By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
The minister of Defence, Brig Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) yesterday called for a repeal or amendments of the Armed Forces Act (AFA) to enable the Nigerian military carry out their duties according to international standards.
Also, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Abayomi Olonisakin, corroborated the minister’s stand by saying that such amendments would facilitate military operations, reduce the alleged human rights violations by military officers and ensure statutory entitlements for members of the armed forces.
Olonisakin said if the Armed Forces Act is amended, it would also address other issues and restore hope and dignity in the Nigerian military.
The duo spoke separately during a “Stakeholders Meeting on the Review of the Armed Forces Act,” organised by the Ministry of Defence at the NAF Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja.
Olonisakin said there should be statutory entitlements to members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria that were killed or wounded in action as the nation engaged Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast, adding that such provision is not available in the extant enactment.
He told the gathering that the brainstorming exercise by stakeholders has become necessary to enable them explore possible areas of amendments to Armed Forces Act in order to improve on alleged human rights violations by the military.
He said the military have no issues with any amendment that will improve the welfare and rights of the citizens of this country, adding that “it is exactly what all our operations were aimed at”.
The CDS said: “ While we remain law abiding in our efforts to restore hope and dignity of our compatriots, the terrorist especially in the asymmetric warfare we are fighting has nobody to account to.
“It is in this light I urge you to consider amendments in the AFA that will accord statutory entitlements to members of the AFN that are killed or wounded in action as such provisions are not available in the extant enactment.”
The Chief of Defence Staff said another area of concern to the Armed Forces of Nigeria was the issue of appearance of lawyers in the Armed Forces before civil courts, asserting that military lawyers were being restricted to appear only before Courts martial and even where courtsmartial decisions go on appeal, the appeals are handled by civilians that did not take part in the trial.
He said such a gap would be filled by the amendment, and noted that several courts martial decisions are being reversed on technical grounds to the detriment of enforcement of discipline, which is a cardinal requirement of any military service.
“I, therefore urge you to consider the necessary amendments in our laws that will afford lawyers in the Armed Forces the opportunity to handle cases beyond courts martial and possibly assist in handling other cases that are of national interest,” he said.
In his keynote address, the minister of Defence, Brig Gen. Mansur Muhammad Dan-Ali (rtd) said the laws from which the Armed Forces of Nigeria copied her own law has undergone several reviews reflective of the ever-changing status of the world, stressing that ours has remained stagnant regardless of the dynamism of change in the society.
Dan-Ali stressed that areas for review would include the command influence in the composition and administration of the military justice system, conformity with conventions/protocols of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), among others.