By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The current chair of the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI), Mr. Ronald Roosdorp on Friday extracted commitment of implementation of voluntary principles and full membership from top government officials and security chiefs in Nigeria.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi assured that he would do everything within his area of influence to ensure that Nigeria is enlisted in the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI)
“This is something that will work well but we also have a process in the country. We will support the principles and see that Nigeria is enlisted in the Voluntary Principles Initiative (VPI)”he said.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olukunle Akindele Bamgbose assured on Nigeria’s willingness to be full member of VPI.
“We have done the needful. There is a committee that is reviewing Nigeria membership of international organizations. We are having observer status. Final decision as full member is yet to be taken. It means a lot for Nigeria to be member of the Voluntary Principles Initiative” he said.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okey Enelamah said Nigeria is steadfast in its commitment to combating human rights abuses. .
He said the Federal Government was streamlining the international organizations whose membership it holds.”
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami commended the steering committee of the Voluntary Principles Initiative for prioritizing and recommending Nigeria as one of the countries to be considered for free subscription at the plenary in March 2018 at Washington D.C, United States.
He also announced that Nigeria would soon take a decision on her observer status.
“In due course, the nation will take a decision to evaluate her observer status” Malami said during the visit of the VPI delegation to the Ministry of Justice.
The Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Abdullahi Gana Mohammed assured that the present administration would stick to its policy of cubing human rights violations and tackling security challenges in the country.
Army and police chiefs had expressed a similar view.
Specifically, they commended the delegation for the effort it was making in creating awareness, promising to contribute to the implementation of voluntary principles in the country.
The Acting Executive Secretary, Human Rights Commission (NHRM), Mr. Tony Ojukwu said the commission is committed to ensure that the best is done to address the issues relating to security and human rights in the extractive industry.
“We have created awareness on voluntary principles in Nigeria.”
The chair of the reputable international organization, Roosdorp pointed out that the visit to Nigeria was to promote voluntary principles, to see how the principles work in Nigeria and to proffer ways of reducing security risk in the extractive industry.
Roosdorp who led the delegation to the various ministries in Nigeria stated that the VPs were not binding laws.
“They are tools for conflict prevention in the extractive industry. They are tools to address violation of human rights in the extractive industry.”
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights is an international multi-stakeholder initiative established in the year 2000 involving governments, extractive companies, local and international NGOs and international observers. The VPs espouse a set of guidelines on how extractive companies (Oil, gas and mining) can ensure compatibility between their security arrangements and respect for human rights. It gives guidelines to extractive companies on risk assessment, interaction with public security forces and interactions with private security companies to ensure that the legitimate need for security of operations, assets and personnel is done appropriately, in a manner that will not violate the human rights of other people, with concomitant benefits for all stakeholders.
Members of the initiative include companies like Total, ExxonMobil, Shell, Statoil, Chevron, Tullow Oil, Conoco, AngloGold Ashanti, Rio Tinto, and Repsol. NGOs members include Human Rights Watch, Fund for Peace and International Alert. Observers include the International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA). Member countries include Ghana, Colombia, US, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Argentina, Australia, and Canada, although the Principles are implemented by all the extractives companies in several other countries where they have their operations (For a list of all members and observers, see the document captioned “VPs Fact Sheet – English”).
Diligent application of the Voluntary Principles by extractive companies will contribute to conflict-prevention, peace-building, protection of the welfare of host communities and also a trade and investment-friendly climate which is integral for businesses to operate optimally. Its conscientious application will also be a win-win for all stakeholders – government, extractive companies, communities, NGOs and the Nigerian nation. The VPs also works hand-in-hand with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (which Nigeria supported and still supports) to ensure businesses respect human rights in their security arrangements.