Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday harped on the need for the Armed Forces and those in governance to ensure that their activities conform with human rights norms and basic rules of civil practice across the world.
A statement released by the acting president’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, quoted Osinbajo as saying this during the inauguration of the Presidential Investigation Panel set up to review compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement at the Office of the Vice President.
“It is the responsibility of the Armed Forces and the responsibility of all of us who are in government to ensure that we interrogate our own activities and ensure that those activities meet up with human rights norms and basic rules of decency observed across the world,” he said.
Earlier in his speech Osinbajo said, “The President, Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly stated the administration’s focus on three broad issues; security, the economy and the fight against corruption.
“The first security, is one without which others may prove impossible. In any event fundamental to the functions of the state, is the protection of lives and property and livelihood of citizens in peace or in conflict.
“For our government, we add that respect for the lives of Nigerian citizens is not just a constitutional but also a moral duty. This is why it is incumbent upon us even as we maintain security especially in conflict situations to interrogate, as we go along on a regular basis, alleged crimes and human rights abuses by all sides in these conflicts and insurgencies.
“Today’s occasion is in continuation of the efforts of this administration geared towards attaining this goal.”
Recalling that Buhari had in June 2015, directed the Military to conduct an internal inquiry into allegations of rights abuses by its personnel, Osinbajo said that the findings of the board of inquiries set up by the Nigerian Army to investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings and rights violation by Army personnel, which was submitted in June 2017, will be made available to the newly constituted panel.
While Osinbajo praised the efforts of the nation’s defence and security forces during the insurgency in the Northeast and militancy in the Niger Delta, he however noted that there have also been human rights abuses against the armed forces.
“These brave men and women have fought valiantly to keep this country safe despite all odds and they are heroes and we must indeed celebrate them.
“There is no doubt that the nature of asymmetric or unconventional warfare that they have had to contend with presents unique challenges that most modern armies are ill-equipped to tackle with conventional warfare tactics.
“Indeed conventional human right norms and conventional human rights observers are challenged by some of the various nuances of asymmetric warfare.
“Nonetheless, there have been a series of allegations levied against security forces by some local and international commentators. It is our belief, that if left unaddressed, these allegations are capable of undermining the good work of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have largely conducted themselves in a disciplined and professional manner.
“Failure to examine some of these allegations will also leave those who may have been victims of such abuses without any recourse to justice. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the failure of our justice system to adequately respond to crisis is usually a recipe for greater conflict,” he said.
He therefore mandated the panel to focus on the following terms of reference:
“One, to review extant rules of engagement applicable to the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto.
“Two, to investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, the Geneva Conventions Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.
“Three, to investigate matters of conducts and discipline in the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies; to recommend means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situations.
“Four, to make further recommendations in line with these terms of reference as may be deemed necessary.”
The panel will be led by Justice Biobele Georgewill, Justice of the Court of Appeal. Members of the panel are Major-General Patrick Akem; Mr. Wale Fapohunda; Mrs. Hauwa Ibrahim; Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim; Mr. Abba Ambudashi Ibrahim; Mrs. Ifeoma Nwakama; and Dr. Fatima Alkali who is counsel to the panel.
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