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Military probe panel, an ‘army arrangement’- HURIWA

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•Osibanjo urged to disband commission 

Nneoma Ndibe 

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has berated the recently constituted Judicial Commission of Enquiry into various human rights allegations against the Nigerian military as an arrangement skewed in favour of the Army.

To this end, the group in a statement on Monday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged  Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo to disband the panel of judicial investigators into allegations of human rights violations by the military because the members are largely allies and loyalists of top hierarchy of the Military.

Making the observation is the frontline rights group, which argued that it is logically impossible for some of the members known to institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission and who were part of a previous in-house Army’s investigative panel to come up with an entirely independent findings different from the Military’s friendly report it tendered few days back.

HURIWA said that for the Presidential panel to become a fully independent judicial probe panel, then it must be free from manipulative control of the powers- that- be in action, in judgment, in functions and ought to be autonomous and not tied to the apron strings of the office of the Secretary to the government of the Federation as is currently the case whereby the Scribe to the panel is a civil servant in the Presidency. 

The group wondered also how a panelist in the person of Mr. Wale Fapohunda, a well-known loyalist of the Army’s hierarchy that was a top member of the Army’s internal investigative panel headed by a recently retired Major General in the Army can now be included in what the Acting President comically called ‘independent’ judicial commission when he had previously expressed an opinion on this same matter in favour of the Military accused of widespread rights violations.

Besides, the rights group faulted the inclusion of a nominee from the National Human Rights Commission as a member when infact NHRC has a working partnership with Nigerian Military and was also part of the Army’s in-house investigative panel which recently turned in a choreographed report handing a dubious clean bill of non- indictments to the military over the extralegal executions of unarmed members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Islamic movement of Nigeria.

“We totally reject this so-called “independent” judicial probe panel because it is similar to asking the alleged violator to adjudicate over a matter against itself. How can the Acting President set up this kind of a contraption that would ab initio be manipulated and open to be dictated to by the military’s hierarchy to produce a largely predetermined finding that would exonerate the Army and expect decent and rational observers around the world to take this country serious? Nigeria must stop this charade and a joke taken too far”.

HURIWA recalled that Osinbajo had on Friday August 11, 2017 inaugurated a presidential investigation panel to review compliance of Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement, especially in local conflicts and insurgency situations.

The terms of reference of the panel are: (a) To review extant rules of engagement applicable to the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extinct of compliance thereto; (b)To investigate alleged act of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; the Geneva Convention Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflict and insurgencies.

Other terms of reference are  (c) To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflict and insurgencies; to recommend the means of preventing violation of international humanitarian human rights laws in conflict situations;  (d) To recommend means of preventing violations of international and humanitarian of human rights law and conflict situations and (e)  To make further recommendations in line with these terms of reference as may be deemed necessary.

HURIWA further recalled that earlier, on March 8th 2017, the Chief of Army Staff had set up a 7-man special board of inquiry to probe alleged cases of human rights abuse leveled against its personal headed by Maj. General Ahmed Jibrin. The panel exonerated the Army.

The Rights group said there was just no way this present Federal Government’s teleguided panel can come up with a vigourously compiled and rigourous independent opinion on the terms of reference that would fundamentally depart from what the government want and also what the Army wamts.

“We believe this panel is a fraudulent camouflage for image laundering for the military and is just like what Fela Anikulapo Kuti called an ‘Army arrangement’ meant to manufacture an imprimatur to be handed over to the military institutions to try to placate them and burnish its image already stained and tainted by a plethora of reports indicting soldiers and the Armed forces of widespread human rights violations such as large scale extrajudicial killings of unarmed protesters and supporters of the self determination groups such as IPOB. 

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