For some years, there have been allegations of human rights abuses by some men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) in the course of executing their federal mandate of securing oil/gas facilities. These happened mostly in the Okordia-Zarama axis where dozens of oil spills have been recorded over the past couple of years. To help address this, SACA organized a workshop for the officers of the corps in the State, on the United Nations Guiding Principles and the Voluntary Principles on Business, Security and Human Rights. The workshop, which took place on April 12, 2019 at the State headquarters of the Corps, was attended by all the senior officers and management of the Corps, representatives of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), other NGOs including the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, the State Ministry of Environment and some traditional rulers and representatives of Okordia-Zarama Cluster.
The workshop started with a welcome and opening address by the Corps’ State Commandant, Mr. Pedro Awili Ideba. Mr. Ideba lauded SACA for its interventions in the State, specifically acknowledging SACA’s Anti-vandalism workshop in 2018 which he described as very wonderful, and how SACA had interfaced with NSCDC, playing vital roles in ensuring that the mandate of the NSCDC was delivered. He expressed his wishes that there were other NGOs working the way SACA does to promote environmental accountability. “My personal interest is that this organization is a non-governmental organization, which means that how they generate money, I do not know. And yet they are doing so much for the nation. I just hope that Nigerians and other well-meaning organizations will be able to emulate the gesture of this company in ensuring that our people live a clean and healthy life, and ensuring that the environment is kept healthy. For we know that if there is a healthy environment, development with thrive.”
The facilitator of the workshop, Mr. Austin Onuoha, started by emphasizing that he was not going to teach them security job as they were already security experts and he was not a security person, but that he was going to bring a dimension to their work – the human rights dimension. He first took them through all the Voluntary Principles on Business, Security and Human Rights which the multinational oil companies signed up to and the complex dynamics entailed in the roles of the NSCDC. He discussed with them how to apply the Voluntary Principles with due diligence and right judgments in certain complex situations in order to protect themselves from allegations of human rights abuses, adding that they also need to protect themselves. With several examples from other parts of the country, he discussed with them the dangers of presumption of guilt and summary execution of suspects, torture or extra-judicial killing, and admonished them to leave the determination of guilt to the competent courts of law. Mr. Onuoha, also took the officers through the UN Guiding Principles on Business Security and Human Rights, and went into detailed explanations and analysis of Prof. John Ruggie’s effectiveness criteria and the Protect, Respect and Remedy (PRR) framework, and their implications for security operatives in Nigeria’s oil/gas industry. Recall that Prof. Ruggie was the UN special representative that developed the Guiding Principles.
He identified the NSCDC as one security agency that is totally indigenous to Nigeria, describing them and the Federal Road Safety Commission as products of the Nigerian environment whereas the military, the police, etc., were inherited from the colonial masters. He therefore urged them to guide that original identity of theirs jealously. Finally, he urged them to develop a human rights policy and to start by respecting and protecting the rights of their own staff.