Friday, December 21, 2018

he recent Amnesty International report on activities of Nigerian army in the last three years makes a grim reading. It vindicates what many people were saying, when the killings were going on.

On 11 February 2016, I wrote: ‘The killing fields of East Nigeria. Before the election of Buhari, many of us sounded alarm at the prospect of an Islamist and a Fulani supremacist, who had threatened that the blood of baboon will flow, if he does not win becoming the president of Nigeria.

The prospect of such a man, whose beliefs and sectarian world views are mainly informed by the Quran and Sharia taking power in a multiethnic and multi-faith country filled many with horror.

However, his supporters kept saying how honest he was and how he will fight corruption. Just less than a year after he came to power, the country is unrevealing.

He has retired many army officers from the south. He is implementing discriminatory policies against East Nigeria. He has withdrawn soldiers who are fighting Boko Haram in north east Nigeria and sent them to to east Nigeria to kill unarmed peaceful protesters. He has refused to declare the world’s 4th most terrible terrorist group, a terrorists group, but rushed to declare unarmed group agitating for self determination a terrorist group. He keeps quiet after Fulani herdsmen attack villages and send soldiers to kill unarmed IPOB members. Nigerian army is committing war crimes in Igbo land’

The Amnesty international report paints a picture of an army out of control, a law unto itself and operating under a culture of impunity.

The report raises many questions about the Nigerian army. Who the army is loyal to? Whose best interest the army is serving and protecting? Who gives the army the order to act in the way the report detailed? Why the government and the legislature have made no attempt to hold the army accountable?

Not since the Nazis, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, killing fields and Pinotche’s Chile, has an army in peace time, taken liberty in the extrajudicial killings and brutalisation of the citizens it is set up to protect as the Nigerian army has done in the report.

As a Nigerian. I want to be proud of my country and its military. I want to believe that the Nigerian military represents the best in professionalism. What amnesty international says about Nigerian army does not reflect the high ideals the military in a democracy should aspire and should give any Nigerian, who believes in the rule of law and individual liberty serious concern.

It reminds me of my own experience of Nigerian army. As a boy, I witnessed the brutality and savagery of the Nigerian army during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, as bombs landed near my school at 21 Ogwo road Aba, in 1967. Nigerian army were bombing Biafra’s schools and markets and conducting summary executions of civilians (Asaba genocide ) in clear violations of the rules of war. It was a war crime, which sadly, Igbo leaders have been too impotent to redress.

After the war, I often watched Nigerian soldiers brutalising men and women at the slightest excuse. Often, simply because of who they are.

Several times, I have watched soldiers beat up civilians, arrest and detain them at their barracks, for trying to assert their freedom.

Many Nigerians have experienced military lawlessness and brutality. From bus drivers who dare to demand fare from soldiers to anybody who they feel has offended them.

Even today, Igbo land remain very militarised with frequent extortion and brutalisation of people by soldiers and police men. The region literarily remains under military occupation.

It would seem that the same culture of brutality and impunity has endured in the Nigeria army. This cannot continue.

The way and manner President Buhari responded to the peaceful protests by IPOB members compared with his response to Fulani herdsmen terrorism, says all anybody needs to know about the president and what he hopes to achieve with Nigerian army under his watch.

I am therefore not surprised at the Amnesty International report on Nigerian army. Nigerian army is only doing what it has always done, an instrument used by the executive to suppress the people.

Instead of seeing itself as the guardian of the liberty and security of the people, it seems the army sees itself as existing to enforce the will of those in power, which is why the army chief publicly declared that the army is loyal to Buhari. They army does not seem to make a distinction between serving the government and serving the nation.

It is a fact that non of the soldiers, who committed these crimes against humanity has been held accountable. The question is why the government is not interested in bringing those responsible for these atrocities to justice.

The Amnesty International reports on Nigerian army is a damming report, which should shame those at the helm of Nigerian army and force a rethink of how Nigerian soldiers should conduct themselves in discharging their very important duties.

No army in a democracy should behave in the way and manner amnesty international, reported Nigerian army has behaved.

Only a rogue military engages in torture and extra judicial killings of unarmed civilians. There is no excuse to shoot at unarmed protesters in a democracy and certainly, it is unacceptable to use force against civilians in the way Amnesty International reported.

It is even more worrying that instead of the report leading to soul searching in the Nigerian army, and effort to purge itself, that the army is attacking Amnesty International and defending the indefensible.

The army would seem to have ignored the message and instead, prefers to demonise the messenger; amnesty international, for holding the mirror to its face .

The army should take very seriously what amnesty International says and begin to address them. No country can claim to be a civil democracy under the rule of law, when it has an army that has licence to kill unarmed civilians at the slightest excuse, and turn a blind eye, when terrorists attack the people and internally displace them from their ancestral land.

The first thing should be the immediate resignation of the army chief and a plan to change the culture of brutality, deceit, sectarianism, nepotism and impunity at the core of Nigerian army.

The army Chief cannot continue in his post. Not in the face of the shambolic way he is handling the war against terror, Fulani herdsmen terrorism and the peaceful agitation for Biafra.

Not after the number of soldiers that has been killed by Boko Haram because of lack of equity and poor military tactics. General Tukuru Buratai must resign and be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Nobody should be above the law in a democracy and Nigeria must end the culture of rewarding incompetence and failure.

The government should then embark on modernisation of the army to make it an army that has respect for human rights and the rule of law, reflects the ethnic mix of the country in its highest echelon and review of the way Nigerian soldiers are trained.

The current training is brutalising, with many soldiers subjected to physical abuse and dehumanising treatment.

The result is that the soldiers become dehumanised and ready to brutalise and dehumanise others.

The world has moved on and Nigeria must begin to civilise the way her soldiers are trained so that they can have respect for human lives, fundamental human rights and the rule of law.

No democracy can flourish with an army which is a law unto itself and loyal not to the law and constitution, but to the president and itself.