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Nigerian Army as Bastion of Human Rights

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By Abraham Ochayi

The recent events in the country have indeed brought to the fore some salient issues that have long been neglected by the generality of Nigerians.

In my opinion, Nigerians didn’t take note of the renewed conduct of officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army in the discharge of their duties, especially in the past five years.

The emphasis has been on the activities of terrorist, militants and other non-state actors that have wreaked havoc in the polity.

In some quarters, it was also stated that the Nigerian Army is not living to expectations in addressing the spate of insecurity in the country, clearly forgetting that the interventions of the Nigerian Army in internal security operations is not a core responsibility, but an added responsibility and it was expected that the Army should have gone for the jugular, clearly forgetting that there are rules of engagement that must be adhered to in the enforcement of peace in the country.

That the Nigerian Army has lived up to expectations with regards to the respect for human rights of every Nigerian citizen is indeed commendable. This is where I give credit to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for this rare display of foresight.

Come to think of it, if the Nigerian Army had been indiscriminate in its operations, I am sure the country would have gone up in flames because the Army is traditionally trained to kill. This is the starkness of the reality that we must come to terms and indeed appreciate the conduct of officers and soldiers in its civil-military relationship.

I must not fail to commend the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. I won’t be wrong if I liken him to Nostradamus, the man who saw tomorrow that a day would come where the citizens would revolt against brutality by law enforcement officers.

That the Nigerian Army established human rights desk in all its formations to investigate allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by military personnel, and also work to strengthen the Army’s capacity to protect human rights and report annually on progress was essentially to avoid protests such as this.

According to available information, the concept note for the efforts of the Human Rights office is as a result of the increasing interest of local and international Human Rights organizations and institutions in the Nigerian Army human relations footprints but specifically in areas of operations in North East.

The strategic importance of this action cannot be overemphasized in the sense that it has proven to be that effective tool towards keeping the officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army under check in the discharge of their duties.

While it is understandable that Nigerians have not come to terms with this initiative, it can’t take away the fact that the leadership of the Nigerian Army has indeed displayed an unalloyed commitment towards the protection and preservation of human rights in its operations.

This is indeed a masterstroke that should elicit commendation from all concerned stakeholders in Nigeria because if not for anything, it indeed kept officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army in check in the discharge of their duties and significantly reduced incidences of human rights abuses and brutality that has become the focus of the recent protests across the country.

It is thus my considered opinion that indeed the Chief of Army Staff. Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai saw tomorrow and did all within means to ensure that officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army do not abuse the rights of citizens of the country even in the face of provocation.

I am glad; if not for anything, the Nigerian Army has evolved into a professional force that is conscious of the rules of engagement in warfare in line with the International Humanitarian Law.

The Nigerian Army is regularly liaising and facilitating interaction with the human rights organizations to strengthen its capacity at promoting human rights; and as well as developing a network of contacts of human rights offices in Nigeria. This is also commendable.

Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai has indeed set worthy examples that ought to be emulated by the bulk of those occupying positions of authority in the country. This is indeed a product of critical thoughts that centres on the dynamics of a plural country like Nigeria.

The conduct of officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army has also given hope to the ordinary man and woman on the streets and entrenched a regime of transparency and accountability.

Some would say in the Nigerian Army that the fear of Buratai is the beginning of wisdom. This is not because he is fierce-looking, but the fact that he has enthroned a regime of respect for the rule of law and conformity to the rules of engagement in the prosecution of the war against terrorism and other acts of criminalities in the country.

When one makes some comparison with what the Nigerian Army was before 2015, it would indeed be realized that a lot has changed and all thanks to the proactive leadership provided by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai in repositioning the Nigerian Army for greater effectiveness.

The flagrant disregard for the rule of law is now a thing of the past as far as the operations of the Nigerian Army is concerned. Officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army are constantly reminded that there are consequences for their actions should they go overboard and violate the rights of citizens.

You also hardly find military personnel engaged in acts of oppression, extortion or harassment. That used to be the case in times past, but not under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai.

It is on this premise that I have long advocated that indeed the challenge with Nigeria is that of credible leadership and nothing more. The Tukur Buratai example is indeed demonstrative of a commitment to set Nigeria on the path of greatness’ consequently; it won’t be out of place if Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai is regarded as a leader with foresight and a lesson in history.

Leadership in Nigeria must tow this example for Nigeria to sustain its present drive towards sustainable development. We must also be reminded that indeed for Nigeria to make progress, our crop of leaders must think strategically and outside the box. The Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai example says it all and should serve as a reference point in leadership in Nigeria.

Ochai wrote this piece from Ibadan.

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