Group seeks vetting of Nigerian soldiers, police officers for peace-keeping assignments

“There has to be serious concern that some of those involved in such violations may be selected for UN peacekeeping…”

Following reported cases of human rights abuses and acts of unprofessional conducts perpetrated by men of the Nigerian Army and Police Force, a report on the Vetting and Selection of UN Peacekeepers has demanded a “prompt development of a National Policy on Peacekeeping Support Operations in line with the 2012 UN policy on human rights screening.

The report, which is a brainchild of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in conjunction with the Open Society Foundations, observed that this is imperative following cases of human rights violation by Nigerian troops and police officers in peace-keeping assignments.

The Executive Director of CISLAC, Awul Rafsanjani, said the repeated cases of rights violations and abuses by Nigerian troops on peace-keeping assignments have undermined the image of the country in the international community.

“For instance, the conduct of Nigerian forces in Liberia in the 1990s where they were implicated in the sexual abuse of many women resulting in many unwanted pregnancies and the recent case in 2011 when a unit of a Nigerian police peacekeeping contingent was withdrawn from Congo for sexual misconduct have damaged Nigeria’s international reputation,” he said.

Mr. Rafsanjani also observed that there is no mechanism in the army or police to sift out soldiers and policemen accused of rape and sexual violence from participating in international peace-keeping operations.

“There has to be serious concern that some of those involved in such violations may be selected for UN peacekeeping and that another Congo situation could present itself.

“Similarly, some of the Nigerian forces currently serving with the African Union forces in the Central African Republic could become UN peacekeepers. Among them could also be people who have committed serious human rights violations at home in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr. Rafsanjani observed that the lack of published vetting system within the army and inadequate cross-referencing between departments in the army has given rise to a situation where soldiers selected for peace-keeping operations are picked based on socio-economic, ethnic, and political factors.

“There is no doubt that these factors have resulted in selection of unqualified candidates for peacekeeping operations and indeed other selection processes. The research found that no fewer than 211 Nigerian soldiers out of 1,377 vetted in 2012 to receive American training were rejected or suspended by the U.S. on the basis of human rights concerns. The high level of corruption that has permeated the selection, recruitment, promotion and abuse of policies and procedures in the Nigerian Army is closely connected to this.”

Following years of military rule, especially after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the report stated that professionalism and efficiency of the Nigerian police has nosedived to a pitiable level.

It also observed the “lack of human right training during recruitment at the existing Police Academies and Police Training Schools in Nigeria.”

The continuous expansion in the size of the police force and decline in professionalism and effectiveness in part of the force over the years has resulted in poor policing in the country. It explains how financial rewards have influenced selection for peacekeeping assignments.

The report also stated that just like in the army, there are “no published guidelines or standards setting out the peacekeeping selection policies for police officers. The Force only requires its officers to have a minimum of five years of police service to participate in either UN or African Union operations. Despite documented evidence on widespread and systematic abuse by police, including torture and extra-judicial killings occurring regardless of the government in power, there is little or no accountability and it cannot be excluded that those sent on peacekeeping have been involved in such violations.”

The report therefore made 9 recommendations:

1. The development of relevant policies on sexual exploitation and abuse, and investigations of human rights violations by the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Police Force;

2. Speedy and full integration of women into the pool of peacekeeping operations in both the military and the police;

3. Establishment of Peacekeeping Operations Offices in all arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces;

4. Thorough screening for human rights violations as a system to monitor the selection of all contributor components for peacekeeping;

5. Development of a functional and easy-to-mine database on the conduct of members of Armed Forces and the Nigerian Police;

6. Involvement of the National Human Rights Commission in vetting for both the Nigerian Armed Forces and Police;

7. Fast-tracking the establishment of a Peacekeeping Training Institute for the Police alongside institutional supports;

8. Adequate review of the curricula of all military and police training institutions with a view to mainstream human rights and gender issues in their programmes and

9. Strengthening oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in the payment of peacekeepers’ allowances, among others.

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