A cross-section of Nigerians drawn from higher institutions in the South East, civil society stakeholders, and media scholars have tasked the hierarchy of the Nigeria Army to take immediate and transparent steps to mainstream the absolute respect of human rights of citizens by soldiers in all internal security operations.
The charge was issued at the one-day town hall meeting organized by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, which held in Enugu.
Speaking on the theme of “Engaging the media for responsible, accountable and professional Nigerian Army,” a lecturer at the Enugu State’s University of Technology (ESUT) Dr. Chidiebere Ezinwa, who is also a constitutional lawyer, cautioned that should the pervasive cases of human rights breaches by soldiers against citizens be allowed to fester, then the prestige and respectability of the armed forces will decline.
“The role of the military is clearly spelled out in Section 271 and 218 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 217 deals with the establishment and composition of the armed forces of the Federation, while section 218 deals with the command and operational use of the armed forces of Nigeria.
The University Don argued that there are two components of aids to civil authorities which are -the support to civil police in an event that they are unable to cope with civil disturbances or any of such unrest, and when the military is called upon to do so and in times of national emergencies like disasters and the like.
“Surprisingly, the military is involved in virtually every crisis point in the country. Why is this so? What has happened to the Nigerian Police? Will the Army does not suffer the same fate with their continued involvement in almost every civil strife?
The University teacher expressed dismay that the policing duties are being taken over by the Army due to the institutional collapse of the Nigeria Police Force.
“The interaction of the army with the civil society in the course of performing its constitutional function of quelling internal crisis when called upon has a number of negative consequences, which has not only dragged the image of the army in the mud due to some unprofessional conduct; but also has eroded public confidence and trust in the army.
“The army has also been accused of raiding media houses, arresting, detaining their staff and confiscating their computers, laptops and accessing their smartphones without a warrant in contravention of Cybercrime law 2015. The premises of Daily Trust Newspaper have been raided on different occasions by soldiers in the company of other security agencies to answer questions about some of their publications such as an article that allegedly divulged classified military information related to planned attacks against Boko Haram.”
The above he said, apparently negates the doctrine of military subordination to the civil authority which former President Olusegun Obasanjo strongly advocated as one of the ways of facing 21st-century challenges by the military. He enjoined them to embrace in its totality, the fundamental doctrine of military subordination to civil authority.
Also speaking at the event attended by young people numbering over one hundred in Enugu State capital and members of HURIWA, a lecturer at the Mass Communications Department of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, Dr. Nwanze Emeka, said the media was called upon to assist the Army to report cases of Human Rights violations committees by the operatives against civilians to enable the Army’s hierarchy tackle such.
His words: “The Nigerian army’s essential functions are primarily to secure the regional parameters of Nigeria and help the common position when called upon to do so. Consequently, in carrying out these professional obligations, there have been charges of fundamental human right infringement against the Nigerian army by local and international human rights campaigners, civil society groups, and non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International, Transparency International, and Human Rights Watch, among others.
“These charges are centered on the reported extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, sexual abuses, and other unprofessional activities. The observed unprofessionalism within the Nigerian military has created a vacuum in the relationship between civilians and the military.”
“The recent call for the re-evaluation of the military operations related to human rights violations was awakened following the Lekki shooting occasioned by the recent call for the end of the radicalized Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in which the Nigerian military was implicated in the death of some protesters. This particular event is just one among the numerous human rights abuses perpetrated by the operatives of the Nigerian army.”
HURIWA National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko said the organization will strive to always speak on behalf of the common people of Nigeria.
He charged the media to work for the people and resists working as appendages of holders of public offices such as governors and legislators because according to him, there is a gross lack of accountability and transparency in the governance of Nigeria and the media mostly maintains undignified silence when such violations of the constitution by political office holders take place due to personal and financial aggrandizement.
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