The foremost pro-democracy and non-governmental body – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has tasked the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army to ensure that the operatives deployed for election related internal security operations are not directly involved in the handling of election materials.
Besides, the Rights group has expressed optimism that the pledge of the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to constitute a probe panel to investigate alleged interferences by armed security forces during the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections would be professionally handled and any indicted operatives named, shamed, prosecuted and punished.
The Rights group has further tasked the police to clinically fish out the killers of the two soldiers in Abonnema, Akuku-Toru Local government Area of Rivers state during the just conducted national polls so they would face the full wrath of the law even as the group has commended the Army’s high command for restraining their troops from invading the community in search of the alleged killers which may lead to further escalation of civil unrest and may inevitably result in needless killings. HURIWA has called on the Army to encourage the civil population not to panic or leave their homes for fear of military reprisals.
“We want to commend the chief of Army Staff and the GOC in charge of Rivers state for exhibiting excellent professionalism so far in the handling of the needless violence targeting soldiers which led to the death of two soldiers. We hereby asked that this prevailing atmosphere of loyalty to the Nigerian constitution and adherence to the principle of rule of law must be sustained. May we also call on the Army to fish out the soldiers responsible for the murder of the INEC’s Ad-Hoc staff killed in the line of duty in Rivers state during the Presidential election”.
“We urge the Army not to fall into the temptation of reigniting the Odi kind of military destruction that happened sometimes past in Bayelsa State when similar killing of soldiers led to sudden military invasion and wanton destruction of Odi town.”
In a statement by national coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA reminded soldiers that the law does not allow them to directly get involved in the logistical movements of handling of sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials nor to actually conduct the polls but only to be on standby to provide security related activities in aid of the civil authority should the police be overwhelmed by civil crisis during the elections. The determination of the Army’s high command to look inwards with a view to finding out alleged violators of the electoral Act or those amongst the operatives allegedly implicated in election violence is a very welcomed development.”
“We call on the military to intensify efforts to win hearts and minds of civilians from across the society and not to carry out internal military operations in such dreaded forms that would further alienate them from the civil populace who would erroneously see them as forces of occupation rather than as men and women of the People’s Army of Nigeria.”
“HURIWA has therefore charged the Army to ensure that the human rights desks of the Army are extensively involved in the conducts of all internal military operations to forestall the cases of willful breaches of the human rights provisions as enshrined in chapter four of the constitution and universal declarations of human rights.”
“We condemn all forms of electoral violence and the needless killings of Nigerians during elections. These killings by armed thugs or suspected operatives of the armed security forces must be forensically probed and all indicted persons made to face the full wrath of the law. The decision by the Army’s authority to probe allegations of election related misconducts by soldiers is qualitatively sound.”
“We pray the Army to ensure that membership of the panel reflects representations of all facets of the society including credible representatives of the organized civil society and human rights community in Nigeria even as the hearings must be open, transparent, free and fair of all interferences. We believe that the Nigerian Army is a professional institution and therefore would follow global best practices.”
HURIWA recalled that Section 33 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees basic freedoms thus: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”
Relatedly, Section 34 (1) of the grund norm stated that: “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – (a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall he held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced of compulsory labour.”
HURIWA said section 42 (1) also prohibits selective deployment of armed forces for election to specific geopolitical areas since violence is not restricted to those areas and to avoid discriminatory deployment policy given that the law says: “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.”
HURIWA particularly stated that the current Army Chief of Staff had published a manual on the necessity for embedding the human rights desk of the Army during internal security operations going by the mandates of the Army’ human rights department which unambiguously provides that: “The Human Rights Desk Officer is responsible to the COAS for:
- Receiving and facilitating investigations of human rights alleges against military personnel and recommending appropriate actions to be taken.
- Facilitating sensitization workshops on human rights IHL and IHRL to units and formations.
- Drafting policy directives for the NA on human rights to strengthen the institution and foster civil military cooperation and collaborations with various stakeholders.
- Enhance partnership and cooperation with concerned government entities, local community organization, NGO and private civic oriented groups towards advancing the cause of human rights.”