By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government and the Armed Forces to ensure that the military conform with the international best practices on human issues.
Prof. Osinbajo who stated this yesterday in Abuja while inaugurating a nine-man presidential panel to review allegations of human right abuses by the military charged the panel to find out whether they carried out their duty diligently, impartially and with all sense of professionalism
He said, “It is the responsibility of the armed forces and those of us in government to ensure that we interrogate our own activities and ensure that those activities meet up to human rights norms and basic rules of decency observed across the world.”
The panel was given the mandate to review compliance of Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement.
The Acting President explained that the series of allegations levelled against the security agencies in the course of duty necessitated the setting up of the panel.
According to him, “Indeed conventional human rights norms and conventional human rights observers are challenged by various nuances of asymmetric warfare.
“Nonetheless, there are series of allegations levelled against security forces by some local and international commentators….. the allegations are capable of undermining the good works and efforts of the men and women of the armed forces who have largely conducted themselves in a disciplined and professional manner.”
He reiterated that the focus of the Muhammadu Buharii-led administration goes beyond the constitutional duties of protecting lives of the Nigerians citizens.
According to him, “for our government we add that respect for the lives of Nigerian citizens is not just a constitutional but also moral duty. This is why it is incumbent upon us even as we maintain security especially in conflict situations, to interrogate alleged crimes and human rights abuses by all sides of this conflicts and insurgencies.
“Today’s occasion is a continuation of the efforts of this administration geared towards attaining its goal. You may recall that in June, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the military to conduct an internal inquiry into allegations of rights abuses by its personnel.”
The Acting President also praised the Nigerian military saying “it is also a well – known fact that the conduct of the country’s defence and security forces during insurgency in the North East and militancy in the Niger Delta has in recent times attracted significant commendations.”
While charging members of the panel to discharge their duties diligently, impartially and with all sense of professionalism, the Acting President urged them to also collect information about the conditions of service of the armed forces or any other factors that might have hindered the optimal performance..
The panel’s terms of reference were “to review extant rules and engagement applicable to the armed forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto;
“To investigate alleged act of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; the Geneva Convention Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflict and insurgencies.
“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflict and insurgencies; to recommend the means of preventing violation of international humanitarian human rights laws in conflict situations;
“To make further recommendations in line with these terms of reference as it deemed necessary.”
The members of the Panel are Hon. Justice Biobele Geogrewill who is appointed to serve as Chairman Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem, Olawale Fapohunda, Mrs. Hauwa, Jibrin Ibrahim, Mr. Abba A. Ibrahim, Mrs Ifeoma Nwakama, Dr. Fatima Alkali, Counsel to the Panel, while Mr. S. Halliru is the Secretary (OSGF)
Responding on behalf of other members of the panel the Chairman, Justice Biobele Georgewill assured they will put in their best in order to uphold the confidence reposed on them by the government.
Top government officials at the inauguration include the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami,SAN, Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali, (Rtd), National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Mongunu, (Rtd) Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Hajia Habiba Lawal, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonishakin and other senior government officials.