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Military urged to adopt civilian harm mitigation measures

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Babatunde Opalana 

A Civil-Military relations expert, Grp Capt. Shehu Sadeeq (rtd) has called on the Nigeria military and security forces to intensify the adoption of population friendly methods in their operations during conflict situations to minimize civilian casualties and improve on the image of the Nigerian military within and outside the country.

Sadeeq, a former Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Nigerian Air Force (NAF), said since majority of the conflict situations experienced in Nigeria in recent times are civilian oriented, the military and security forces need to strengthen what he called ‘Civilian Harm Mitigation Measures’.

The expert, who is currently the Senior Military Adviser (Lake Chad Basin Region and Nigeria) with the Centre for Civilians in Conflict, a Washington DC, US based non-governmental organization, gave this charge on Friday while delivering a paper at a training programme organized by the Directorate of Military Training for cadets of 64 Regular Short Service Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), in Kaduna on Friday.

Stressing that there is no perfect military forces all over the world, he pointed out that the Nigerian military can adopt measure practicable in other countries in discharging their professional duties which include reduction of infliction of harms on defenceless civilians during conflict and or war situations.

To do this, he said, there are strategies and methods needed to be put in place before, during and after each conflict situation to drastically reduce the number of civilian casualties, this, he added, is the core focus of the Centre for Civilians in Conflict, which the organization has been impacting on military forces in countries around the world.

“When conflicts happen, if civilians are harmed through non-deliberate actions of the military, the military need to first acknowledge what has happened, see what remedies we can give, go back to the drawing table to see why harming the civilians has happened. Is it one process that we need to improve upon or a process we need to do away with to avoid such in the future.” he said this is what the Centre helps the military to achieve.

Continuing, he said, “if you adopt the population friendly methods of doing the work, you will gain immensely and it will make your job easy. The local population will cooperate with you, they will not be hostile to you and sometimes vital information that will help in your operation will come from them.

“Now, if despite putting these Civilians Harm Mitigation methods in place, civilians are still harmed, we advocate that the military recognize that this harm has occurred and try to compensate people that have been affected. That is the purpose.”

Grp Capt. Sadeeq who told the participants that civilians in the country made up about 90 percent of the people affected during conflict situations by being killed, injured or suffer loses of houses and other properties and their livelihood, said everything must be done professionally by the Nigerian military to avoid violation of civilians.

The Centre, he continued, he said is ready to work with the military in finding solutions by drafting workable policies and procedures that will ensure that civilian harm is mitigated, if not completely eliminated.

He appreciated the leadership of the Nigerian military through the office of the Director of Military Training for availing the young cadets the opportunity of tapping from the wealth of military knowledge provided by the Centre, which has trained military institutions and personnel in several other countries.

 

This is the group photograph taken at the NDA event

“We have worked in many other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently we are working in South Sudan, we are working in Yemen and we are working in Nigeria as you can see and generally Lake Chad Basin Region. Our work with Nigeria now involves collaboration with military institutions through the Defence Headquarters for Armed Forces. Not only armed forces, are we in training arrangement with the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Civil Defence”, he stated.

He pointed out that the Centre is having its first training with the NDA as part of her outreach to make sure that the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Protection training is inculcated in all major institutions of the Nigerian military and security forces.

While stressing that different NGOs have their peculiar methods of advocacy, the Centre, he emphasized, does not split violation stories, rather, it is interested in working with the military forces to see that things are done in the right way to better their lot and improve on their operations.

Speaking on the aim of the training, the Director of Military Training, Brig-Gen. M Kangye said it is part of training programmes put in place yearly to equip cadets for military challenges ahead of them after their graduation from the NDA, saying that some of the cadets will definitely be posted to conflict areas.

He said: “We organised this training so that our passing out cadets will be equipped with the tactical knowledge of what to do when they find themselves in such conflict scenarios painted by the guest lecturer.

“They would be able to apply the knowledge impacted on them from these series of lectures. But, if they pass out and never heard all of these or were not equipped with these knowledge, in the field they wouldn’t be able to apply what they don’t learn.”

 

 


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