In this piece, Ben Adeka, our Maiduguri correspondent looks at the renewed resolve of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Buratai to improve military civil relationship and improve the battered human rights image of the Nigerian Army
The Nigerian Army nay the Nigerian military are engrossed in a war that the end may not be in sight. Like they always say that this war against the terror group known as the Boko Haram is not a conventional war, this perhaps explains why the war has lingered on. In the course of successfully prosecuting the war, the military has come under scathing attack of human right abuses. The most prominent attack the military came under was by the Amnesty International, an international body that draws international attention to cases of human rights abuses.
The group came up with a very scathing report indicting the Nigerian military of high handedness and gross abuses in the ongoing war in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Even before the current war on terror, the Nigerian military has not been on the good books of rights group especially when many other factors are considered.
Perhaps buoyed by this image, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, decided to tell a different story soon after he was made the leader of the Nigerian Army. It is unarguable that when he took over as the helmsman of the army, the reputation of the army was at its lowest. This must have informed his decision to take the civil military relations to a new height.
In doing this, he decided to collaborate with the Nigerian Bar Association to look into the myriads of complaints of human rights abuses by the Army. At a workshop held at the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maimalari Barracks, Maidugri, the president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Augustine Alegeh announced the constitution and inauguration of a team to monitor and report cases of human rights abuses by security agents especially the army across Nigeria.
In the workshop with the team, ‘Human rights in times of conflicts ‘ the import of maintaining human rights even in the face of conflicts and strife was well articulated. The workshop which was at the instance of the chief of army staff focused on the renewed efforts of the army to operate within the confines of the tenets of democracy.
The NBA president said during the workshop that the inauguration of the committee would afford Nigerians the hitherto nonexistent opportunity of reporting gross human rights abuses and violation directly to the top hierarchy of the military without the usual hindrances.
To underscore the seriousness of this renewed military civil partnership and the height the army chief wants to take it to was the presence of Nigeria’s chief law officer and the minister of justice and attorney general of the federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami at the Maiduguri event. The presence of Malam Malami is a testimony to the resolve of the General Buratai led army to turn a new leaf in seeing that the army nay the military takes the lead in promoting human rights even in times of aggravated conflicts.
General Buratai during the event restated the military’s commitment to respecting the human rights in its operations. He said that the army would always discharge its duties professionally and responsively. He made the solemn promise that no military personnel would be involved in human rights abuses while carrying out assigned tasks.
“The Army has taken steps towards prosecuting officers and soldiers involved in human rights abuses in any part of the country. The Nigerian Army strictly adheres to and promotes the rule of law in accordance to all procedures in the course of its operations.
“The war on terror is a collective responsibility. We call on all Nigerians and other stakeholders to work towards ending insurgency. This is a task that must be accomplished,” he said.
Since this renewed resolve by the Army Chief to strengthen the sagging military civil relationship, some rights groups have been pouring encomiums on both General Buratai and the move saying it is the right thing to do in the face of mountain criticisms against the army. The Emmanuel Onwubiko led Human Rights Writers Association commended the Army Chief saying the synergy between the Army and the NBA is capable of bringing hope and the group passed a vote of confidence on the Lt Gen Buratai.
“We in the civil society community have examined this framework of partnership for human rights and found it commendable and a project of whose scope should be expanded and sustained.
“This synergy between the Army and NBA is a welcome development and is capable of engendering hope in the change agenda of the current federal government and so we pass a vote of confidence on the Chief of Army Staff in this specific program and we are committed to partnering with military to promote human rights.
“We acknowledge the commitment of the General Buratia to embed human rights in the overall root branch of the Army, massive retraining and reorientation, while at the same time challenge the military hierarchy to punish all culprits implicated in human rights violations and to uphold and uphold the respect for rule of law. We believe that this partnership will ensure that we collectively strive to create a nation that upholds the fundamental rights and promotion of all citizens,” HURIWA said.
To many other observers, the Army could not have taken this proactive step at any other better time than now, given the image battering that foremost national institution has taken in the hands of critics. Analysts hope that this move by the current Army Chief would be sustained even long after he must have left service in order to continue to put the Army in check.