By Joy Odor
The Co-chair Nigeria Working Group on the Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights, Mr Joel Bisina has lamented that effort to use VPs as a tool to address security and human rights concerns in Nigeria were not successful due to a lack of synergy and coordination in the various approaches and engagement as cross-pillar collaboration was lacking.
The Co-Chair made this known during his welcome address at the National Conference on Strengthening the implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in Abuja on Tuesday.
Such problems, he said, are dearth of empirical information to support, assess, and evaluate the group’s strategy, operations and impacts on the ground.
According to him, the backdrop necessitated the gathering of the various constituencies to discuss how they would utilized the VPs as a mechanism to provide mutually acceptable solutions to the security and human rights concerns in Nigeria’s extractive industry.
Mr Bisina explained that VPs complaint business environment with greater mechanism of host Government to monitor and ensure lmplementation and compliance have great potential to promote investors confidence and attract foreign direct investment.
“In this Respect, the VPs serves multiple purpose of promoting a human rights respecting business environment, conflict de-escalation in the business environment and an investment friendly country reputation profile.
“VPs as it is commonly known, mandate businesses to conduct comprehensive risk assessments, define clear human rights compliant relationships that take into account national laws and international human rights instruments with private security service providers and public security forces deployed to their facilities” he said.
The Co-chair commended the Nigerian Government for creating an enabling environment for the Working Group to carry out it’s programs and operations through Representatives desk officials from various MDAs, despite the fact that the nation is yet to sign up as VPs priority country by VPs Streering Committee along Ghana and Myanmar.
Mr Bisina thanked all and sundry for their tremendous efforts to promote security and human rights as well as their service to the communities and Nigeria.
In his Keynote address, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tony Ojukwu (SAN) was of the opinion that the Commission keen participation in the process is in recognition of how necessary it is for the Nigerian government to commit itself to promoting human rights even while promoting business interests in the country.
He said this is because the Commission serves as an extra judicial mechanism for the enhancement of the respect for and enjoyment of human rights and provides avenues for public enlightenment, research and dialogue to raise awareness on human rights issues.
Mr Tony Ojukwu noted that the Commission with the mandate to promote and protect human rights in Nigeria, in demonstrating its interest in the initiative, has not only appointed a desk officer and creating a programme area in this regard, but has led the NWG to canvas for Nigeria to join the Initiative through series of courtesy calls that has yielded tremendous result.
He maintained that it lies on Nigerian government to become a member of the Voluntary Principles Association as government has an obligation to regulate businesses with its territory.
” Important of this membership has been stated severally in the advocacy papers of the National Working Group which have been presented to various key persons in government and which have been well received.
“It is my hope that we conclude the processes necessary for Nigeria to accede to the VPis and thus develop a platform for cooperation and collaboration with businesses, civil society, communities, the media and indeed” he added.
Declaring the Conference open, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama said the relationship between host communities and extractive sector particularly the Petroleum industries have been unfriendly owing to the problems of pollution and environmental damage which he said often disrupts the people’s means of livelihood thereby breeding restiveness.
Represented by the Acting Director of International Organisations, Ambassador Nasir Ameno the Minister informed that the world faces interconnected crises of climate chonge and biodiversity loss which Individually and in combination, aggravate poverty, inequalities and food insecutily.
He said climate change aftects all nations, which makes It imperative for them to share knowedge to miligate the effects of the polluted environment.
Mr Onyeama added that the call for stringent mitigation measures for the use of Cleon energy cannot be overlooked.
Contributing, the Country Representatives of Switzerland, Australia, and Canada assured that Nigeria would benefit if she promotes and protects human rights as the security and welfare of the masses should be the priority of government so as to maintain peace.