LITE AFRICA and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Formed Coalition on Bussiness and Human Rights
In a bid to ensuring a safe space for peace and development action for human development and foster good governance, Leadership Initiative for Transformation Empowerment (LITE) AFRICA in collaboration with Cordiad on thursday 25th September 2014, organised One-Day Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Roundtable Meeting on Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Right (VPs) in Warri – Delta State.
The sole aim of this roundtable meeting being to achieve a strong base CSO Coalition on Business and Human Rights through which Voluntary Principle on Security and Human Rights could be seen as a worthwhile framework to safeguarding the rights of the host communities from being trampled upon by the IOCs and other extractive companies domiciled within their localities.
Gross human right violation necessitated the introduction of Voluntary Principles on Security and Human rights (VPs) by the USA and United Kingdom in the year 2000. Voluntary principles is not an environmental framework; it is a sector-specific framework said Jerry Nwigwe, senior programme officer, LITE Africa.
Mr Jerry Nwigwe, host and senior programme of Lite Africa
While briefing the attendee at the roundtable meeting on the benefits of incorporating Voluntary Principles into the country’s policy, he said in order to prevent injustice and incessant grievances between the host communities and extractives companies, they have taken it upon themselves to develop a working strategy by building capacities of both the communities and IOCs and other extractive companies. The first capacity building of this sort was with Shell Petroleum Company and its host communty back in 2003.
He further noted that lack of reliable structure like Voluntary Principles which are non binding soft laws that offer guidance to companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations is the bane and as a matter of urgency, Nigeria should take up the challenge and address the issue of human right violation through the use VPs just like other nations of the world including our neighbouring country, Ghana being the only country in Africa with VPs policy.
He alluded the need for us to know the three key elements of VPs which are:
-Risk assessment: This helps companies develop human rights risk assessment policies and procedures.
-Interaction with Public security: This acknowledged the role of government to provide security and ensure that law and order is maintained and human rights are respected.
-Interaction with private security: This he said will only happen if host government are unable to provide adequate security to protect a company’s personnel/assets.
Mr Obiora, a representative of National Human Right Commission and a spokesperson said VPs seems relatively new to most Nigerians therefore there would be need for steady advocacy and public enlightenment. This is to also achieve better re-orientation of the people. He also said Human Right Commission would need to seek the involvement of National Assembly as well as Ministry of Justice for the successful enactment of VPs in the country.
Mr Obiora addressing the CSOs
It was indeed an intense interactive session and wide range of issues and questions were raised for effective deliberations amongst Civil society organisations present. The highpoint of the interaction was when the question of how do host communities benefits mostly from VPs initiative. Among other issues discussed were on
-The major causes of insecurity in the extractive sector.
-The Mechanisms that are being put in place by IOCs and other companies to prevent the violation of human rights particularly that of the host communities.
-How to carry out the re-orientation for the people so as to expedite the realisation of VPs in the country.
-How to integrate the host communties into the CSOs workplan towards VPs as well as possible Grievance Mechanism.
All these questions and many more were discussed.
Constitution and inauguration of the steering Committee and the Working groups were discussed. The selection of the Steering Committee for this Coalition were done by open ballot voting with Mr John, Owerri Regional Head, Kleen Foundation emerged as the Chairman of The Steering Committee. Other untouched issues were adjourned till the next general meeting.