The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, said on Tuesday that there was need to review the Armed Forces Act, LFN A20, 2004 to bring it in line with what obtains in developed democracies.
Dan-Ali, who declared open one-day stakeholders meeting on the “Review of the Act’’ in Abuja, said that the review should take into consideration “our current national peculiarities and contemporary security challenges across the country.’’
The current Act was promulgated by the then military government as a decree in 1993, but become an Act in 1999 on restoration of democracy.
He noted that while the laws (of United Kingdom) from which the Nigeria armed forces Act was copied had undergone several reviews reflective of ever-changing status of the world, “ours has remained stagnant.’’
“It is for this reason the change agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari saw that the legal framework regulating the Armed Forces of Nigeria needed to be transformed and strengthened to meet the yearning and aspirations of officers and men of the armed forces.
“I, therefore, constituted an Inter-ministerial Committee with the mandate to critically examine the Armed Forces Act of Nigeria, collate views from relevant stakeholders and come up with a reviewed act that is comparable with what obtains in other developed democracies,’’ Dan-Ali said.
The minister said the areas that needed to be reviewed in the Act include the command influence in the composition and administration of the military justice system.
He also said that the review should be able to bring the military in conformity with conventions/protocols of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and delete provisions that had become obsolete.
“Furthermore, I am particularly passionate about the welfare of members of the armed forces of Nigeria, who have given a good account of themselves in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and similar operations in other parts of Nigeria,’’ he said.
The minister added that the review should take care of the issue of fundamental human rights of both officers and men, while performing their constitutional roles and still maintaining military discipline and rules of engagement.’’
Also speaking, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisaki noted that the enactment of a common Act for the armed forces had “greatly enhanced’’ the military aid to civil authorities.
Olonisakin said that this had been exemplified in the ongoing war against terror in the country, as well as tackling challenges in the Niger Delta and other restive areas.
He, however, said, “The Armed Forces Act, like other human document is not a perfect document and hence several attempts have been made since 1993 to amend it.’’
“I understand that this exercise will consider possible amendments to the Armed Forces Act in order to improve on alleged human rights violation by the military.
“We have no issues with any amendment that will improve the welfare and rights of the citizens of this country as that is exactly what all our operations aimed at.
“However, it is also pertinent to consider the larger violations of rights of innocent citizens by terrorists.
“While we remain law abiding in our efforts to restore hope and dignity of our compatriots, the terrorists, especially in the asymmetric warfare we are fighting, has nobody to account to,’’ the CDS said.
He also wanted the Act reviewed so that lawyers in the armed forces could appear in civil courts, adding that at present they were restricted.
“Even where courts martial decisions go on appeal, the appeals are handled by civilians that did not take part in the trial.
“Consequently, several courts martial decisions are reversed on technical grounds to the detriment of enforcement of discipline which is a cardinal requirement of any military service,’’ Olonisakin said.