A non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged Nigerians to support Nigerian Army in its internal security operations during the polls to make the exercise a success.
It also tasked the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf to ensure that the internal mechanisms put in place to stop human rights violations by soldiers were effectively and efficiently activated to check abuses just as the group urged the Nigerian Army to maintain absolutely neutrality during the elections.
The group said it had received assurances from the highest echelons of the Nigerian Defence Sector that the operatives deployed for election related internal security operations had been instructed on the sanctity of complying with global best practices, rules of engagement and respect for human rights. “Officers and operatives of the military are abreast of the universally approved rules of engagement in internal security operations just as they have been trained on the far reaching implications of proven cases of extralegal execution of citizens even those that infracted on the law.
Besides, HURIWA revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had not expressly issued a directive for shoot-at-sight of suspected ballot box snatchers just as it disclosed that Military High Command informed it that on no occasion would any citizen be killed through extrajudicial means, adding “We have been informed from a dependable source embeded in the office of Mr. President that no such wide ranging presidential order whether in writing or orally has gone out from the President to the service Chiefs “.
HURIWA has however cautioned that citizens must obey the law by conducting themselves lawfully since even section 33(1) which prohibits extralegal executions makes a provision for use of firearm should riotous situation arise, although the use of lethal weapon need not result in death. “Citizens must know that if ballot box snatching leads to breakdown of law and order, the security forces are permitted by the Constitution to resort to use of lethal weapons which in any case may inflict fatality as a consequence “.
In a media release by HURIWA issued by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, it disclosed that it was given a handout of the extant Chief of Army Staff’s policy directive on Nigerian Army comprehensive programme to improve compliance with Domestic and International Laws guiding the conduct of operations. “The green books which encompassed the aforementioned policy directives have since been circulated to all soldiers. Soldiers have also confirmed to us that they have the book always.”
HURIWA explained the stipulations in the handbook that:
“All personnel of the NA comply with domestic and international laws to which Nigeria is a state party. Unless otherwise directed by the Appropriate Superior Authority (ASA), NA personnel will comply with the principles and spirit of the International Human Rights Law (IHRL) during all Internal Security (IS) operations and other Military Assistance to Civil Authorities (MACA) operations and that the NA may be deployed to in accordance with Sections 217(2) a, b, c, d, and 218(3) of CFRN 1999 (as Amended);
“An effective programme to prevent violations and ensure compliance with domestic and international law is implemented by the NA at all levels of command;
“All incidents of violations of domestic and international laws committed by or against NA personnel, enemy, or any other individual are reported promptly, investigated thoroughly, and, where appropriate, remedied by corrective action;
“The on-scene commander shall ensure that measures are taken to preserve evidence of incidents pending transfer to ASA;
“At all appropriate levels of command and during all stages of operational planning and execution of operations, NA Legal Advisers provide advice concerning domestic and international law as it relates to operations;
“As must as possible, NA commanders are to use their appointment and provisions made by the military justice system and the AFA, to investigate and sanction violation of international laws which in certain cases are also offences against Nigerian Military Law.”
HURIWA expressed optimism that the election would be free, fair and peaceful just as it stated its readiness to monitor the conducts of soldiers and take action to redress any reported violations.