Still on the new rule of engagement for the Nigerian army

General Tukur Yusuf Buratai on April
12th 2018 launched the updated Army
headquarters directives on standing rules
of engagement, use of force as well as
detention and interrogation.
The event which was entirely a military
event was symbolically witnessed by
select members of the organized human
rights community. To the vast majority of
Nigerians, this event should be of utmost
concern since the guiding principles of
military internal operations will either
impact negatively or positively on all
of us. How the military carries out her
functions in protecting the territorial
integrity of Nigeria and assist the police
to maintain internal peace goes to the
roots of our constitutional democracy.
This is why the Army for instance is called
Nigerian Army and not just the Army.
But just as Nigerians witnessed the
inauguration of this official legal
frameworks that ought to emphasize
the necessity of compliance to extant
human rights provisions, it is important
to also highlight the need for the Army to
dispassionately fish out the soldiers who
inflicted torture and allegedly committed
extra-legal killings of civilians in all
previous operations.
This task is essential not necessarily
because anybody wishes to name and
shame the military institution but
more importantly because it is essential
that the military is seen as a highly
professional institution that does not
tolerate impunity and lawlessness. The
Nigerian Army has over the past many
years become synonymous to professional
discipline and loyalty to the Constitution.
It is difficult to process loyalty to the
Constitution if the rule of law is thrown
to the dogs and treated with disrespect
by those trained to work as soldiers. So,
arriving at a clear determination of the
various violations of human rights that
occurred in the recent past, must be the
most essential starting point as the Army
inaugurates the updated rules of military
engagement.
The past indiscretions of the bad eggs
amongst the military must be unravelled
and the perpetrators prosecuted to serve
as effective deterrent.
This is because the conclusions reached
by the panels set up by both the Army and
the Nigerian presidency to investigate
allegations of extra-legal executions by
military in some past military operations
in Nigeria falls short of global best
practices. For instance, it is a notorious fact that
during last year’s operation python dance
II in the South East of Nigeria, pictorial
and eye witness accounts of several killings
and torture of civilians were recorded.
But because the present government was
all out to inflict maximum force against
any perceived supporter of the hurriedly
proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra
(IPOB), not many eye witnesses who could
give credible evidence appeared before the
investigative panels.
However there are proofs of gross human
rights violations committed by the Army.
The conducts of the defunct investigative
panels did not meet best global practices
because they operated like persons hired
to do a predetermined job to burnish and
garnish the waning public image of the
military institution.
By the way, the internal Army’s
Investigative Panellists were also part of
those that constituted the government
empanelled body of investigators which was
headed by a jurist with considerable links to
military authority. Most of the members are
civil servants whose promotions and career
prospects may be imperilled should they
decide to follow the way of independence
and objectivity. The other members are
known affiliates of some military Generals.
Critical questions of security and safety of
real witnesses were not considered.
For instance how were the sympathizers of
an organization that was hurriedly branded
a terrorist group expected to show up to
render evidence when the Nigerian state was
and is still all out to arrest, prosecute and
detain any one with identifiable sympathy to
this group?
This precisely was the reason for the
resolute opposition in some quarters to
the arbitrary declaration of Indigenous
People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group
by Buhari’s administration even when the
members have never professed arm struggle
or use of force. How can IPOB sympathizers
genuinely tender evidence before those
panels when the current government has
made the carrying of common flags of IPOB
a punishable offence?
So, getting credible eye witness accounts
of the extra-legal killings was a near
impossibility in the South East.
The global rights body called Amnesty
International has already documented a
body of what is considered as believable
evidences that can be relied upon to
realistically deal with the issues of gross
human rights abuses that actually took place
during that military operations. But even the Amnesty International was declared
persona non grata. How does any rational
observer accept that the Nigerian State was
willing to know the truth?
By the way, why should anyone be in
doubt that human rights were abused
by armed security forces during the last
military operation when even the media
were victimized when soldiers invaded the
premises of the Nigerian Union of Journalists
and inflicted injuries, pains and agonies on
media workers in the Abia state capital? It
got to a very notorious extent that the Abia
state government made a public broadcast
to denounce the flagrant violations of the
Human Rights of the citizens of the state.
Human rights violations did took place in
the South East, we may have to read the well
thought out remark by the President of the
Igbo body Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, John Nwodo,
in which he explicitly stated that people
died from the military operation in the
South East region. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo
had vowed that it would not rest until the
Nigerian Army court marshals its officers
involved in extra-judicial killings of Igbo
youths during the Operation Python Dance
last year.
It said soldiers massacred scores of youths
and that these civilians were massacred in
the Southeast during the exercise, stressing
that the action was against the rules of
engagement. Chief Nwodo it should be
noted, is a believer in the corporate existence
of Nigeria. He is an honest statesman. He
served Nigeria as a Federal minister. He has
therefore nothing to gain by not standing
behind his convictions and the truth.
The military authority must find ways of
fishing out those who breached the rules
of engagement during that controversial
exercise in the entire South East so the
impression is not created that the military
can kill and go. The violators of human
rights in the North East of Nigeria must also
be prosecuted.
The candid appeal to the military
authority is to do the needful to clean up the
institution by punishing and prosecuting
violators of human rights and this is because
the military as a critical constitutionally
created institution, is obliged to operate
within the confines of the rule of law.
The Chief of Army Staff is therefore tasked
to ensure that all members of the armed
security forces are sufficiently educated to
understand the rudimentary details of this
new regulatory framework and must abide
by the terms and conditions enshrined in
these sets of rules that must comply with
chapter four of the Constitution of the
federal republic of Nigeria. The Army is
pivotal to the maintenance of constitutional
democracy and so all eyes will be on the
hierarchy of the Army to see how effective it
will implement and enforce the rules in line
with constitutional norms and practices.

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Author: Patience