The security challenge around the world and Nigeria in particular has become a huge source of concern to citizens leading to desperate search for solution. It is against this background a coalition of women network are demanding quick action from the federal government against the use of fully autonomous lethal weapons called killer robots; ENE OSANG writes.
“A nation that has lost so much in economy and human capital to insurgency for at least a decade now must take pre-emptive measure to avoid being plagued by a worse catastrophe as would be the case if fully autonomous weapons find their way into the hands of these elements and other armed groups.” These words from the national coordinator International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women Network Nigeria Mimidoo Achakpa on StopKillerRobotsCampaign give insight into the battle to pre-emptively ban lethal autonomous weapons by a coalition of women network including Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development Int’l led by Caroline Usikpedo; Women’s Right to Education Programme led by Violet Ocheikwu; Kwande Sisters Foundation led by Juliet Wombo.
Others include: GATE led by Tim Aniebonam; Ade-Tarsoo- Adinya Arise Foundation led by Mabel Adinya; Gender Advocacy Justice Initiative led by Msoo Dura; Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative led by Elizabeth Jeiyol; Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative led by Dorcas Iorkusah; Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development Int’l led by Ejiroghene Jude Esiekpe.(NDWPD)
Others are; Neferok Development Initiative (NeDI) led by Ayo N. Okitie; Comfort for Widows and Orphans Initiatives (CWOI) led by Janet Okolosi Wojuola; Initiative for Peace and Stability (IPAS) led by Joy Tobele; Salt and Light Foundation (SLF) led by Osakwe Uche Daniels; and Niger Delta Peace Movement Initiative led by Prince Sunny Ejumedia.
The killer robots
Killer robots are lethal autonomous weapons designed to select and engage targets without human intervention. They are also referred to as weapons that can make lethal decisions without human involvement.
Precursors to these weapons such as armed drones are being developed by nations including China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
According to Achakpa, “It is questionable that they would be capable of meeting international humanitarian law standards including the rules of distinction proportion ability and military necessity while they would threaten the fundamental right to life and principle of human dignity.”
As a result of this, the Women Network in partnership with the Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development International is calling on Nigeria, to as a matter of urgency join the list of countries that have endorsed the call to prohibit killer robots.
The group is advocating that the Nigerian government not only endorses the ban of these weapons but also lead other nations in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub region to endorse the ban in the same way that the Nigeria government is leading other nations in combating the proliferation of small arms and light weàpons in the region.
IANSA boss maintained that doing so would guarantee the future existence of citizens.
Achakpa noted that armed drones referred to as fully autonomous weapons’ are already being developed and deployed by nations including China, Isreal, South Korea, Russia, UK and the US.
She regretted that the Nigeria government is not taking seriously, the call to stop killer robots, stressing that during crises women and children are more affected and homes become female headed because the men who should lead are gone.
“If you go to Benue, Taraba, even in the FCT IDP camps, the majority of the people are women and children so it is only natural for women to spearhead this call and see what government can do about it.
“If Nigeria does not support the ban of killer robots now most countries and terrorists are controlling guns and other weapons they have and we are scared that in the future if killer robots are not curtailed there is that tendency for abuse.
“With killer robots you can sit in Abuja and send killer robots to either Maiduguri or Port Harcourt to go and cause any harm unlike the conventional ones that is physically taken.
“In the case of killer robots you don’t have to physically go to where you want to cause harm, you can remote control a robot without looking at the humanitarian aspect and it will do what you want and that is what we are scared of,” she said.
Expectations from NASS
Though not yet a treaty, the women network said it was important for Nigeria to join the global campaign, especially as the world is becoming a global village with indications from various countries where fully automated weapons are being developed.
Achakpa, who called on the Nigerian parliament to take the campaign serious by making a public statement, explained that these countries are developing weapons with significant autonomy in the critical functions of selecting and attacking set targets noting that it was dangerous.
According to her, “We expect the new parliamentarians to key into the killer robots campaign and push from the policy angles to see how the federal government will make a statement on the campaign.
“For now it is not yet a treaty, we are still advocating for Nigeria to buy into the idea and make a public pronouncement because there is no political will. We have engaged the relevant ministries like the defence, foreign affairs and justice ministries but they haven’t shown much support maybe because no one has been affected by it that’s why they haven’t deemed it fit to place it on the front burner.
“Nigerian government should take this campaign more seriously because when it comes it will affect lives and properties.”
Call for action
When the world marked the International Day of Parliamentarism on June 30, Civil Societies Organisations (CSO’s) led by the IANSA Women and Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development International made a call for Action against Lethal Autonomous Weapons on the theme: “Let us stop killer robot now or it stops us.”
The Stop Killer Robot Campaign in Nigeria calls for a ban on fully autonomous Weapon and request Nigeria to as a matter of urgency join the list of countries that have endorsed the call to prohibit killer robots.
Achakpa stressed the role of the Nigeria parliament stating that vibrant parliaments are the corner stone to democracy and global peace.
She said further that they represent the voice of the people and link international and national agendas, by ensuring that governments implement international treaties and agreements.
“It is our hope that parliaments take stock; identify challenges, and ways to address them effectively.
She noted that the EU parliament has taken a stance against killer robots and has gone ahead to pass a resolution calling for an international ban on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.
She therefore called on the Nigerian Parliaments, ECOWAS parliament, and all parliaments in the world to recognize the role of parliament and electorates in fostering world peace, and thereby facilitating the ban of killer robots.
“We hold that the decision to take a human life should never be left to a machine to make. Specifically, we ask all NASS members to ensure that Nigeria takes a clear stance and support International efforts to start negotiations on a legally binding instrument against the development and use of deadly autonomous weapon systems. There is an urgent need for bold leadership to address the imminent challenge before it’s too late,” she emphasised.
Exigency of ban
She explained further the dangers of these weapons stating, they could lead to accidental and rapid escalation of conflict as fully autonomous weapons react and interact with each other at speeds beyond human control.
“Because of their nature these weapons could be highly unpredictable, especially in their interaction with other autonomous systems and they are capable of self learning. This new technology could lead to a new international arms race, which would have destabilising effects and threaten international peace and security. Fully autonomous weapons create an accountability vacuum regarding who is responsible for an unlawful act.
“A machine should never be allowed to make the decision over life and death. People can better deal with complex and unforeseeable scenarios because they can apply human judgment to situations a robot could not to be pre-programmed to assess,” she said.
The time to act
The women network expressed worry over the lackadaisical manner the salient issue is being handled in the country, and with the dicey nature of security condition no delays should be entertained as time is running out
“With armed drones, the precursor to killer robots already here with us, we are fast running out of time. What is to be done must be done quickly and the time is now,” she stressed.