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OPERATION SAFE CORRIDOR: The Deradicalisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants

By Democracy, Human Rights, PublicationNo Comments

Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy and Development & Dr. Laura Routley, Newcastle University

Introduction

This report presents some preliminary findings of the de-radicalization and reintegration program, aimed at Boko Haram ex-combatant undertaken as part of the federal government of Nigeria’s Operation Safe Corridor (OSC).  The research looks to explore how these processes of deradicalisation, and rehabilitation are understood to have worked by asking key questions about:

  • How staff and clients of the program conceive the de-radicalization programs they are implementing/undertaking? And how successful they have been? 
  • What kinds of changes staff are looking to achieve and perceive they have achieved in detainees?
  • What practices/program/interventions they perceive to be effective in achieving these changes?
  • What they see as the constraints on their ability to reform/de-radicalize detainees?

Understanding how this program is supposed to effect change can encourage discussions about improving these processes and ways in which others can learn from the program’s successes and failures. It also provides insights into how the Nigerian government, and the other agencies involved, comprehend processes of deradicalisation and reintegration.

In the process of undertaking the research the focus shifted not only to the camp itself but to the communities that deradicalized ex-fighters were to be reintegrated.  As Clubb and Tapley (2018) have highlighted it is reintegration which is both a key measure and driver of the success of these kinds of deradicalization programmes.

 A Note on Methodology

The findings of this report are based on interviews and focus groups conducted between July and December 2019 but are shaped by CDD’s long engagement with transitional justice in Northern Nigeria (for example see Hassan and Tyvoll 2018). 

Interviews were conducted with thirty-three ex-combatants, seventeen of whom were currently in special holding and sixteen of whom had been reintegrated into their community.  These interviews explored their experience of the programme and of reintegration.  As well as how they thought their views and behaviours had been reshaped by the programme.  Staff involved in the programme were also interviewed with five of interviews being undertaken with staff implementing the programme this included those engaged in the deradicalisation, administration and oversighting of the Initiative at the Advisory Committee level. These explored how they understood the programme to work what changes they were looking for in clients and the conditions and activities they considered would achieve these.  Members of thirty communities where ex-combatants have been reintegrated were also interviewed.  Through these interviews we aimed to understand further what communities considered to be necessary to consider an ex-combatant as deradicalised / reformed.  All the interviews have been anonymised

In addition, six focus groups were conducted with stakeholders including members of Operation Safe Corridor Advisory Committee, community leaders (both religious and traditional) from communities where ex-combatants were being resettled, Civilian Joint Taskforce (CGTF) among others were held across the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.  These were aimed at understanding more broadly community perceptions of how the deradicalisation process takes place and the effectiveness of reintegration.

Background

The activities of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, have caused an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 deaths and displaced over 2.3 million people since 2009. Between 2009 and 2015, the group took control of extensive territories in north-eastern Nigeria, including the Borno state capital Maiduguri, devastated the lives of millions; and constituted a significant threat to the integrity of the Nigerian state.  Boko Haram’s increasing military raids and attacks in territories of Nigeria’s neighbours led to the formation of the joint neighborhood military response force in early 2015: The Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).  Supported by the United States, France, and Britain through the provision of training, advice, and intelligence, the MNJTF came to include the military forces of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin, in addition to those of Nigeria. Boko Haram lost control of much of its territory from 2015 onwards but despite factionalism that led to a formal split and government declarations of victory, the insurgency continues to kill thousands of people yearly, with about 2,733 people killed in 2019 across the most affected communities in the Northeast, Nigeria. In the last years, the terrorist group has varied its recruitment strategies; most new members have been forcefully conscripted, abducted, or blackmailed into the group. There are also older members who left and even fled their communities when the group made its transformation from dawah (the proselytizing of Islam) to destructive jihad (the spread of Islam by unholy war).

In 2015 Muhammadu Buhari was elected president. In fulfilment of one of his campaign promises, he set up Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) in September 2015. OSC is a custodial program undertaken under a Presidential Directive, with the major aim to deradicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate repentant ex-combatants into society. Its focus is those who surrendered during the military onslaught, those who were conscripted to the Boko Haram insurgency against their will and those who felt disenchanted with the activities of the leadership of the group.

President Buhari has publicly reiterated his government’s commitment to the scheme on several occasions. In granting amnesty to repentant Boko Haram members in April 2018 he said, “we are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society”.4 With increased military pressure, tightened borders, diminished supply routes, internal division in the group and the desire of forcibly conscripted members to escape, the numbers of Boko Haram fighters surrendering themselves to the military has continued to increase with over 1500 ex-combatants as at December 2019. Since the onset of OSC, a total of 800 ex-combatants have passed through the program.

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TWO-DAY NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON MANAGING FARMER-HERDER RELATIONS IN NIGERIA

By Blog, Cohesion, Event, Human Rights, PublicationNo Comments

Violent conflicts between nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists and sedentary farmer communities in
Nigeria have led to thousands of deaths and significant economic losses in recent years. The conflict has worsened the already protracted food crisis in the country. Land-use disputes, historically resolved through traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, have become more difficult to contain, with the increased availability of small arms and light weapons a factor. Climate change and population growth have also increased pressure on available resources, while farmer-herder relations have become increasingly politicized as ethnic and religious identities have hardened. While farmer-herder conflict now exists in every region of Nigeria, it has evolved into banditry and terrorism in parts of the northwest and north-central zones. To find lasting solutions to these conflicts, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) organised a national multi-stakeholder conference on farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria on June 7-8, 2022 with support from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and United States Institute of Peace. Participants included the Emir of Argungu, the Commissioner of Internal Security in Kaduna State, members of civil society organisations, academics and the
media.

Emir of Argungu

Among the key topics discussed during the conference were:

  1. The root causes of farmer-herder conflict, including mismanagement of land-use disputes, climate change and urbanization, the hardening of ethnic identities, corruption, a lack of opportunities for youths, and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons
  2. The local variations in farmer-herder relations across Nigeria, including the factors behind certain communities’ successful sustenance of historically peaceful relations
  3. The role of traditional institutions in managing farmer-herder relations
  4. The successes and shortcomings of government efforts to address insecurity and land-use disputes, such as the National Livestock Transformation Plan
    (NLTP)
  5. Recommendations for improving relations at the federal, state and local
    levels

Quitting Banditry, Exiting Conflict: Pathways, Options and Way Forward

By Blog, Human Rights, PublicationsNo Comments

Since 1999 Nigeria has conducted periodic elections and in 2015 witnessed the first democratic transfer of power from one political party to another. This democratic progress has seen the expansion of the frontiers of political participation and provided citizens with an opportunity to expand civic engagement. At the same time these developments have been challenged by increasing poverty, unemployment and conflict. From Boko Haram in the northeast; to the secessionist violence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in southeast; to the oil bunkering activities of Niger Delta militants; to the prevailing ethno-religious tensions and conflict in north-central; and the violent armed banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in the northwest, Nigeria is beset by insecurity. These violent conflicts continue to push the country towards failure, collapse and even disintegration.

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has taken a leading role in nurturing Nigeria’s democracy through cultivating peaceful co-existence, supporting conflict resolution and peace-building and aiding conflict mitigation effort. One of its key strategies for achieving this objective has been sustained community engagement. This is again at the heart of its approach to supporting efforts to reduce the threat of conflict in Nigeria’s northwest. As part of ongoing interventions a two-day community engagement and roundtable event was organised on ‘Quitting Banditry, Exiting Conflict: Pathways, Options and the Way Forward’ in Sokoto. Its key objective was to generate ideas regarding possible pathways and policy options to address the violent armed banditry in the geo-political zone.

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FAKE NEWS IN WEST AFRICA – FLOWS, FACILITATORS AND FIXES

By Blog, Election, Fact Check, Fake News, Human Rights, News, PublicationNo Comments

The spread of falsehoods across information ecosystems in West Africa is growing. Although enabled by increasing access to social media and the internet across the region, the flow of fake news is not simply confined to online spaces but moves between offline and digital environments with regularity and ease. A rumour that is started by an online influencer on Facebook, once trending, can become a topic of debate and discussion for television or radio talk shows, broadening its audience. These debates, in turn, are then discussed and debated in gathering spots such as markets, atayah bases, okada stages or grins enabling them to disseminate through well-established word of mouth rumour networks. Completing the circle, these offline rumours can then be transposed back online and can either be further skewed to disinform or simply reinforce an already circulating falsehood.

The way information flows between online and offline networks is critical for understanding how fake news spreads and influences actions across West Africa. So
too is trust. Information that a recipient deems to be from a trustworthy source – be that the original source of the information or the individual who last shared it – remains fundamental to decisions about what is true and what is not, along with whether the information aligns with existing beliefs and biases. These factors are increasingly well understood by those involved in the
purposeful spreading of falsehoods online across West Africa particularly on issues relating to politics and health.

This report draws on the findings of 15 studies undertaken in 2021 covering all members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Information was gathered through desk-based research, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and the authors’ experiences of using social media platforms. This regional report draws out some of the key trends from those studies. It highlights the individuals or organizations involved in the spread of falsehoods, the tactics they seek to employ, and the influence and impact that they are having. It then draws attention to the range of approaches adopted so far to respond to the ‘fake news’ threat. It concludes by offering recommendations to key stakeholders about what more can — and should — be done.

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FACT CHECK: Are Gun-Wielding Protesters in Viral Video Fulani’s from Nigeria?

By Blog, Cohesion, ECOWAS Fake News Reports, Fact Check, Fake News, Human RightsNo Comments

Verdict: False

Claim:

A 30-second video has gone viral across various social media platforms with the caption “Fulani is ready, are you.”

The video shows women and men wielding guns and chanting in an unfamiliar language. The lead singer holds a microphone with a flag attached to her veil.

Verification Process

Checks by CDD/Daily Trust revealed that the video first appeared online on 12th March, 2022 in a Facebook post tagged as “raising disciples, training indigenous missionaries involved in rehabilitation of destitute children.”

Another post on Facebook was made condemning the video with the caption “why can’t these dancing women be educated for future building; the community leaders should be arrested immediately.”

Another post was made using the same video which suggested that the Fulanis are giving guns to their women to kill Yoruba people.

The post whose caption was written in Yoruba read, “Please take note, the Fulani are giving guns to their women to kill Yoruba people. We need to pray that we don’t have all these political jobbers again. We need to let political jobbers know that there won’t be an election in Yorubaland! Our safety is paramount at this point. #Freedom #Yorubanation.”

This triggered comments as many people alleged that the Fulanis were responsible for the massacre at a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, weeks ago.

However, going by the flag seen in the video it appeared that the protesters are of an ethnic group in Ethiopia called the Afar and scattered across Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

The Afar people belong to an ethnic group that has been clamoring for an independent nation for almost half a century now and has a Facebook page: “Afar People’s Force” which is active with multiple videos similar to the viral one.

Conclusion

CDD/Daily Trust can confirm that the video in circulation was not made in Nigeria and the claim that the people in the video are Fulanis from Nigeria is false.

THREATS TO STATE INTEGRITY AND SOCIAL COHESION IN NIGERIA

By Blog, Cohesion, Event, Fact Checks, General, Human Rights, News, Publication, RescueNo Comments

Nigeria is confronting a number of critical political and security challenges that are raising serious questions about its identity and survival as a democratic federal republic. First, there is a dramatic breakdown in security that has created a climate of disillusion in the state as a protector of citizens.

Threat to State Integrity

Secondly, there is a breakdown of social cohesion in Nigeria with stress lines emerging at the levels of the family, community and state.

Thirdly, there is a significant rise and expansion religious, fueled in part by disinformation and hate speech that circulates across traditional and social media. Fourthly, there is frustration about the country’s political and economic direction, with citizens believing the system is stymied by a reckless political class that is corrupt, self-serving and manipulative. Finally, Nigeria’s elite consensus on federalism and the federal character principle as a guarantee against group discrimination and marginalization is badly shaken.

INSECURITY IN NIGERIA

The state of insecurity in Nigeria has reached unprecedented levels. On a daily basis, well coordinated
commando-like operations by gunmen are organized against rural communities where people are kidnapped for ransom, houses burnt, and property looted. Similar attacks are also conducted against the army and
police. These attacks are now occurring in virtually all geopolitical zones in the country. According to Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state, there are no fewer than 30,000 gunmen spread across more than 100 camps in and around his state alone. These bandits collected N970 million as ransom from the families of their kidnap victims – over 1,100 – in the eight years between 2011 and 2019. During the same period, they killed 2,619 people.

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