April 18, 2024

Curbing growing military impunity


THE dust has yet to settle on the outrage sparked by the illegal arrest, detention and torture of a newspaper editor, Segun Olatunji, over a report published in the FirstNews online newspaper. The military only let Olatunji go after frontline media and civil society interest groups started asking questions.

On Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in the thick of the Eid el-Fitr celebrations, reports of the torture and killing of one Richard Onumegbu, a civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence in a naval base in Lagos, went viral. Onumegbu was allegedly killed by four naval personnel allegedly at the instance of a vengeful female detractor.

On January 11, this year, there were also video reports of a young man set upon by military men in uniforms who whipped and kicked him within an inch of his life. Back in August 2020, a bus driver, Collins Osagie, was beaten to death in Lagos while offering to make peace between a motor spare-parts dealer and some naval ratings. The list of impunities is endless and a recurring decimal which nobody appears ready to address and stop.

Military officers and personnel frequently take the lives of civilians at the slightest excuse, like the case of Peter Gambo Yilme, a Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operations Base, Ibaka, Akwa Ibom, in June 2020. Yilme reportedly accused the victim of stealing his generator. Some commit this impunity for revenge and power show while others do it for pay. Many incidents go unreported, and the culprits go free while the victim’s blood cry in vain for justice.

The injury that this inflicts on the soul and fabric of our society can only be deciphered by the depth of vehemence when the people react. We saw how the Nigerian youth’s reactions to extreme police brutality and the Lekki Toll Gate shootings led to massive looting, burning of government property and systematic killing of police officers in many parts of the country by faceless gunmen in October 2020.

Also, the extreme gruesomeness in the ambush and massacre of the 17 military officers in Okuama showed a level of bitterness that more than meets the ordinary eye. Our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters in uniforms ought to be properly reoriented to the fact that they are not above the laws and Constitution of this country.

Nobody has the right to take laws into their own hands. That would be jungle justice which, if allowed to reign, not even the people under arms will be safe.

We call on President Bola Tinubu to prevail on the military authorities to subject their rank and file to the rule of law.