Buhari Warns Military On Rights Violations
• Says Security Biggest Hurdle To ‘Change’ • Retired Soldiers Threaten Protest Over Unpaid Arrears
NOT even Nigeria’s powerful military would be exempted from the Federal Government’s crusade to enforce the rule of law.
At the Passing Out Parade (POP) for cadets of the 62 Regular Course and Short Service Course 43 of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Zaria, Kaduna State, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that his administration will not condone acts of impropriety from the military.
“While I applaud the integrity and sterling record of the Armed Forces as an institution, this administration will insist on the rule of law, and deal with any proven cases of deviation from Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), including human rights abuses. In operational conduct, Nigerians expect our Armed Forces to keep law and order and not behave like bullies,” Buhari warned.
The President’s caution is coming on the heels of accusations by human rights watchers that the military’s ongoing prosecution of the war against Boko Haram has witnessed civilian casualties and extra-judicial killings.
This is not to mention repeated instances where soldiers have gone on rampage maiming and killing ordinary Nigerians under the guise of protesting alleged grievances to their colleagues.
Notable among these was the 2011 sacking of a police station by soldiers of 242 Recce Battalion, Iberepo in Badagry, Lagos State, resulting in the death of six policemen including the Divisional Police Officer and his Divisional Crime Officer.
Last month, more than 30 soldiers from the Nigerian Army School of Military Engineering (NASME), Benue State, stormed the streets of Makurdi, damaging buildings and vehicles over the alleged killing of a colleague by suspected cultists.
“As you go into your formations and the field, I wish to remind you of Federal Government’s commitment to overhaul the rules of engagement and improve operational and legal mechanisms, so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human rights violations by the Armed Forces. We are committed to a thorough investigation of recent and any future occurrences of human rights violations by elements of our Armed Forces.
“The nation demands of you exemplary conduct and professionalism wherever you are deployed, be it locally on internal security operation missions or internationally in Peace Support Operation missions around the world,” Buhari said.
The President, however, expressed satisfaction with troops’ performance in the troubled North East of the country, saying: “The Federal Government is pleased with the Armed Forces’ resolve to end the insurgency.”
Buhari also disclosed his administration’s readiness to provide the military with key supplies in its operations. According to him, “We are determined to honour our obligation to support the speedy provision of platforms and equipment within available resources to achieve both this objective and long-term needs of the Armed Forces.”
Stressing: “Security remains the most important challenge” facing his administration’s ‘change’ mantra, Buhari revealed international partnerships in the fight against insurgency.
He said: “In addition to their recent $5 million pledge, the United States Government is also committed to deepening its collaboration with our Armed Forces in intelligence and training. Similarly, other countries, namely Canada, France, United Kingdom, China and Germany, have pledged to support our efforts to defeat the insurgents.”
President Buhari congratulated the Commandant and staff of the Academy on the “successful training of yet another set of future leaders for our Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Liberia, Benin Republic and Central African Republic,” urging them to remain steadfast in their task of producing world-class officers.
The NDA graduated 399 cadets, including 20 females and two foreign nationals.
Some military retirees, meanwhile, have threatened to occupy major roads across the country, as a result of Federal Government’s alleged failure to pay their August and five years pension arrears.
The soldiers accused the Military Pension Board of attempt to sabotage President Buhari’s effort to check impunity in the Armed Forces.
Publicity Officer of retired Army, Navy and Airforce Officers’ Club of Nigeria (RANAO), Captain Yusuf Abdulmalik, in a statement made available to The Guardian in Kano, lamented the plight of ex-service men, whom he said were yet to receive August pension in the month of September.
Abdulmalik said the development is a plot to siphon public funds, wondering why the pension, which “had been steady in the last seven years,” should be delayed till the following month.