• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Group seeks multi-stakeholder synergy in human rights promotion, investor-protection in extractive industry

Joel

Nigeria has been urged to be a signatory to the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI) as membership of the VPI would demonstrate greater commitment of government to the promotion and protection of human rights and create a more secure environment for potential investors in the extractive sector.

That was part of the recommendations by the Nigerian Working Group (NWG) on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights at a one-day multi-stakeholder hybrid workshop and dialogue on ‘Promoting security and human rights in Nigeria’s extractive sector through multi-stakeholder initiatives’.

The event was organised in Abuja recently for government ministries and agencies, diplomatic community, extractive companies, public security agencies and civil society organisations.

In his opening remarks titled ‘The journey so far on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in Nigeria’, Joel Bisina, co-chair, Nigeria Working Group on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, noted that although it is the responsibility of government to promote and protect the wellbeing of citizens, business organisations as responsible entities are also obliged to respect human rights and complement government’s efforts by way of service to humanity.

Bisina, who also is the executive director, LITE-Africa, said part of the reasons for the workshop was to see “how we can use the VPs as a tool to proffer mutually acceptable solutions to the security and human rights challenges in Nigeria extractive sector.”

In a communiqué issued at the end of the workshop, jointly organised by the Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE-Africa) and the Nigeria Working Group (NWG) on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, it noted among other things that “Insecurity and human rights violation have serious implications on the extractive sector and the Nigerian economy.”

According to the participants, “The seeming weak regulation and crude methods of mining employed by artisanal miners have serious health implication and human rights abuse, particularly the right of the child.

“The rising insecurity in form of armed violence and banditry in the North East and North West regions of Nigeria has greatly hampered mining operations in those regions.”

The communiqué also noted that the inherent degrading effect of extractive business had multiple implications for human rights and security, and that there was increasing inter-cultural conflict over ownership right of extractive sites and rent by local communities.

It was also in the views of the participants that “The National Human Rights Commission is doing a great job on human rights and playing key leadership role by training security forces and monitoring human rights violation especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and by acknowledging the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights as a veritable tool in the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP).”

It regretted that the contribution of the mining sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) was less than 3 percent, owing largely to insecurity and widespread corruption which has discouraged investors.

The workshop however, noted that despite the afore-listed observations, insecurity and business-related human rights violations could be minimised through institutionalisation of the Voluntary Principles and human rights guidance mechanisms and standards.

It also recommended that “Law enforcement agencies should undertake adequate background check of potential officers in the enlistment and recruitment process into the various security agencies.

“Institutionalisation of human rights instruments in government, companies and in training of law enforcement officers is key to amplify the impacts of the trainings.

“The Nigerian Working Group on the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights should play active role to coordinate security and human rights initiatives in the country as there are so many initiatives on business and human rights in Nigeria that requires greater synergy among stakeholders.”

Among those in attendance were Minister of Mines and Steel Development, represented by Banke Onoak, assistant director; H.E. Lukas Schifferle, Switzerland deputy ambassador to Nigeria/co-chair, Nigeria Working Group (NWG); Minister of Justice, represented by Thompson Oyemade, a senior counsel; H.E. High Commission of Canada, Abuja, represented by Demilade Kosemani;

Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) represented by Abba Kaka Mohammed, general manager,

Group Security Department, and Ogechi Ogu, deputy director, PRAWA, representing Civil Society Pillar, Nigeria.