BreakingNews 23/12/15 - Nigerian Army And Human Rights Violations

[ Masterweb Reports: Lawrence Nwobu reports ] - The recent raid of the home of El-Zakzaky the Shiite leader in Nigeria and the killing of his wife, 2 of his sons and massacre of hundreds more innocent civilians, many of them children by the Nigerian army, following an alleged blockage of a road through which the chief of army staff was passing; once again brings to the fore, the globally acclaimed culture of impunity that is highly entrenched in the Nigerian army. The Shiite killings comes on the heels of similar massacres of scores of unarmed pro-Biafra protesters in Onitsha who were demanding the release of Nnamdi Kanu and following his acquittal by the federal high court the killing of yet more people who were celebrating the news of his release on the streets of Onitsha. This massacre of civilians in cold blood which no doubt constitute crimes against humanity—are overall indicative of the level of miss-training and rot in the Nigerian army. It is also indicative of a misunderstanding of the proper role of the army in a democratic society. What kind of an army will always so wilfully kill the same citizens it is trained and paid to protect? One is sometimes left to wonder how the soldiers who carry out such sadistic and cowardly acts of killing innocent civilians sleep at night after such atrocious crimes.


It is exactly killings like these that prompted the American government to enact the “Leahy act,” an act sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy that forbids the sale of weapons to nations where there is ample evidence of human rights violations being perpetrated by its armed forces and other security services. Owing to the supply of much evidence by amnesty international, its own intelligence services and other civil rights organisations in regards to massive human rights abuses by the Nigerian army, the American government invoked the Leahy act and banned all sales of weapons to the Nigerian armed forces. Senator Patrick Leahy himself had described the Nigerian army as an “army of rapists and murderers” in reaction to the unassailable evidence of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the army. I still remember the angry reaction of a section of the public to news of the American ban of weapons sales to the Nigerian army, with some going as far as accusing the American government of backing Boko Haram while making puerile comparisons between the purported human rights violations by the Israeli army and the American government’s continued sale of weapons to Israel vis-avis the Nigerian army.


But with the latest Shiite and Onitsha massacres in just 7 months of Buhari’s so called “change” government can we now in all honesty blame them for choosing to ban weapons sales to the Nigerian Army? As the days go by and as evidence of human rights violations continues to mount has the American government and other Western nations not been vindicated in their decision to suspend weapons sales to the Nigerian army? The fact remains, that sections of the Nigerian public who criticised the ban did so on the basis of their limited understanding of inherent American values in regards to human rights. We cannot expect other more civilised nations to share our bankrupt values that totally disregard the dignity of the human person. No people that lay claim to any civilisation more so in the 21st century can sell arms in good conscience to an army that is verifiably involved in human rights violations such as the Nigerian army. Interestingly none of those who were critical of the American decision brought any contrary evidence to the accusations of human rights violations beyond mere sentimental babblings and illogical arguments. If anything, it is common knowledge that the Nigeria army has a dark history of human rights violations from as far back as the 60’s, contributing significantly to the crisis that engulfed the nation in those turbulent years.


Overtime, the culture of impunity became consolidated eventually spreading to other security services such as the police force and others. The consequence is that wherever you send the Nigerian army or police for security duties they inevitably end up extorting and carrying out extra-judicial executions on mostly innocent civilians. Whereas some states in the South of America still fly the confederate flags and peaceful rallies in support of the confederacy are all but routine, the Nigerian army kills unarmed pro-Biafran protesters exercising their fundamental rights to peaceful protests at will. If citizens cannot engage in peaceful protests why do we claim to be a democracy and why does anyone expect any civilised nation to sell arms to such an army? While the police force is notorious for roadside executions in the course of extorting sums as little as N20 naira, in all recent military deployments from Odi in the Niger-Delta, Zaki Biam in the North central to Boko Haram in the Northeast, the Nigerian army has repeatedly carried out extra-judicial executions. The evidence abounds everywhere as countless videos which captured such executions of sometimes very young children are available online.


It takes a totally debased army to be engaged in such unconscionable violation of the rights of even its own citizens that it is constituted to protect. Ironically, in just 7 months of Buhari’s administration that claims to be all about “change”, human rights violations and disregard for the rule of law have almost surpassed much of what obtained in the past. Not only has the Nigerian army been increasingly carrying out random massacres of the same citizens/civilians it is trained and paid to protect, Nnamdi Kanu, the proprietor of Radio Biafra remains in extra-judicial detention even after both the magistrate court and federal high court discharged and acquitted him in blatant disregard of the rule of law—and all under Buhari’s watch and supposed “change” government. Where then is the “change” when people continue to be clamped in detention against court orders and where civilians can be randomly mowed down by an atrocious army?


It is obvious that the Nigerian army as presently constituted is not fit for purpose. If Buhari is serious about his so called change agenda, then he must urgently undertake a root and branch reform of the army; massive re-training and re-orientation, while at the same time punishing all the culprits implicated in human rights violations and respect the rule of law as it concerns Nnamdi Kanu’s extra-judicial detention. In a normal society, the chief of army staff under whose direct command the massacre of innocent civilians happened would have long resigned, but in Nigeria being as embedded in injustice as it is in impunity the chief of army staff is defiant. Yet, for an administration that promised change, it is left for Buhari to decide his fate and ultimately what kind of change his administration really represents. Whether it will be a change for the better or a change for the worse remains to be seen. Injustice consumes all in its path, and except we collectively strive to create a nation that upholds the fundamental rights of all its citizens, any of us could one day be a victim of human rights violations.


Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu ( Email: ) reports.


*Photo Caption - A Nigerian soldier restoring order, - orders a girl on her knees, threatening her with a stick.

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