management of information and rumors play a key role in either quelling or fueling violent conflict, this project will also train a diversity of media actors representative of traditional and new media sectors, including journalists, radio hosts, editors, producers, and bloggers, in conflict sensitive journalism, with a focus on human rights reporting. Existing relationships with journalist associations and media houses will aid in the speedy identification and selection of participating media actors.
The secondary stakeholder group engaged by this project is security actors and local government authorities. Specifically, the project team is targeting various state police departments in the two target states, including Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), the Police Service Commission, and the Complaint Response Unit (CRU). Other security agencies targeted include the Department of State Security (DSS) and Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) in Benue State. Search’s strong partnerships and relationships with key formal and informal security actors and structures in the target areas will play a crucial role in securing their buy-in and active investment in project outcomes and expected results. Furthermore, recognizing the prevailing mistrust between communities and local authorities in the target area, this project is targeting select government authorities identified as champions of human rights and community security. This will include state policymakers and state and local government authorities from relevant ministries.
The project’s impact will be in reinforcing the links between civil societies, existing human rights monitoring platforms, and police forces to take coherent action to support the protection of civilian rights. Particularly in the context of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and farmer-herder disputes in the Middle Belt, improvements in relations between police and communities will reduce push factors towards radicalization and inter communal violent conflict.