ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The Defence Headquarters has set up committee on human rights with a clear mandate to independently verify all the allegations of human rights violations levelled against the personnel of the Nigerian Armed Forces in the discharge of their functions across the country.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, while inaugurating the 12-man committee in Abuja on Monday, charged them to dispassionately look into various human rights issues which hinge on the conduct of the troops in the discharge of their constitutional responsibilities.
Olonisakin said that in furtherance of the DHQ’s commitment to demonstrate their resolve to the protection of human rights, it became necessary to task independent minded individuals to examine the conduct of the military operations.
It is on this premise, he noted, that each member of the committee was invited to look into the complaints of human rights abuses levelled against the military.
He urged the committee to expand their focus beyond the North East, to also include other areas of contention including the issues emanating from clashes with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and Rivers State election rerun amongst others.
Although, he said, most of the accusations against the military emanate from the North East in “our ongoing Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency Operations (CT COIN), but your focus should not be limited to the North East alone.”
The CDS said that the inauguration of the committee was to further demonstrate the openness and commitment to all that the Nigerian military is a responsive organisation despite the operational challenges.
He said: “We are all aware of the arduous tasks of our troops in their fight against terrorists, insurgents and other sundry crimes to ensure security of lives and property as well as the corporate existence of Nigeria. Generally, our troops are succeeding and their collective actions reflect the highest standard of professionalism as well as strict adherence to the tenets of human rights conventions.
“Therefore, it is necessary to dispel all wrongly held opinions that the AFN condone and encourage violations of human rights in the conduct of their operations.
“It is to be noted that the AFN is always guided by global best practices, Rules of Engagement (ROE) for military operations other than war as well as Codes of Conduct for internal security operations. The AFN is not unaware of some isolated cases of human rights violations but such instances are promptly dealt with.
“However, you must have noted our continued engagement with the Amnesty International (AI), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to put the records straight when the need arises,” he added.
He noted that even though the military has resolved to conduct all ongoing operations in line with the best practices, in arms conflict there cannot be a perfect situation, warning they “would not sacrifice professionalism on the plater of lawlessness or extra-judicial conducts of anybody or groups”.
Olonisakin listed the terms of reference (TOR) for the discharge of their assignments including collation and documentation of written complaints, as well as investigation of all the alleged rights violations , interface with human rights bodies, recommend appropriate sanctions where necessary and advice generally on modalities to curtail violations of human rights by troops.
The defence chief also tasked the committee to advise the DHQ on the need to review any extant guidelines that will contribute to the professional conduct of AFN personnel.
Responding, the chairman of the committee, Maj-Gen. Abubakar Gana (rtd), assured that the committee would conduct an objective and unbiased investigations.
Gana also assured that they would be factual in their recommendations and submissions, adding that the committee will soon make public its contact telephone numbers to receive complaints from the public.
Also speaking with journalists shortly after the inauguration, Gana, said that they would investigate all reported cases of rights violations against the military including the recent Rivers rerun election.
He said: “Yes. The committee’s work is across the country whether in the Niger Delta area or in the North East. Anywhere you have military men operating and there are human rights violations, we will certainly address them.
“Whether primary or secondary duties of the military. Elections are part of the secondary duties of the military.   The primary responsibility you know, is national defence.”
Other members of the Committee are: Commodore O.O Olawumi (Rtd), Group Captain J.P Musa (Rtd), and Directors of Legal Services from the Ministry of Defence, Army, Airforce and Navy.
They also include:  Director Coordination DHQ Air, Commodore O.O Akinsanya; representative of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku; representative of National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Harry Ogwuche Obe; representative of Red Cross Society of Nigeria, Mr Bello Diram and Col. O.N Taiwo as the committee secretary.

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