Another case of military brutality made its ignoble outing along New Market Road in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State on Tuesday, February 7, 2017. This time, it was a couple of soldiers in full military gear, mercilessly whipping and dragging around a hapless, physically-challenged man, while a crowd of onlookers pleaded with them not to kill him.
When they were done, they jumped into their military truck and sped away. The physically challenged man was lucky to survive the ordeal. His offence was that he was wearing a military camouflage uniform. The video clip of this dehumanising encounter, as usual, went viral over the internet.
Army authorities quickly responded to it the following day, disclosing that they had already identified the soldiers involved in that show of shame. Its Director of Public Relations , Brigadier-General Sani Usman Kukasheka, declared that the culprits had been identified and arrested, and will be dealt with “in line with our zero tolerance for acts of indiscipline and unprofessional conduct, especially in relation to violation of human rights”.
The Army did well to respond swiftly to this unbecoming display by its misguided personnel, in view of the injury it inflicted on an institution which recently came under heavy criticism by Amnesty International (AI) for the alleged killing of over 150 pro-Biafra activists in the past year alone.
Exactly one year ago, a female soldier and a male colleague assaulted a young man for allegedly complimenting her looks. In April 2016, a student of Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic, Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State, was battered by soldiers for late payment of the N5,000 surcharge imposed on students by the school authorities over alleged arson attack on school property. The military has increasingly been forced on the defensive by its personnel over acts unbecoming of well-trained officers.
We understand the sentiment that drives military personnel to view the wearing of military camouflage by civilians with severe exception. Apart from the impersonation it portrays (which can be used to carry out crimes such as kidnapping, robbery and terrorism with the military erroneously blamed) soldiers would naturally not tolerate the disrespect and bastardisation of their coveted uniform by civilians who are not qualified to wear them.
Brutalisation, however, is not the correct response to it. Arresting such individuals and investigating their motive for wearing military uniform is a better way to go. Nothing called for the cowardly action the officers took on a harmless crippled man, and we hope the military will use this case to drive home the message that it will no longer stomach the soiling of its image and that of the nation by its own personnel.
Enough of military brutality!