By Dirisu Yakubu
Famous rights advocacy groups, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA and AFRIRIGHTS, Friday called on foreign embassies to dismiss allegations of human rights violations pressed against immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai (retd) and other ex-service chiefs.
The bodies in letters addressed to some foreign embassies in the land noted that the ex-service chiefs discharged their duties in a professional manner and ethical standard of military tradition.
The Right groups in a statement jointly signed by the national coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the national media affairs director Miss. Zainab Yusuf, categorically stated that rather than recrimination and casting undue aspersions in a bid to ridicule the public standing and assassinate the character of General Buratai and other former military Chiefs, “these persons who had only just voluntarily retired from Nigeria Military after 40 years deserve accolades for their undiluted services to Nigeria.”
The petitioned 31 key foreign missions are the Head of Delegation of European Union, EU, and the Ambassadors of Netherlands, Finland, Poland, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Sweden.
Others are the High Commissioners of the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and the Ambassadors of the United States, Israel, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria.
Excerpts from the letters to the embassies by HURIWA and ARIRIGHTS dated February 12th 2021 reads thus:
The letter dated February 12, 2021 read in part: “Contrary to insinuations and allegations by some groups under the aegis of Eastern Rights and Intelligentsia Coalition against General Tukur Buratia, we hereby on behalf of over eighth thousand members and over 36 registered affiliates, humbly write you this letter to bring your Excellency, up to speed, with what the immediate past Chief of Army Staff General Buratai adopted to resolve alleged human rights violations by soldiers.
“The past six years have seen Boko Haram atrocities in the northern part of Nigeria raising serious internal insecurity issues and international uproar by its tendency to strike freely, killing and maiming with destruction. These have thus attracted the reliance of the Nigeria government on the military action to deal with Boko Haram.
“It is vital to note first that, the Nigerian Police are statutorily charged with ensuring internal security and public order but the complexity of the threat has seen the army aiding the police.
“Pertinent to mention that the involvement of the armed forces in the fight against Boko Haram enjoyed legal backing in Nigeria’s Constitution and the Armed Forces Act, which empowers the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to determine its operational use.
“Section 8(1), also provides that, the President shall determine the operational use of the Armed Forces, but may, under general or special directives, delegate his responsibility for the day-to-day operational use.
“Section 8(3) of the same Act clarifies that the operational use of the armed forces in Nigeria includes its use for the purpose of maintaining and securing public safety and public order.
“With the absence of war with other states around the world, in maintaining Nigeria’s territorial integrity and securing its borders, the armed forces have been deployed more to suppress insurrections and assisting, mostly the Police and Nigerian Securities and Civil Defence Corps in the storm of ugly disturbances in different parts of Nigeria, especially in dealing with Boko Haram insurgency among others.
“Pertinent to mention that the struggle by the Nigerian army to combat the Boko Haram insurgents changed with the reorganization of the military, notably the appointment of Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai as Chief of Army Staff and relocation of the military command structure to Borno State by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.”
According to the groups, the ex-service chiefs, particularly Gen. Buratai took great steps to uphold the rights of Nigerians and promote military-civil relations.
“The first step taken to checkmate human rights abuses was to rejig and strengthen the Department of Civil-Military Affairs, DCMA. Consequently, sensitization workshops and campaigns on the protection of human rights were dynamically conducted for members of the Nigerian Army.
“Similarly, corporate social responsibility projects like construction of boreholes, feeder roads, renovation of medical centres and schools among others across selected communities in Nigeria were conducted particularly during operations and exercises. This endeared the troops to the locals and ushered in a sense of togetherness and mutual respect.
“Likewise, the Nigerian Army through the department, partnered with some human rights organizations such as the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to develop the capacity that will enhance professionalism and responsiveness in promoting humanitarian principles and conduct during operations.
“Such human rights sensitization workshops harped on operational civil-military interactions, humanitarian principles, perception, actions, guidelines, security and coordination as well as humanitarian access,” the statement read in part.
They listed the setting up of human rights desk, establishment Of toll free call centre and public complaints rapid response unit, construction and commissioning of joint investigation centre and cells for Boko Haram suspects, among others as some of the steps taken by Buratai and co to enhance military-civil relations while they held sway.