February 23, 2024

COAS restates Army’s commitment to protect human rights during conflicts

COAS restates Army’s commitment to protect human rights during conflicts

Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, has said that the Army remains committed to protecting human rights of people in conflict situations in line with global best practices and rules of engagement.

Lagbaja stated this while declaring open the 2024 Nigerian Army Human Rights Seminar on Thursday in Lafia, Nasarawa State.

The COAS was represented by Maj. Gen. Hilary Nzan, Commander of Army 4 Special Forces Doma, Nasarawa State.

According to the Army chief, the deployment of troops across the country brings soldiers into the civil space, and frictions are bound to occur between them and civilians.

“It is in recognition of this that the Army has taken up the issue of human rights and the protection of civilians in conflict areas to be of high priority.

“Education on human rights issues has been stepped up across all formations of the Nigerian Army in collaboration with International Committee of Red Cross and other humanitarian partners.

“We have also established the Civil-Military Legal Desk across all formations and opened Army toll-free call centres, as well as placement of complaints and suggestion boxes in barracks for report of violation of human rights,” he said.

Lagbaja said that the seminar, which brought together relevant stakeholders in human rights advocacy, became imperative given the Army’s commitment to protect civilians at all times in line with their mandate.

He maintained that the Army, under his leadership, would continue to work hard to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities while protecting the rights and dignity of Nigerians.

He said that the Nigerian Army was open to suggestions from stakeholders at the seminar to improve on civil/military relations.

The COAS said that the Nigerian Army would continue to ensure that its personnel were appropriately trained, equipped, and highly motivated to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.

He said that the Army would continue to strategise in collaboration with other agencies in order to address the security challenges facing the country within the shortest possible time.

Also speaking, Maj.-Gen. Nosakhare Ugbo, Chief of Civil-Military Affairs, said that the seminar was designed to enable the Army to get feedback from society on issues of human rights as it affect its operations.

According to Ugbo, the seminar is the second edition, and the Army has decided to make it a biannual event, with the next one for 2024 scheduled to hold in September in Lagos.

He said that the Nigerian Army had been engaged in sustained operations against a myriad of security threats caused by non-state actors and unorganised adversaries across the country.

“While the conduct of armed conflicts between state actors and organised armed groups is guided by International Humanitarian Law, the one with unorganised groups poses various issues of human rights,” he said.

On his part, Mr Anthony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said that the seminar was aimed at reinforcing the rights of the people.

Represented by Mr Okay Benedict, the NHRC boss applauded the Nigerian Army for a deeper understanding of how to maintain national security and protect the human rights of Nigerians.

Ojukwu said that the commission had investigated some allegations of human rights violations against the Army by some groups and discovered that the facts on the ground proved the contrary.

He commended the Nigerian Army for deploying cognitive strategy in their operations, which, he said, was winning the hearts of Nigerians in the fight against criminal elements.

Also, Carmen Paping, Child Protection Officer at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), commended the Nigerian Army for the initiative geared towards protecting human rights during conflicts.

She said that the protection of the rights of children was very important to UNICEF and that they were currently delivering humanitarian aid to 3.4 million children across Nigeria.

She reassured UNICEF’s willingness to partner with the Nigerian Army towards achieving the set goal.

In her remarks, Justice Aisha Bashir, Chief Judge of Nasarawa State, said that the initiative would go a long way towards bridging the gap between the military and civilians.

She said that the initiative had clearly shown that the current leadership of the army was ready to uphold the human rights of Nigerians while performing its constitutional duties.

She said that the judiciary in the state would support the military and other security agencies by ensuring that criminals faced punishment for their crimes. (NAN)