By Margaret John
In a bid to curtail the continuous perpetuation of mass atrocity in Nigeria, “We The People” a non-governmental organization has organized a four-day boot camp for prevention and advocacy against atrocities.
The camp which held at Owerri, Imo State began on Wednesday 10th through Saturday 13th April, 2019 and had in attendance participants comprised of representatives from various NGOs, youth groups and the media from Cross River and Rivers State.
The camp was focused on the need for people in the Niger Delta to begin to change the narrative and to ensure that citizens are aware of the various forms of atrocities, the key perpetuators of these atrocities as well as the role of Government in the curbing of mass atrocities.
Opening the event, the Convener of the camp and leader of “We The People” organization, Mr. Ken Henshaw stated that the organization was set up “as a response to vices in the society” adding that “we have become a society that is consistently tolerant of violence.”
Some of the key issues raised during the course of the training include the perpetuation of atrocities by state and non-state actors. The state actors include security operatives, authority figures in the State, while non-state actors are gangs and communal killings.
Also, he stated that potential drivers of atrocities include the attitude of law enforcement agents, elections and political vices, government inaction, escalation of communal wars, the alarming rise of gangs, the culture of silence and lack of outrage, etc.
Mr. Henshaw later averred that the purpose for creating the initiative was to “build the capacity of the people and encourage them to engage the government.
“There were many questions that needed answers; social incidents that needed our intervention. I wanted to change the strategy, I felt that we as NGO were replacing the people engaging the Government as intermediaries but liberators don’t exist, the people liberate themselves.” He said.
The second speaker, Mr. Cheta Nwaeze who narrated brief history of atrocities that have occurred in Nigeria posited that documentation is relevant in the fight to curb mass atrocities as facts act as evidence in posterity.
Mr. Nwaeze said, “Document facts so that justice can be served. All of these atrocities have undertones of economic links. Forcing the Government to be accountable will need sustained mass action.”
On his Mr. Omobude ‘Left’ Agho who stressed the need for Nigerians to know their constituted rights and how to exercise them emphasizing that “if one is ignorant of the laws of the land, one can be easily deceived and that change comes from acquired intellectual knowledge about the power we have.”
Another facilitator who spoke on the rights of the citizens as it concerns life and safety, Mrs. Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya, a Legal Practitioner who brought to light the fact that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens as contained in the Nigerian constitution.
“Every nation has laws that protect lives but whose responsibility is it to uphold these laws? The primary reason of Government is to protect its citizens. The State has the obligation to protect human rights and must be actively involved in ensuring the full enjoyment of those rights. The domestic system is the principle that can enforce the human rights of its citizens.” She maintained.
At the end of the sessions, several resolutions were made to tackle the rising issue of mass atrocities ranging from making citizens aware of their right to life with the fact that change can only come from acquired knowledge of the laws of the land and to provide victims of atrocities the support and platform to demand justice from State institutions.
Finally, participants were urged to return and mount pressure on agencies with different levels of responsibility for curbing atrocities to act in accordance with their mandate, to the extent that it becomes unlikely for those agencies to remain complacent.
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