“Nigerian army is human rights compliant”, the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Lt. General Tukur Yusufu Buratai said yesterday in Maiduguri at a workshop titled “Human Rights in Times of Conflict” organised by the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The Army chief further said that the army under his command will continue to be submissive to civil authority, ensure observance of human rights, uphold and promote the rule of law in particular. The workshop took place at the 7 Division, Maimalari Barracks, Baga Road, Maiduguri.
The COAS also declared that the Nigerian Army of today is no longer a safe haven for violators of human rights, stressing that since he assumed office, investigations have always been conducted on any allegation or petition against any member of the Nigerian Army.
He pointed out that human rights of civilians and those involved in the hostilities in on-going counter insurgency operation tagged “Operation Lafiya Dole” against Boko Haram are respected. He disclosed that the International Community of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) are on hand to train any of the Nigerian Army contingents that is to be inducted into peace keeping operations. He said officers of the Nigerian Army has also been sending it’s officers on course at home and abroad yearly in order to update them on the issue of human rights.
Former Attorney General of the Federation and former Minister of Defence, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN) in a keynote address said even if Boko Haram has no respect for human rights, the Nigerian state and its agents must comply with the principles of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. “It is the duty of the Nigerian State and all of us to ensure that the human rights of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of this conflict, and who are now refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), are protected.
Prince Kayode therefore emphasized the need for intelligence, dedicated and specialized training and moderation, to help avoid mass casualties that may be termed genocide or war crimes or human rights violations.
The former Defence Minister also emphasized the need to review the operations of the civilian JTF in the fight against Boko Haram so that they do not become another monster on the country in the future.
“We all agree that unless properly thought out vigilantes may exacerbate an insurgency or other anti state activities. The need for vigilantes to observe human rights is also very important and there could be criminal and civil consequences for actions which violate these rights”.
He said there is need for the federal government to develop a coherent policy for dealing with the vigilantes, so that it can work with authentic community policing projects while stopping the continued expansion of unregulated armed groups. He said this would require demonstrating that the state has sufficient capacity to restore law and order on its own. “If the government fails to deal with this issue, militias could spread across the country, triggering more violence and further damaging the rule of law”, he warned.
President of the NBA, Augustine Alegeh SAN who in a welcome address described the issue of human rights abuse as very sensitive and one that should be adequately handled, commended the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari for its commitment to uphold and promote the observance of fundamental human rights.
Given this background, Alegeh emphasized the need for Nigerian troops to ensure that they do not breach any of the nation’s laws and other international ones to which Nigeria is a signatory stressing that the respect for human rights is a component in the enthronement of the rule of law.
He stressed that the NBA will continue to stand firm in advocating for and observance of the rule of law in the country.
The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shetima who was represented by the Attorney General, Kashim Lawani disclosed that his administration has concluded plans to set up a law reform commission next year with a view to addressing modern trends in the protection of human rights.
Shetima said his government has already established the department of citizens right in the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the office of the Attorney General to handle cases of abuses of human rights.
He said in addition the state alongside other I8 states in the northern Nigeria are actively engaged in reviewing the Penal Code and exploring all legitimate means to strengthen their legal system with the primary aim of protecting the rights of the citizens.