CSO urges FG to promote access to justice through community-based channels

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The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) has urged the Federal Government to promote access to by opening up more community-based channels and mechanisms for citizens to seek redress.

The civil society organisation (SCO) made the call on Tuesday in Abuja during the presentation of its research report on `Strengthening Pan-African Citizens Voice Security Sector Accountability.’’

The report, with the theme, “Impact of COVID-19 Security Measures on Citizens and Communities in Nigeria,’’ was carried out against the backdrop of the impact of COVID-19 security measures on Nigerian citizens and communities.

Mr Clement Ikeoba, Principal Consultant for the research, who presented the report, said the report revealed that security agencies’ response to COVID-19 lockdown resulted to a lot of challenges.

Ikeoba said that it also resulted in increase poverty and hardship occasioned by loss of jobs, sources of livelihood and income of community members, most of whom were productively engaged by the informal sector before the lockdown.

“The lockdown enforcement resulted in deteriorated social relationship among families, community members, collapse of social institutions, as well as increased drug abuse and other related vices.

“There was a significant increase in the reported cases of SGBV such as rape, spouse battering, and physical assault, perpetrated mostly by males.

“This was found to be between 60 per cent and 300 per cent, depending on the location. South-West, North- Central and North-West were the regions that recorded the highest cases.

Others include violation of right to of movement; torture, inhuman treatment and molestation; damage and seizure of property; discrimination and extra-judicial killings, among others

Ikeoba said that the report called for the amendment of existing legislation to reflect current realities regarding the need to promote the professional conduct of Nigeria‘s security personnel, especially during a public emergency.

He said that the challenge of restoring confidence in processes, systems and institutions of the state should be prioritised by government, stressing that these were key to building citizens’ trust and confidence, especially during a public emergency.

He added that the continuous education and enlightenment of citizens on issues relating to human rights and justice, as well as the roles of security agents, should be pursued by all stakeholders.

He advised security agencies to continuously demonstrate loyalty and submissiveness to constituted civil authorities in line with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution.

He said the report urged security operatives to be more open to public scrutiny and be more accountable and for actions and inactions, among others.

Mr Sunday Osasah, Executive Director, Centre LSD, urged the Federal Government to evaluate the impact of security measures on citizens’ free movement and response to issues of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

According to him, the report will identify and verify the various human rights violations that may have occurred during the security forces implementation of the lockdown.

He said the report also intended to suggest measures to strengthen citizens’ voices to demand accountability from security forces to forestall human rights abuses during a public health emergency.

According to Osasah, what the centre intends to achieve is to compile and come up with a bill which will be presented to the National Assembly with a view to its becoming an act.

He added that the report would also be used to influence policy bills at the National Assembly.