The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Burutai, on Tuesday in Abuja, said the Nigerian Army was passionate about the rights of the civilian.
He stated this at a Military-Media Awareness Programme organised by CLEEN Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization, at Jabi Motor Park, Abuja.
Buratai, represented by Major Naanzem Longpoe, Army Human Rights Desk Officer, said that the army had measures in place to ensure that the rights of civilians were protected.
These, according to him, include the opening of free toll line, 193 and establishment of the Nigerian Army Human Rights Desk.
“The office is opened to members of the public whose rights have been infringed upon; they can always walk into our office and lodge their complaints.
“We have some designated toll free call centre, and Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit.
“Every month, we also go down to Army formations and schools to sensitize them to the need to respect the rights of the civilians.’’
Buratai added that the army, during its first quarter staff conference, equally launched some books on respect for human rights during military operations.
“So, the Army is doing its best to ensure that the rights of the civilians are respected.’’
He urged members of the public to relate with the military and report to them any case of human right violation by the personnel.
“We assure them that once they come to us their rights are protected and we do our best to serve them better.’’
The Executive Director, CLEEN Foundation, Dr Benson Olugbuo, called for cordial relationship between civilians and the military in the country.
Olugbuo, represented by the foundation’s Programme Manager, Ruth Olofin, said positive relationship between the military and the civilian was key in addressing security challenge facing the country.
He, however, pointed out that while it was important for the military to respect the rights of civilians, it was also necessary for the civilians to respect the rights of the military.
“As the civilians, the soldiers also have human rights to be respected. It is a two-way thing.
“As civilian is saying respect our human rights, the soldiers are also saying respect our human rights.
“So, our message is simple – positive civil relationship is key to nation-building. Respect for fundamental human rights is important for civil relationship in Nigeria.’’
Olugbuo said the essence of the programme was to sensitize civilians to the need to have a cordial relationship with the military in achieving a peaceful society.
“We have a project called Fostering Military-Civil relations in Nigeria. This project has been on since 2015.
“The essence is how we bridge the gap in terms of relationship communication between the civilians and the military.’’
The director said that the organisation was partnering military human rights desk to address issue of human right violation.
He added that the sensitization would be extended to other parts of the country, including Borno and Abia.
“From here we are going to Borno, because of the insurgency that is there, there is a lot of mistrust, the civilians there don’t really trust the military and it is not supposed to be so.
“The military suppose to gain the trust of the people so that they can get security information from the people.’’
On her part, Elizabeth Benedict, FCT Sector Command, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), said that the way military personnel related with civilians even in crises periods was key in restoring peace in such community.
“When there is a problem, it is not just a question of carrying arm.’’
Benedict said that participation of stakeholders such as civil society organizations was important in promoting peaceful relationship between the military and civilians.
Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr Garab Abari, said that the sensitization was key to making the people understand that the military was not their enemy.
“Without the civilian, the military cannot really function well in the area of information gathering.
“It is very important for positive relationship between the military and the civilians because without the civilians, they cannot function well; there should be a synergy.’’
Abari, who commended CLEEN Foundation for the sensitization, promised that the agency would spread the message to the grassroots.