From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Worried by the incessant violation of community rights by public security charged with protecting company facilities in Niger Delta communities, Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Warri, Delta state, in collaboration with the Nigerian Working group on the Voluntary Principles Initiative on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) recently organised a 2- day training workshop on the VPSHR for Public security personnel in the region.
The workshop which was held at Visa Karena Hotel, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, built the capacity of public security personnel comprising officers of the Nigerian Police force, Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on the security and Human Rights.
The training was part of an ongoing project organized by LITE-Africa with funding from the Swiss confederation to promote human rights in Nigeria through Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Right.
Mr Iheanyi Iheke, a staff of Lite Africa who facilitated the training, explained that the workshop is an intervention in response to numerous reports of violations of citizens and community rights by security forces.
He noted that it is expected that through the project, Human Rights violations by security Personnel would be reduced.
In his opening remarks, Hon Joel Bisina, Executive Director of LITE-Africa noted that the training is important because of the volatility of the country in general and the Niger Delta in particular.
He explained that the Voluntary Principles is a set of soft laws that guide companies on providing security for their operation to ensure human rights are respected while protecting company facilities.
He said the program was launched in 2000 as a multi stakeholder initiative including Governments, companies and NGOs.
Bisina disclosed that many multinational extractive companies, governments and NGOs have signed unto the Principles.
He said “Although Nigeria is yet to adopt the VPs initiatives, most international; oil companies operating in Nigeria are parts of the initiative and by so doing, have accepted in principles to respect people’s rights while carrying out their business operations.”
He stated that “it has become worrisome across the globe that in the course of their operations, companies have continued to impact negatively on their host communities, including flagrant violations of their rights, such as right to life, dignity of human persons, livelihood, safety and clean environment.”
He lamented that public security operatives often aid and abet extractive companies like Shell, Agip, Elf in flagrant violations of these rights, not minding that their primary responsibility is to protect the citizenry and maintain peace and order.
However, during the training, the security personnel were introduced to issues of human rights, and were reminded that violations of human rights amount to disrespect to the 1999 constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria which also makes strong provisions for Human rights.
The security operatives were also trained on how to carry out proper risk assessment to ensure the rights of citizens are upheld and respected while protecting company facilities.
The participants expressed gratitude to LITE –Africa for organising such a workshop. They counted themselves lucky to be part of the training, saying that it is an eye opener.
The security operatives promised not only to endeavour to observe human rights in the course of discharging their duties, but also to educate their colleagues and discourage them from human rights violations.