What started as a peaceful protest from young Nigerian citizens demanding the abolition of the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),and a complete overhaul of the policing systems has sadly escalated to human rights abuse and violations in various states in Nigeria.
Against the backdrop of an increasingly dismal state of affairs, businesses in Nigeria have both a salient responsibility and a golden opportunity, to affect the tide by standing up for human rights, speaking out, and pushing for effective and efficient public institutions that empower business and other stakeholders to make a positive contribution to our economy and society.
Four Ways Business Can Support Right Now
Business can take specific actions to support human rights and the rule of law during this critical time.
1. Core Business: Business in the country can support the fight for human rights by providing clear and accurate access to information for employees on their rights and the mechanisms available to them to seek access to justice. Keep employees informed with factual updates to stem the spread of misinformation and counterfactual news reports. These information chains can also be used for companies to keep track of of employee physical well-being and safety during this time. Ensure that your own company has appropriate grievance mechanisms in place that are clear and available to employees should they become victims to human rights abuse.
2. Strategic Social Investment and Financial Support: Provide financial and/or in-kind support (e.g. legal advice or services, shelters) to citizens or victims of human rights abuses or police brutality. Provide direct human rights training or funding for training to public security personnel. If private security personnel is employed by your company, ensure they have gone through regular human rights training.
3. Advocacy and Engagement: Where your company has the leverage and influence to do so, for example, in situations where companies provide direct or indirect support or investment to public security forces, it should use this influence to promote respect for human rights.
4. Partnerships and Collective Action: Connect with local and national NGOs, foundations media, and business associations to support human rights and fundamental freedoms through a broad variety of partnerships and initiatives, pooling collective expertise, resources, and influence to deliver on shared goals and objectives. The Business and Human Rights Dilemmas Forum offers guidance for companies on 26 different dilemmas companies face, with over 300 case studies illustrating how companies have responsibly addressed these dilemmas. Additionally, the Global Compact Network Nigeria offers training and guidance for business of all sizes in Nigeria to learn about their responsibility to human rights, develop human rights policies for their business, and support and uphold human rights in challenging situations.
When the rule of law is strong and human rights are being respected and supported, all businesses stand to benefit through more ease of doing business, stronger protections and regulations for their rights, operations, and properties, and lower operating costs.
We in Nigeria stand at a precipice. In a year of already unprecedented crises, we call upon all stakeholders – business, Government, civil society, and others – to use this as an opportunity to take a firm, absolute stand for the sustainable future of the nation. Sustainable development in Nigeria will not be possible without a rights-centered approach to development that will ensure the Nigeria we want for generations to come.
God bless Nigeria.
UN Global Compact Network Nigeria.