By Olatokunbo Adesanya
Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, irrespective of theirstatus; the fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral andrational being who deserves to be treated with dignity. Indeed, the fundamental human rights of all Nigerian citizens are statute-protected asdetailed in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The history of Nigeria is, however, replete with many unfortunateincidences, which have led Nigerians to believe that the military does notrespect fundamental human rights, especially of civilians. A recentexample, as it pertains to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), was the allegedinvasion of the Ipetu Ijesha Campus of the Osun State University andsubsequent manhandling of members of the University community bysome NAF personnel on 23 May 2017. Although there were obvious exaggerations in the news report, as the NAF does not have ArmouredPersonnel Carriers, for example, the entire incidence remains highly condemnable and unfortunate. Consequently, the NAF wasted no time inreleasing an official statement in which it expressed its regrets concerningthe reported incidence and added that it does not condone or encouragethe violation of anyone’s human rights. The NAF further emphaticallydeclared that the reported incidence was not a reflection of the NAF, as anorganization. While it is a truism that personnel, especially if in uniform, somewhat act asambassadors of the Service, it does not mean that all their actions at everypoint in time have the endorsement of the Service. It would therefore makea lot of difference if individuals’ respective actions were not alwaysgeneralized to mean organizational actions. Human nature being what it is,individuals are not perfect and would at one time or the other be involved ina form of misconduct or the other, either by commission or omission. Asidefrom the occasional misbehavior of some individuals, arising from errors of judgment, it is a universal fact that in every organization, there wouldalways be those who could be referred to as ‘bad eggs’. Our founding fathers also anticipated the foregoing and accordingly stipulated rules andregulations to guide the behaviour of Service personnel; they even went astep further by ensuring the enactment of laws to punish offenders.
Nevertheless, in accordance with extant Nigerian laws, everyone remainsinnocent until proven guilty. Therefore, whenever an air force personnel ora group of air force personnel is alleged to have been involved in conductsakin to the violation of fundamental human rights, it is only natural and rightfor the NAF to initiate the usual process of determining the degree ofinvolvement of such personnel, if indeed they were involved. Thereafter,appropriate administrative action would be taken against such involvedpersonnel, in accordance with the applicable laws. That process must bethorough and faultless; anything short of that would be a violation of thefundamental human rights of the supposedly involved personnel, who afterall also remain human! The need for thoroughness and the need to painstakingly complete theformal part of the law chain would sometimes cause a delay in announcingto the general public, the report of findings and actions taken. For instance,in the unfortunate Ipetu Ijesha incidence, the NAF had since stated that itwould deal with any NAF personnel found culpable in accordance with theappropriate laws, following which formal investigations into the matterimmediately commenced. The NAF is an honourable organization, whichconsiders integrity as being germane to the building of confidence ininstitutions. In that regard, Nigerians are assured that the NAF would dowhat it has promised and that the general populace would be duly informedat the appropriate time.It is not out of place for tempers to be high whenever there are reports ofhuman rights violation. It is equally understandable for the generalpopulace not to be at ease when it appears that nothing substantial isbeing done to either punish offenders or prevent a recurrence. However,the rule of law must always take precedence, lest the Service itself isaccused of ‘jungle justice’. The key thing is patience on the part of thepopulace and communication on the part of the Service. The NAF, as anorganization, sees itself as being accountable to the people and therefore,daily strives to create a secured and safe environment for all Nigerians toflourish. The NAF, especially under the leadership of the incumbent Chiefof the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar, constantly strives for the highest standards of professionalism, in line with global best practices.
￼Accordingly, the NAF remains focused on protecting the Nigerian citizenryand would always address any proven wrongdoings on the part of itspersonnel in a most professional and appropriate manner. Meanwhile, it isworthy of note that individual actions do not necessarily connoteorganization endorsements.God bless Nigeria!
Adesanya, an Air Commodore, is the NAF Director of Public Relations and Information.