The chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday lauded the Nigerian Army for adhering to the rule of law in its operations in the fight against insurgency in line with global best practices.
Justice Onnoghen made the commendation in a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of Nigerian Army Law Seminar with the theme, ‘The Place of Law in Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Operations in Nigeria’.
He welcomed the collaboration between the Judiciary and the Nigerian military in building capacity of judicial officers in specialised areas of law for efficient justice delivery according to global best practices.
The CJN, who was represented by Justice Kudirat Kekere Ekun, said the independence of the Judiciary remains paramount in any democracy.
He assured that the Judiciary will continue to live up to its constitutional mandate by correctly applying the law and dispensing justice to all without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
Onnoghen observed that the business of bearing arms or defending the nation involves life and death for both regular forces and the citizens.
Noting that there have been allegations and cases of human rights abuses against the military in its efforts to stamp out terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria, he however said there have been tremendous improvements in respect to cases of human rights abuse involving military operations according to global best practices.
“Although the military justice system, which is basically rooted on regimentation, has been condemned by human rights activists, I am of the opinion that there have been tremendous improvements as regards the military observing rule of law in its operations in line with global best practices,” he said
In his welcome address, the chief of army staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, said the theme of the seminar was carefully chosen by the organisers of the seminar considering the current security challenges bedevilling the entire country.
The COAS who was represented by the chief of policy and plans of the Nigerian Army, Major General R.O. Yusuf, said the fight against terrorism and insurgency, especially in the North East, had preoccupied the minds of many Nigerians both within and outside Nigeria, adding that it had been a source of concern for the international community.
He said since he came into office in 2015, he had been monitoring issues and allegations of human rights abuses against troops deployed for operations across the country in line with the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces’ mandate to the armed forces in the fight against terrorism.
Buratai said, “The Nigerian Army has also ensured that the fundamental human rights of citizens are adequately protected in all our exercises and operations.
“So far, we have been able to address petitions and different kinds of claims against the Nigerian Army through the establishment of Human Rights Desk Offices in Army Headquarters and across all the Divisions of the Nigerian Army”.
He announced that the human rights desk has a special hotline for citizens who have genuine claims, complaints and petitions to make against the Nigerian Army, to report a natural disaster or to report any act of terrorism and so on.
He urged citizens to dial 193 and report such cases, adding that each human rights desk is headed by a military lawyer.
The COAS further noted that the Army had also ensured that all cases pending in civil courts against it are either assigned to competent registered external advocates or military lawyers of the Directorate of Legal Services (Army) to handle.
He added that court martial cases and summary trials in the field are also given adequate professional attention by deploying legal officers, who are not only trained military personnel but legal practitioners, to the field from division down to brigade level.
“Let me point out that the Nigerian Army will continue to adhere to the tenets of rule of law in our operations,” Buratai said
He further noted that some of the suits instituted against the Army were meant to distract it from its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Also, the chief of defence staff, Gen Gabriel Olonisakin, who was represented by Major General Leo Irabor, said he would continue to ensure that officers and men of the Armed Forces operate within the purview of the law in discharging their constitutional mandate.
LEADERSHIP reports that the seminar was organised by the Nigerian Army in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, Abuja, to brainstorm on issues of human rights as it relates to military operations.
Air Force Seeks Review Of Training Curriculum
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has called for a review of the training curriculum of the military with a view to keeping officers abreast of contemporary challenges.
Speaking at the close of Nigerian Air Force International Conference in Abuja yesterday, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, noted that terrorism was a global phenomenon.
Abubakar who was the chief host stressed that the seminar availed the Nigerian Air Force the opportunity of tapping from the experiences of others so as to improve its application of air power in counter-insurgency operations in the North East.
He further explained that the seminar was conceptualised to provide a forum for cross think-tank domain discussions where experienced air power practitioners and academics in related fields working in similar emerging threat environments would interact with air power practitioners of the Nigerian Air Force.
Abubakar added that it is in view of the above that NAF carefully selected air power practitioners and researchers from all over the world to share their thoughts on the theme in order to add value to the ongoing counter-insurgency efforts.
He observed that the successful conduct of counter-insurgency operations depended on a clear understanding of the required overarching framework and policy that would enable the service implement a whole of the nation’s approach in fighting the war.
Presenting the resolution of the seminar, Air Commodore E A Alade said that altogether, there were 10 presentations from various experts, academics and professionals in five sessions.
Meanwhile, professional Air Power practitioners commended the Nigerian Air Force for organising its maiden international air power seminar to enable participants share ideas on how to bring the insurgents to their kneels.
Local and foreign participants at the three-day seminar said that the symposium provided a good platform for cross fertilisation of ideas on best ways to combat the global threat of terrorism and the growing irregular warfare in the world.
Fielding questions from journalists at the official closing of the seminar, the chief of staff of the Niger Air Force, Lieutenant-Colonel Boulama Issa Zana, said the outcome of the conference would help Nigeria and neighbouring countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency bring to a halt the activities of the group.
He described the Nigerian Air Force as a professional and highly disciplined force, while urging it to apply lessons learnt from the conference to improve the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.