A USAID funded project, Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project, has held a dialogue session with the military, police, civil society organizations (CSOs), government, media, and other stakeholders as part of its dialogue series aimed at strengthening collaboration for safeguarding civic space in Nigeria.
The dialogue with the theme, “Safeguarding Civic Space”, held Wednesday in Lagos, emphasized the need for key players to identify and develop action plans to address the nation’s shrinking civic space.
According to Lydia Odeh, the USAID-SCALE project Chief of Party, the dialogue will help participants to develop capacity for implementing efficient and effective policies that support transformational change and contribute to improving quality of life for Nigerians, and an open civic space enables them to pursue many roles.
“The main objective of this activity was to bring together stakeholders from civil society, government – including the Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Army to identify and develop action plans to address shrinking civic space issues,” Odeh said.
Odeh explained that open and safe civic spaces serve as unique safe havens for citizens from diverse backgrounds to participate and build the competence they need to fully participate in various realms of public life, noting that government interference coupled with security challenges, and COVID 19 have heightened the vulnerability of civic spaces thereby diminishing open dialogue with the government and other critical stakeholders.
Speaking at the event, the Nigeria Police Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Command DSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, highlighted the importance of dialogue between citizens and the police and also emphasized the need for taking collective responsibility in understanding relevant laws and regulations that govern citizens and rights to peaceful protest and assembly.
“While issues of inclusion is non-negotiable, as citizens, we will continue to sensitize ourselves on the various legal frameworks that govern our land and also understand the concept of agitation, which bothers around consultation, consolidation and confrontation, all these need to be taken into account when engaging on protest issues. We will continue to engage and collaborate with citizens to ensure our communities are safer”, Adejobi said
Present at the event were representatives from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Special Control Unit on Money Laundering (SCUML), and the Network of Nigerian NGOs, where they discussed priority issues around vulnerabilities of non-profit organizations to money laundering and terrorist financing in Nigeria, and how to improve citizen-government relations.
The commandant of the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations and Information, Col. Aliyu Yusuf was represented by the Acting Deputy Commandant Major J.E Unuakhalu.
The USAID-Nigeria SCALE project aims to strengthen Nigerian CSOs’ capacity for collaborative advocacy with government on priority policy areas that can improve the quality of life for Nigerians.