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The role of women in Countering Violence Extremism: the Nigerian experience with Boko Haram

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While many resources have been dedicated to Countering Violent Extremism efforts, little attention has been paid to the role women play in the Boko Haram insurgency and responses to it in Nigeria, says Idayat Hassan.
The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), popularly referred to as Boko Haram, has been waging a war against the Nigerian state for the past seven years. The insurgency has claimed over twenty thousand lives, displaced over two million people, and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of personal and public property.
This insurgency and counter-insurgency (COIN) is being waged by three distinct actors: the government of Nigeria, Boko Haram, and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). While many resources have been dedicated to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts, little attention has been paid to the role women play in promoting or participating in the insurgency and counterinsurgency.
Of the aforementioned organisations, only Boko Haram and the CJTF have integrated gender into their terrorism and counter-terrorism efforts. Boko Haram has played on the common perception of women as nonviolent to effortlessly mainstream women into their operations, using them to gather intelligence, as recruiters, and promoters of radical ideologies to indoctrinate abductees and other converts in Boko Haram enclaves. In fact, the sects have allegedly preyed on women’s grievances relating to marginalisation, inequality, and alienation to recruit more women into its folds. In other cases, women are unwilling perpetrators and are forced into becoming suicide bombers, sex slaves, and forced labourers.
There is a growing awareness on the significance of mainstreaming women into Prevention and Countering of violent extremism (P/CVE). The UN Security Council in several of its resolutions has affirmed the importance of including women in P/CVE processes and their implementation. For instance, Security Council resolution 2129 reaffirms the Council’s objective to “increase its attention to women, peace and security issues in all relevant thematic areas of work on its agenda, including in threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”
The importance of women in the P/CVE process cannot be overemphasised as women occupy several twinning roles within the community, and their perception and reaction differs. However, the counter insurgency strategy in Nigeria so far has not seized the opportunity of women’s unique roles and, importantly, their perspectives in the prevention and countering of violent extremism [1].
The Civilian Joint Task Force
The CJTF was formed in June 2013 out of necessity. The motivations behind its creation were the frustrations of the people of Bornu, particularly young people. As the government’s campaign against Boko Haram intensified, hundreds of youth were caught in the crossfire of the military and Boko Haram, resulting in the arbitrary detention of several youths by security agencies. Later, the government issued a declaration of a state of emergency in the states of Bornu, Yobe and Adamawa, which resulted in extreme economic hardship for civilians, compounded by rampant killings of the locals by Boko Haram.
At present, the CJTF boasts between 25,000 – 36,000 members including both men and women [2] and presently operates as a pro-government paramilitary force, similar to the Sons of Iraq or Afghan Local Police (ALP). The CJTF, with its knowledge of local terrain, language, and intelligence gathering capabilities, has contributed largely to the successes [3] recorded so far in Nigeria’s counter-insurgency efforts.
The CJTF was the first to incorporate women into their counter-insurgency operations and currently have between 50-100 female members. Female members’ responsibilities include conducting pat-downs of women in churches, mosques and other public places, gathering intelligence, and arresting suspected female insurgents. The North East has experienced many attacks by Boko Haram, and through the efforts of the female CJTF members, several attacks have been prevented successful intelligence gatherings.
In an expose with female CJTF, members recounted their experiences in intelligence gathering, detecting Boko Haram members, and acting as bait. According to the women, they search women before they enter public places such as mosques, weddings or other festivals, most importantly because of the Islamic religious and cultural system which forbids non related men from entering women’ homes, the female CJTF members easily help in arresting female Boko Haram members in their abode[4].
In an interview with Daily Trust, Murjanatu Umar explained how they have been instrumental to the arrests of potential female suicide bombers and enlightenment campaign they run for women and girls on safety. According to one of the Sectors Commanders of the CJTF in Bornu State, Baba Shehu Abduganiu, women have effectively contributed to prosecuting the war against insurgency.
Human rights violations
Despite reported successes, there have still been over 100[5] suicide bombing so far executed by girls and women in the North East since Boko Haram commenced the use of female suicide bombers around June 2014. The CJTF has also committed grave and serious human rights violations, in particular extra judicial killings, arson, and sexual and gender based violence against women.
There are several reported cases of alleged rape of girls and women as well as reports of coerced sex for food and protection in the internally displaced person’s (IDP) camps. The female members of the CJTF have been singled out for perpetrating violence against other women in the course of carrying out their vigilante duties. In fact, all the actors in the prosecution of the war against insurgency have been indicted for perpetrating egregious human rights violations. It is important for the government to define what accountability for these crimes will look like post-insurgency, as blanket amnesty will not bode well for sustainable peace in Nigeria
Women and counter-insurgency
The Nigerian government has made no discernible efforts to integrate women in counter insurgency operations forgetting the fact that women were reputed enablers of the insurgents’ activities and therefore should constitute strong target in the deradicalisation, disarmament and reintegration processes considering their huge but different power base spanning the socio, economic, cultural and economic bases.
Although the country has developed a National Action Plan to fulfill UN Security Council Resolution 1325, this is not reflected in the ongoing armed conflict between the Nigerian state and Boko Haram. For example, while women and children are most affected by the insurgency, there are few women involved in COIN operations, with government forces estimated to be 98 percent male. This is largely responsible for the gender based violence ongoing in the IDP camps. For instance, there are rife allegations of women and girls being coerced into sex in return for food or other favours, as well as rape and assault, among other vices.
Following a recent report by Human Rights Watch on the molestation of women in the IDP camps, the Nigerian government has deployed 100 female police to Bornu State to protect women in the camps. According to the police commissioner Damian Chukwu, the deployment of the female police officers will ensure the protection of women.
Post-conflict palliatives
Most of the post-conflict plans for the North East do not include the role of women in the rebuilding or specify their needs. For instance, the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA) blueprint developed by the government of Nigeria, World Bank, and other development partners, conceptualises gender as a cross-cutting theme and while emphasising the importance of addressing gender-based violence never dedicated a specific portion of the plan to gender despite the impact of the insurgency on women and children.
Similarly, the 714 page Buhari Plan – the working document of the Presidential Committee on the North East (PCNI) – only emphasises gender based violence with palliatives such as economic empowerment and psychological support. The lack of substantial gender inclusion similarly applies to the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST). None of these blueprints have put women at the negotiation table nor do they work effectively at redressing the alarming gap in women’s participation in the governance processes that predates the insurgency. They have also not adequately explored the intersectionality between gender, peace, and security, and the centrality of gender in CVE and preventing violent extremism (PVE).
Furthermore, there is little or no local ownership of the P/CVE process and women have faced many challenges when trying to participate. Challenges include an overall lack of accountability within the process, trust deficit, lack of funding and access to funders, and trouble deciphering what P/CVE means exactly for effective programming within communities. A significant research gap continues to exist on women in CVE processes. It is time for the Nigerian government to take women’s issues and opinions more seriously.
The inclusion of women in P/CVE processes as well as peace and security matters writ large – as policy makers, negotiators, and as crafters of transitional justice mechanisms are valuable first steps towards building sustainable peace in Nigeria.
Immediately prioritise the recruitment of women in the security forces particularly Nigerian Police Forces for post conflict reconstruction in the North East.

  1. Define the accountability mechanism for ensuring peace, justice, and reconciliation in the North East.
  2. Mainstream women effectively into all government and donor led reconstruction programs, donors should ensure funding is specifically appropriated to women’s participation.
  3. Strengthen the participation of women in political processes at local, state and national levels.
  4. The Nigerian government, the World Bank, and their other partners should commit to consulting with women around the post-insurgency governance process.
  5. International donors, multilateral agencies and the Nigerian government should provide resources to explore the intersectionality between gender, peace, and security, and the centrality of gender in P/CVE in North East Nigeria.
  6. The Nigerian Government should designate resources to psychological support for women and children.
  7. The government must make provide for at least 30 percent women representation in all post conflict reconstruction plans and committees.

[1] The lack of women representation in the P/CVE process itself prevents the messages from reaching the intended beneficiaries.
[2] Interview with CJTF state coordinator Abba Aji Kalil May 3rd, 2016, Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja
[3] The Nigerian government have declared a technical defeat on the insurgents, the areas captured by the insurgents equalling the size of Switzerland have so far been recaptured, ground zero, Sambisa forest, the enclave of the insurgents have also been captured by the government forces.
[4] Interview with CJTF, Centre for Democracy and Development, October 25, Maiduguri, Bornu State
[5] Centre for Democracy and Development Ecowas Counter terrorism tracker, see also Baseline on Boko Haram CDD forthcoming.
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Nigerians demand immediate action on transperacy, acoountability and your support for the fight against corruption

By Fact ChecksNo Comments

February 21, 2017
His Excellency
President of the Senate,
National Assembly Complex,
Three Arms Zone,
The National Assembly is an important arm in the triangular governance structure of Nigeria. As the arm of government responsible for making laws for the country, and following up with oversight functions to ensure compliance by other arms of government, the centrality of the National Assembly in a democracy cannot be overstated.
Within the National Assembly, the Senate is the lead chamber responsible for many important decisions of the law-making body. This also places the Senate President, as the Chairman of the National Assembly. It is for these reasons that we choose to address this letter to you, and by extension the 108 other Senators.
Recall that through individual citizens and coalitions of civil society organisations, Nigerians have for a long time been expressing desire for a National Assembly that is responsive, responsible and fully accountable to the people whose interests the members ought to represent.
However, with all the entreaties, advocacies and agitations, the Senate has failed to lead in providing the needed leadership for a more accountable system both within the National Assembly and in the larger governance architecture.
It is in furtherance of these agitations that we find it expedient to once again engage the Senate leadership on these pro-people demands as enumerated below:

  1. Opening-up the National Assembly budget to public scrutiny:

Transparency is key to operating an orderly and accountable system. It is an essential ingredient in the fight against corruption. It is for this reason that citizens in a democracy have a fundamental right to know and ask questions where necessary. For this same reason,Nigerians have been advocating for openness and accountability in the operations of government. It is commendable that the 8th National Assembly recently compelled such hitherto opaque agencies like FIRS, CBN and NNPC to subject their budget to scrutiny. It is, therefore, important that the National Assembly follows the rule it has set for other agencies and institutions by making its own budget open for public scrutiny.

  1. Cutting running cost:

The Senate has been accused of maintaining a bloated budget. Considering the prevailing economic situation in the country, we urge it to do an immediate review of its budget and spending, streamlining it in consonance with not only the present realities of the country but the everyday living conditions of majority of Nigerians.

  1. Commitment to transparency and accountability through asset declaration:

We urge you and other principal officers of the Senate to show commitment to transparency and accountability by publicly declaring your assets. We demand urgent status declaration of pensions and gratuities received by former Governors and Deputy governors presently in the Red Chamber and receiving multiple housing and transportation allowances both as former state executives and serving Senators. We also urge you as the leader of the National Assembly to set an example by making your declaration of asset public.

  1. Investigate allegation of corruption against the Senate leadership:

You would recall that a few weeks ago, a rights group, Citizens Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN) accused you, your deputy, as well the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy, of using the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to perpetrate financial fraud totaling over six hundred and thirty million Naira. For the sake of probity and the integrity of the Senate, we urge an independent inquiry into the allegations. Such unattended accusations have the unsavory effect of undermining the public standing of this important organ of governance.

  1. Demonstrate commitment to the fight against corruption:

One of the cardinal objectives of the current government of which you are a principal officer is the fight against corruption. You will agree that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is central to the government’s anti-corruption effort. As the leader of a Senate that has on several occasions expressed its commitment to the war against corruption, it is important that you put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that the issue of a substantive chairman for the EFCC is dealt with as expeditiously and transparently as possible.

  1. Expedite the passage of the Special Crimes Courts Bill and other anti-corruption related bills.

The objective of the Special Crimes Courts Bill,asstated in its title, is: “An Act to provide for the establishment of a Special Crimes Court as a superior court of record to allow for speedy trials of certain offences, including economic and financial crimes, terrorism, money laundering, corruption offences and for related matters.”The lack of passageof this bill and other related bills is delaying theadjudication of criminal cases. It is, therefore, imperative to have thesespecialized courts and other laws enacted in good time.

  1. Sir, we respectfully demand immediate action on the issues raised hereabove. These actions must go beyond the usual platitudes and politically correct assurances. This is a first step in pressing for these demands. We are, therefore, giving the Senate two weeks from the date of this letter, to show good faith in addressing the issues raised above.
  2. If the Senate fails to act swiftly on these issues, we will be left with no option but to mobilize Nigerians from all walks of life to mount an occupation of the Senate.

Do accept, distinguished Senate President, the assurances of our highest regards.
Olanrewaju Suraju: Civil Society Network Against Corruption
Jibrin Ibrahim, PhD:
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani – Executive Director –Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Eze Nwagwu – Say No Campaign
Faith Nwadishi – Executive Director –Centre for Gender and Development
Yunusa Zakari Ya’u: Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Chido Onumah – Coordinator –African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Naseer Kura – Executive Director – Basic Rights Action (BRA)
Debo Adeniran – Executive Director – Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)
Kemi Okenyodo: Partners WestAfrica, Nigeria
Ibrahim Modibbo – Executive Director – Democrats of Conscience
Shamsideen Yusuf  –Centre for Democracy and Development
Muhammed Attah – Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative
Dr.George-Hill Anthony – Niger-Delta Budget Monitoring Group
Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi – Citizen United for Peace and Stability (CUPS)
Emeka Betram – Executive Director – Person with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET)

Why we don’t need a Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF)

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My colleague at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) participated in the recent senate public hearing on the proposed Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF) Bill, which according to its sponsor; Senator Buhari Abdulfatai is aimed at executing projects that would promote government presence in each of the state constituencies.This Bill obviously is in conflict with the creation and functions of local government administration in the country.In Nigeria, constituency project has become a source of financing to those in authority, privileged enough to directly allocate the scarce resource, either to themselves or their cronies. Since the constituency project debate began, there have been a lot of myths, misunderstandings, and confusions about the constituency project administration in Nigeria.
The idea of a constituency fund committee to be supervised by the respective law maker is a misplaced role; arguably borne out by the desire by law makers to show visible evidence of “dividends of democracy” to their constituencies. The other is the claim by the law makers that they are well placed to know what their constituencies really want, this argument is defective. I think law makers, should know better that there is no constituency that solely belongs to them. For instance, the chairperson of a local government area is in-charge of that local area constituency; the governor of the state is in-charge of the state constituency. The Nigeria constituency falls within the purview of the President, who was elected by votes from every constituency in the country.Let me say that the duty of law makers is to make laws for the good governance of the country. The constitution has rightly provided that demarcation; which is called ‘separation of power’. There are three tiers of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary, each having a specific role under the law. Nigeria is a federal state – national, state and local government administration – with each tier having specific exclusive or concurrent responsibility.
In our system of government, the local government authority is the true third tier of the country’s federalism. Among the functions of local government is the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lightnings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as maybe prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State. For me, these functions align with the aim of CDCF “executing projects that would promote government presence in each of the state constituencies.” Local government exists to be the government closest to the people, in which case, the tier that promotes government presence at each state constituency. Law makers cannot usurp constituency to them nor claim that they are closest to the people.
By introducing the law on constituency fund – which isn’t a very bad idea, but situating the supervision with the national assembly members is an obvious departure from the traditional constitutional role of the legislature under the doctrine of separation of powers, and usurpation of the role of the executive by the legislature. It is important to state, that the challenge of development in rural areas led to the creation of local government areas. Local government systems in the country has been incapacitated dues to conflicting laws and CDCF will be another reason while local government in the country hasn’t lived up to their expectation, in terms of rural development.
Let’s avoid another round of disputes between members of the executive and the law makers on the issue of inclusion of constituency projects in the budgets. In the past, budgets have been delayed because of the inclusion of constituency projects. Rather than create a CDCF, the law makers can ensure that the country’s local authority function optimally, by promoting laws that will engender true decentralization in the country. The law makers should promote laws that enhance the functionality of the local government system in the country.
Like CDD, I am also concerned that the Bill challenges the autonomy of the local government administration and I do not support the approach of the Bill to circumvent the strictly oversight role of the legislature stipulated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Austin Aigbe