Latest Headlines

House Summons Defence, Army Chiefs over Alleged Assault, Killing of Benue Residents

House Summons Defence, Army Chiefs over Alleged Assault, Killing of Benue Residents

•Prescribes five-year jail term for substandard life-endangering products 

•Passes bill to increase number of judges to 150

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives has summoned the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor and Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya to appear before it over alleged assault on a member of the House, Hon. Kpam Sokpo, residents of Gboko and guests of Old Barn Hotel, Gboko by Men of the 401 Special Forces Brigade of the Nigerian Army.

The security Chiefs are to explain the circumstances behind the unprovoked attack and why these military officers did not carry proper identification or inform the civilians about their mission.

They are to also tell the House the military’s rules of engagement during election monitoring and other engagements with the civilian population, especially considering the extrajudicial killing of two young men in Gboko by the same 401 Special Forces Brigade on March 18, 2023 for alleged ballot snatching.

The House equally urged the Chiefs of Defence and Army Staff to commence a comprehensive investigation of the incident (ensuring evidence is obtained from civilian witnesses) with the view to identifying the soldiers that were responsible for this mayhem.

The resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Mark Gbillah at plenary yesterday.

Moving the motion, the lawmaker noted that the operational use of the Armed Forces in Nigeria was for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order in accordance with Section 8 (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The lawmaker expressed concern over the worsening spate of military and police brutality, extra-judicial killings by security operatives on civilians and unarmed Nigerians.

He further expressed concerns over the unfortunate incidence of Saturday, March 18, 2023 at Old Barn Hotel, Gboko in Benue State, where at about 2:30 am, men of the 401 Division of the Nigerian Army viciously assaulted and brutalized several persons and guests.

Gbillah said, “Also concerned that these military men, numbering over 20 stormed the hotel in Nigerian Army trucks and dressed in military uniforms but without any identifiers such as name tags, any form of personal Identity or ranks.

“Disturbed that the military men ordered all persons within view to move, gather in groups and squat on the ground without explanation such cruel and inhuman treatment. Also worried that in the course of obeying the Army Officers’ commands, one of the soldiers accosted the Honourable and slapped him.

“Also disturbed that despite introducing himself as a serving member of the House of Representatives, the soldier rather poured more invectives on the Honourable and ordered his subordinates to slap him and in an attempt to defend himself from the unprovoked assault, about 20 soldiers pounced on him and others with guns and brutally assaulted them, this resulted in serious injuries on his head, face, shoulders, chest, back, both arms, and legs.”

Adopting the motion, the House while  condemning the assault, mandated its Committee on Army to ensure compliance with the prayers and report to the House within two weeks for further legislative action.

In the meantime, members of the House of Representatives yesterday also passed through second reading a bill which seeks to repeal the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Act, No.14 of 2015 and enact the SON Act, 2023, for the purpose of providing additional functions for the organisation, creating new offences and increasing penalties for offences relating to standardisation.

The lawmakers also passed through second reading a Senate Bill seeking for an act to amend the federal high court act, 2004 to provide for the increase in the number of judges from 100 to 150 and to make provisions for the regulation of the award of prejudgment in relation to claims bothering on commercial transactions in Nigeria.

Leading the debate on the Bill for the repeal of SON Act, the sponsor, Hon.  Julius Ihonvbere, said the key amendment was to criminalise the production, importation, distribution dealing in substandard life-endangering products and impose a custodial sentence of 5 years without an option of fine on persons convicted.

He also said the bill seeks to mandate the organisation to publish annually, products deemed as life-endangering and also proposes a 50 per cent increment across board for all fines under the old act to align with current economic realities. The fines under the bill are set in the minimum to allow for flexibility.

The lawmaker lamented that some sections in the previous Act affect the rights of people such as the reduction in the duration for which the organisation could seize and detain hazardous goods without an order of Court from 90 days to 45 days. 

Another, he said was the power granted to the organisation under the old Act to destroy hazardous goods without an order of Court has been expunged.

Ihonvbere said, “Some of these challenges range from inadequate penalties for standards-related offences to create sufficient deterrence for offenders, to limited resources for the funding of the ever-increasing cost of standards development and conformity assessment activities.

“The instant proposition for the repeal of the SON ACT NO.14 of 2015 is necessitated by the need to reposition the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to attain its full potential in areas of standardisation and quality control.

“SON being the National Standards Body. The proposed amendments will checkmate the threats posed to the national economy by the importation and manufacturing of substandard products that lead to avoidable deaths and monumental economic losses in the country.”

Meanwhile the lawmakers during consideration of reports at the Committee of the Whole, approved the Bill for an act to repeal the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A.18, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Arbitration and Mediation Act, 2023 to Provide a Unified Legal

Framework for the fair and efficient Settlement of Commercial disputes through Arbitration and Mediation, make applicable the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign

Arbitration Awards (the New York Convention) to any award made in Nigeria or in any contracting State arising out of International Commercial Arbitration.

Related Articles