On August 28th, CIVIC’s Africa Director William Meeker was invited to speak at a Media Discussion on Nigeria’s Proposed National Policy on Protection of Civilians in Conflict Situations. The event was hosted by National Human Rights Commission, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS)-Nigeria Chapter, and Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC). His remarks are below.

Good morning. Tony Ojukwu with NHRC, Biola Shotunde of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies- Nigeria Chapter, esteemed members of NHRC and ACSS, ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for joining us today. Thank you to Mr. Ojukwu for hosting us today.

My name is William Meeker, Africa Director for Center for Civilians in Conflict, or CIVIC. CIVIC is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection of civilians in conflict. We work directly with governments, policy-makers, armed actors, and communities affected by conflict to find practical solutions that prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm.

In Nigeria, CIVIC engages with the national and state governments, military, and communities to promote the protection of civilians. We support the development of policies, programs, and training to minimize civilian harm during the conduct of military operations. In the northeast, CIVIC works closely with communities affected by the conflict as well as security providers.

Today we commend – and encourage – an important policy initiative. The Federal Republic of Nigeria has taken meaningful steps to develop its own approach to better protect civilians – the National Policy on Protection of Civilians (POC) in Conflict Situations. This draft POC policy was commended by the UN Secretary General António Guterres in his recent report to the UN Security Council on protection of civilians. On July 19th, the Honourable Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed, announced that the Federal Republic would adopt the POC policy very soon.

We all know that civilians suffer disproportionally from conflict. In the northeast, many civilians have lost their lives or suffered grave injuries over the last nine years. Many more have lost husbands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and community members. People have lost their homes and their means of livelihood. Security forces have likewise faced death, injury, and incredibly difficult conditions.

Now is the time to recommit to the protection of civilians – and Nigeria’s proposed POC policy does just that.

CIVIC supports the development of policies and programs to better protect civilians around the world.

If adopted, this policy would place Nigeria in a select group of countries in the world that are raising the bar on protecting civilians’ lives and well-being. This is an opportunity for Nigeria to send a signal that it will be a leader in Africa and beyond on improving the protection of civilians. CIVIC strongly endorses the policy and stands ready to assist the government and communities in its implementation.

Thank you very much for your time.