*Commends Buratai for existing military-civil relations
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Prominent rights advocacy group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, Sunday, urged newly appointed service chiefs to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Nigerians in their quest to rid the country of insurgency, banditry and all forms of criminality.
This is as the group urged the Major General Lucky Irabor-led security team to borrow a leaf from General Tukur Buratai, the nation’s immediate past Army Chief which it claimed, institutionalized measures aimed at eliminating rights abuses of Nigerians and promoted military and civil relations while in office.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja Sunday, HURIWA Executive Director, Emmanuel Onwubiko noted that though the military is constitutionally charged with the defence of the nation’s territorial integrity; the increasing spate of insurgency in the land, he said, had made it imperative for the armed forces to be drafted to assist the Police in restoring peace and sanity in the country.
He said: “It is a truism that the primary roles of the Nigerian Army are to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and to assist the civil authority when called upon to do so.
“Noticeably, in discharging these constitutional responsibilities, there have been allegations of human rights violations against the Nigerian Army by local and international human rights campaigners, – civil society groups and non-governmental organizations like the Amnesty International, Transparency International and Human Rights Watch among others.
“One of the organisations that constantly kept the Nigerian Army on its toes is the Amnesty International; an international rights watchdog which constantly released negative reports on the Army’s handling of human rights issues.
“We shall only concentrate on allegations when Lt. Gen. Buratai held sway as the army Chief.
“These allegations border mainly on extra judicial killings, torture, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as sexual philandering or exploitation.
“Others are poor detention facility and pitiable medical access and supplies to suspects in military detention centers.
“These claims portrayed the Nigerian Army in bad light, created rancor and distrust between the army and the civil populace, dampened the morale of troops in the operational arenas, almost distracted the military leadership and maligned the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army.
“In order to respond and or address these accusations, the Chief of Army Staff; Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai (as he then was), initiated and institutionalized certain measures intended to eliminate rights abuses by the personnel of the Nigerian Army.”
While crediting Buratai for the several court martial sessions constituted to try erring military officers for sundry offences, HURIWA urged the new security chiefs not to shield any officer found to have abused professional ethics of soldiering.
He stressed the importance of retaining the human rights desk, public complaint rapid response unit, toll free call centre among others as set up by the retired army Chief to consolidate on past achievements.