Abuja — In the wake of the recent surge in the armed invasion of schools as well as the kidnap of students and pupils, the Federal Government has expressed greater commitment to its safe school initiative, declaring to security agencies that nothing must be spared in safeguarding schools.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola gave the charge Thursday in Abuja while unveiling the Gender Policy of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC.
Vanguard recalls that the NSCDC had recently carried out a vulnerability assessment of 81,000 public schools in the country and revealed that over 62,000 of them are prone to attacks as they are without perimeter fencing and other basic security infrastructure.
"In May, female combatants in the NSCDC graduated from their training and have since been deployed for service. With this policy being put in place, I have no doubt that if there is any vestige of gender discrimination still left, it should be on the way out.
"Our nation has faced security challenges in recent time. There has been a long-standing insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West and North Central, farmers-herders clashes all over, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and sundry criminal activities all over. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nigerian security agencies have risen strongly to face them and I am in no doubt that they will soon become a thing of the past.
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All hands therefore must be on deck. All our human resources, including women, must be maximally deployed to face this task. I am particular about the protection of school children and farmers. The threats to them represent the threats to our present and future. Without food, we cannot survive. Hunger would kill everybody.
"Children are the future. If they are damaged in any way, it's the future of the nation that is damaged. They, therefore, deserve to be protected, to enjoy their childhood, to have peace of mind to study and to grow up with confidence to face a glorious future. Nothing must be spared to protect our children", he charged.
40% women in officer cadre
The minister also directed the Commandant General of the Corps, Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi to create opportunities for women officers to rise to the top.
He said he had already directed that women should be able to constitute 40 per cent of the officer cadre.
"Gender mainstreaming has come on strong since then and we have seen women rise to prominence and their potentials maximised in all aspects of life. But their rise has not been as smooth and swift in military-related services. The old socialist nations were clearly ahead in this as women were given military and even combat roles in the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other socialist countries. But it was not until 2013 that women in the United States military were allowed to participate in combats and all forms of discrimination removed.
"I am happy that in the four agencies under the ministry, there is no discrimination against women", he added.
He also directed the NSCDC to immediately establish creche in all its formations for the us nursing mothers in the Corps.
Earlier, CG Audi the NSCDC Gender Policy is consistent with International, Regional and National obligations towards gender mainstreaming and gender equality, particularly the National Gender Policy of Government which outlines strategies for addressing violence against women and gender-based violence.
Recalling how he recently commissioned an all-female armed squad, the CG said the policy will close gender gaps as well as ensure gender parity and make the NSCDC an equal opportunity institution.
The formulation of the NSCDC Gender Policy was anchored on the outcome of a gender assessment exercise conducted in three formal security institutions in 2019 which included NSCDC, by Partners West Africa Nigeria (PWAN) in partnership with UN Women with funding support from the Government of Norway and Germany.
"The assessment exposed low-level participation of female officers decision-making processes and leadership positions in the Corps. It was the need to address the observed gender inequality in the Corps that gave birth to the NSCDC Gender Policy", he stated.
On the safe school initiative, the CG said he will be meeting with the Minister of Education to further work out modalities and strategies to ensure adequate security in school environments especially those already identified as most vulnerable and susceptible to attacks.
United Nations Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Comfort Lamptey who congratulated the Corps "for this major feat" said the UN Women is proud to have worked with the Corps and other partners in developing the Corps and called for swift operationalization of the policy.
She said Nigeria has come a long way in implementing security council resolution 1325 which addresses women's participation in all aspects of peacekeeping and peacemaking.
Gender Adviser at the Defence Headquarters, Brig. Gen. Christiana Thomas, who represented the Chief of Defence Staff CDS, Gen. Leo Irabor noted that while the security challenges confronting the world is complex with ever-changing dynamics, gender mainstreaming is one of the tools to address such challenges and injustice perpetrated against the human race.
Vanguard News Nigeria