General Ishola Williams (rtd) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “replace the Ministry of Women Affairs with a Ministry of Family Affairs if the government is to effectively address the root causes of violence and Internally Displaced Persons in the North-east of Nigeria.”
General Williams was speaking at a media roundtable on issues relating to addressing the root causes of violence and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northeast of Nigeria at Westown Hotels, Ikeja.
The roundtable organised by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in collaboration with the Ford Foundation was chaired by Hon Justice Samuel C. Oseji of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.
According to General Williams, “We need to urgently redefine politics and power and the linkage between the two with money. In addition, faith, beliefs and action require two-pronged approach: Counter narratives in terms of beliefs, and guidance and role models in terms of action without politics. It is also important to emphasize family (e.g. Ministry of family affairs instead of Women Affairs) with emphasis equally on girl-child and boy-child. We cannot continue to ignore the key role of boys and young men in perpetrating conflict.”
“We must transform the hands that kill, maim and destroy into hands that can save and rebuild. We must do away with all the jargons in terms of peace-keeping, peace-making, peace-building, conflict transformation, etc and come up with innovative sustainable framework for crises/conflict prevention and mitigation at local and national level. For Nigeria, continuous political restructuring with emphasis on subsidiarity is absolutely important,” General Williams said.
According to him, “A new institutional arrangement is required at national and regional level for making life better for IDPs, Returnees, persons of concern and victims of terrorism. The bottom-line: get them back to their villages of origin and work Military and volunteers to rebuild their lives.”
Hon Justice Samuel C. Oseji on his part called for proper coordination of the victims of Boko Haram to enable them have access to medical treatment and other necessary support. He criticised “the financial recklessness of the country’s leaders” and urged the citizens and civil society organisations to ask questions on allocations of budgets and for what purposes the country’s resources and wealth are being spent.
A Justice for Victims of Boko Haram Campaign was launched at the media roundtable to “draw attention to “the rights of the victims of Boko Haram to reparations, justice and accountability, which have continued to be neglected. Victims have largely remained in the background.”
The public is urged to support and sign on to Justice for Victims of Boko Haram Campaign (through firstname.lastname@example.org) which reads in part: “We call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to work closely together to initiate and develop a Comprehensive Legal and Policy Framework on Reparations for Victims of Boko Haram in the country. This Framework should strive to combine individual and collective, symbolic and material forms of compensation for victims, and other means of reparations that are suited to restore victims’ dignity and humanity.”
“The proposed Legal and Policy Framework should be adequately resourced by the authorities and through international assistance and cooperation. The process for developing the Framework should not wait until peace is achieved in the Northeast.”
“In the meantime, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to initiate and create a National Registry of Victims of Boko Haram as a way to facilitate their access to free legal aid, psychological and medical care, support, and reparations.”
“We also call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Senate President Dr Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to urgently investigate the spending of the over N80 billion (Naira) under the Victims Support Funds to ensure transparency and accountability and adequate support, assistance, and care for families and victims of Boko Haram across the country. The list of victims that have directed benefited from the over N80 billion should be published. The Victims Support Funds should ultimately be reformed and integrated into the proposed Legal and Policy Framework on Reparations for Victims of Boko Haram.”
“We note that the vast majority of the victims are the economically and socially vulnerable including women and girls, children, elderly and those that have been tortured, who continue to suffer stigma, social exclusion, and re-victimisation as a consequence of the lack of reparations, medical treatment and assistance to overcome the impact of the conflict between the government of Nigeria and Boko Haram.”
“We note that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed that from January 2013 to March 2015, 356 reported incidents of killings can be attributed to Boko Haram in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Plateau, Kano, the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), Gombe, Kaduna, and Bauchi. The ICC also stated that 55 incidents of abductions were committed by the Islamist sect between January 2014 and March 2015, involving at least 1,885 abductees mostly from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.”
“We also note that the ICC has confirmed that between January 2012 and October 2013, 70 teachers and more than 100 schoolchildren and students were reportedly killed or wounded. In May 2014, Nigeria Union of Teachers reported that at least 173 teachers had been killed between 2009 and 2014, Borno State officials have cited a slightly higher figure of 176 teachers. At least 50 schools were either burned down or badly damaged and 60 more were forced to close.”
“We are further concerned that victims are dying needlessly, deaths that are avoidable if urgent and continuous medical attentions are provided. Cases of first-degree burns, cornea opacity, compound fractures and orthopedic cases, limb amputees, tympanic membrane and osicular bone damages on the ear, keloid skins, intensive nerve and tissue injuries and so on, are regularly reported.”
“For these victims, the absence of reparations has continued to impede their ability to resume their lives and move beyond the trauma they have endured and continue to suffer. We note that Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which affirms the rights of victims of armed conflict to reparations and in fact creates a Trust Fund for Victims.”
“We believe that a legal framework for reparations for victims of Boko Haram will serve as the beginning of a process of compensation and dignification for victims. We also believe that reparations have profound ethical and political implications and is an important component of the process of justice and accountability. Reparations for victims can also generate civic trust, re-establish the damaged relationship between citizens and the State, and ultimately help to consolidate the country’s democratic experience and the rule of law.”
“For the purpose of the Framework and the National Register victims should be defined to include persons who individually or collectively suffer harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, including the immediate family or dependants of the direct victims and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimisation.”