To assert that the entire world is astounded with the exceptional performance of the Nigerian Army in quenching the conflagration of the deadly Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) in Nigeria is an understatement. It’s a torn in the flesh for the whole world and remains an unresolved mystery in most parts of the world, despite the global sophistry in its collective attack.
But terrorism is a mystery, dissected and demystified in Nigeria. Within two years, a re-structured Nigerian Army nay Military, under President Muhammadu Buhari and a competent Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, as ombudsman of the counter-insurgency war instantly sent Boko Haram insurgents to the “crossbeams.”
But in every clime, where humanity is assembled, as men or institutions strive to make progress, some possessed minds, with Luciferic agenda spend far more hours awake to repress and rubbish this progress. It is the narrative of the Nigeria Army presently, particularly in the hands of some suspect international human rights organizations’. They have found a fertile ground for the persecution of Nigerian soldiers facing the risks, the nightmares and the dangers of terrorism, adjudged as the world’s most deadliest and delicate war.
Therefore, liveliness of Nigerians serviced by the high esteem they held Nigerian Army for extinguishing the fire of terrorism was suddenly blighted by Amnesty International (AI). In its 2016/2016 report on State of Human Rights in Nigeria, AI damnably accused army personnel of engaging in serial acts of human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, starvation of suspects, use of unreasonable force and other forms of inhuman treatments of suspects.
In order to confer an artificial credibility on itself and the shamefully fabricated report, AI extended its tentacles to also allege 13 members of the irritant members of the Indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) were murdered and buried in a shallow grave on the Port Harcourt-Aba road in Abia state, Nigeria. No doubt, AI’s gaffe was a blow below the belt on the reputation and professionalism of the Nigerian Army, under a no-nonsense COAS, Gen. Buratai.
He was surprised at AI’s revelations, but not rattled. While not ruling out the possibility of human error in military operations, Buratai knew the extent of the severity in the weight of the allegations against army personnel had a snag, at least under his watch. He was desirous to know the truth.
The Army Chief instantly set up a panel to investigate the allegations. A nine-member panel designated as the Nigerian Army Special Board of Inquiry (SBOI) headed by Major General A.T. Jubril set out to unravel the allegations.
Inaugurated March 8, 2017, by the COAS with clear terms of reference, but mainly to ascertain the veracity of the AI’s claims of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity by army personnel; it submitted its report on May 18, 2017.The composition of the panel itself clearly reflected geographical spread, an invitation to all stakeholders across the regions, including representatives from the areas the alleged human rights violations occurred.
The AI vicious report also fingered army commanders of the Command Theatre in Borno state, Northeast and parts of Nigeria’s Southeast of perpetrating heinous crimes against humanity.
After weeks of anticipation of the report to determine what actually transpired, the panel submitted the report. And presenting the main resolutions of the painstaking work of the Panel, the Chief of Civil /Military Affairs Nigerian Army, Major General Nuhu Angbazo disclosed the exoneration of the Army officers criminalized in the AI’s report. It passed a verdict of unsubstantiated, provable or lack of forensic evidence to establish the culpability of the mentioned officers and by implication, the Nigerian Army.
It is praiseworthy to understand that the Army panel however, observed some minor infractions in the handling of Boko Haram suspects, especially denial of the suspects to legal representations and access to justice. But the Army operating under such circumstances, the anomalies were expected and excusable, going by the tough and engaging, guerrilla-like nature of terrorism wars.
That the Army panel could fault the army based on evidential shortcomings meant that they embarked on a mission of justice, fairness and equity to all parties. Therefore, it is unthinkable that they would have hesitated indicting the army, on the various layers of allegations raised by AI, if indeed, such crimes were committed.
But the desperation of AI to blame the army at all cost necessitated the mention of starvation of detainees. But the panel clarified that some of the Boko Haran suspects were “malnourished and in poor state,” at the time of their arrest. Of course what else can be expected from fighters, who could neither access money, food or ammunitions?
Insurgents no longer had the luxury of raiding markets, farmlands or food barns and banks to cart away food and rob for cash to bankroll their nefarious activities. These sources were blocked by Nigerian troops. And it is expected that criminals operating under such conditions are bound to be famished.
So, how is that the fault of the Army? Free Nigerians could not afford proper meals and for any organization to expect that terrorists suspects to be served buffets while in detention is asking what even God Himself cannot grant.
The same lucidity trails its report of the alleged killing of 13 members of the abrasive IPOB. If deaths occurred during the protests in Onitsha, the Anambra state Governor William Obiano should know; the State Police Commissioner must be aware; the State Director of the DSS will be vocal on it and residents, some of whom might be relatives of the allegedly murdered IPOB members would not deny it.
It is not feasible for all of them to subscribe to the theory of conspiracy of silence; at least, kinsmen of the dead should speak out in memory of beloved lost to the “struggle.” But they succinctly stated that no one was killed, but arrests of some gang leaders was affected and handed over to the prosecuting authorities. It is the 14 persons Police report indicated were arrested at the Onitsha bridgehead protest that AI claims in the report as killed. That is the extent AI is pushing to reinvent and re-interpret Nigerian laws. Where have they got such powers by classifying arrested outlaws as murdered?
But as usual, though not unexpected anyway, AI through its Director in Nigeria, Mr. Osai Ojigho issued a statement to the effect that it stood by its porous report, which it has kept shifting stand every other time. Ojigho’s statement says, AI is after Justice to all parties thus;
“We maintain that those suspected of committing human rights violations and crimes under international law on all sides of the conflict must be brought to justice in fair trials before civilian courts without recourse to the death penalty.”
But in its condemnable and contentious 2016/2017 report on State of Human Rights in Nigeria, it only dubiously recognized the violated human rights of terrorists and ignored even a sentence of the ferociously abused human rights of terrorists’ victims. Hypocrisy does not pay and an organization with such international status and recognition should avoid the temptation of this destructive reversal of itself.AI knows international law on human rights crimes, but it cannot and has no locus standi to teach Nigeria its own laws on capital punishment.
So evidently, and avoiding the discreditable stain on its reputation like Transparency International which wrongly accused the current leadership of the Nigerian Military over defence contracts procurement fraud, but shortly afterwards recanted it, the obstinacy of AI in insisting on its fallacious report and rather calling for a Presidential investigation is instructive.
It remains to be seen whether AI will also trust the findings of such report if it is instituted. The independent presidential inquiry AI made allusions is also subject to their questioning of its authenticity; hence President Buhari is the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. And by their reasoning, Buhari would be comfortable “indicting” himself? So, how can they believe the report of a presidential inquiry?
Those tempted to toe the ignominious position of AI by thinking the Nigeria Army presided over its own case must be mistaken. The leadership of the Nigerian Army under Lt. Gen. Tukur Yususfu Buratai has proven over the years that he is not a man susceptible to dubiousness anywhere he operates either in undue protection of either his personnel or other members of the Nigerian state entrusted in his hands by God to lead.
Infinitely humane, Buratai’s antecedents have shown him melting disciplinary actions on army personnel who breach the rules, especially in civil interactions and engagements. So, AI may nurse its anti-Nigerian agenda, but it certainly cannot redefine Gen. Buratai to Nigerians.
Quite impressively, throughout Army Panel’s investigation of the AI’s allegations, board members religiously adopted the constructive pathway of equity, justice and fairness, evident in the spread of its probe. They consistently rummaged for evidences potent enough to nail the officers to qualify them for any prescribed punishment, if found culpable, but none was adduced by those who testified nor could they find it themselves. It left the Panel with no option than to unanimously endorse the exoneration of AI’s indicted army officers.
As AI licks it wounds to plot another strategy of the evil agenda on Nigeria, it must not escape their senses that the SBOI never pandered to the whims and caprices of minions of the organization which convicted these officers of wrong doing without any fair hearing. It is condemnable enough and their exoneration is indicative of the strength of character the principled members of the Panel impinged on this national assignment.
The Panel’s report has once again restored confidence in the current Nigerian military and its leadership, as a haven of puritanism, fairness and justice in Nigeria. May be, Amnesty International can conduct the probe itself in order to believe its own findings, but the stamp of exoneration of the Nigerian Army is sweet and good tidings to Nigerians.
By: Uche John Madu
Madu writes from the Badagry Leadership Institute, Lagos.