Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) has risen in defense of former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Yusuf Tukur Buratai, concerning his activities while he served as the nation’s army Chief.
HURIWA at a press conference on Sunday, listed the achievements of the former army chief. The National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, also defended Buratai on the allegations being leveled against him while he was in charge.
According to Emmanuel, there have been allegations of human rights violations against the army by local and international human rights campaigners.
These allegations include extra judicial killings, torture, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as sexual philandering or exploitation, poor detention facility and pitiable medical access and supplies to suspects in military detention centres.
HURIWA however listed some initiatives and measures taken by the former COAS to tackle such excesses by the personnel of the army.
It would be recalled that, following the retirement of Buratai and other service chiefs last week, calls have been ongoing for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to commence trial on them.
In its submission, HURIWA is of the position that there is nothing against the ex-service chiefs, adding that these allegations only succeeded in portraying the army in bad light and creating rancour, distrust between the army and the civilians.
According to HURIWA, on resumption of office in 2015, Buratai, as a disciplined military strategist, understood the key roles of excellent civil military relations particularly in a period of multiple and dynamic security challenges such as terrorism and farmers–herdsmen clashes.
According to HURIWA, the former COAS had quickly reorganized and empowered the Department of Civil Military Affairs (DCMA) to function effectively, especially in the campaign for the protection and respect for human rights by the Nigerian Army.
Emmanuel said, “The first step taken to checkmate human rights abuses was to rejig and strengthen the DCMA. Consequently, sensitization workshops and campaigns on protection of human rights were dynamically conducted for members of the NA.
“Another laudable initiative by the Buratai’s leadership in its consistent efforts to checkmate right abuses was the establishment of Human Rights Desk at the Army Headquarters and in all the formation headquarters across the nation.
“On 19 June 2018, a Military Media Public Awareness Programme (MMPAP) held at Jabi Motor Park in Abuja organized by CLEEN Foundation and Office of the COAS through the Army Human Rights Desk Officer.
“Other measures included the opening of Free Toll Line 193, designated Toll Free Call Centre and Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit, construction and commissioning of Joint Investigation Centre and Cells for Boko Haram suspects.
“Construction of Additional Safe Holding Facility. On the 15th of November 2018, the Nigerian Army’s leadership approved the commencement of the construction of an additional holding facility to improve the management of detainees during investigations. Composition Of Special Board of inquiry to probe alleged cases Of human rights abuse.”
According HURIWA, Buratai had set up a board in line with the provision of Section 172(1) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
HURIWA continued, “Enforcement/application of full military justice system to human rights violators Under Buratai.”
HURIWA noted that any confirmed case of rights infraction was met with maximum punishment. This way, human rights abuses were also drastically curtailed in the Nigerian Army.
Emmanuel added, “There is no gainsaying the fact that the transformation of the Nigerian Army rapidly manifested under the leadership of Buratai.
“Perhaps, those still unconvinced by the impactful exceptional transformational measures contrived in repositioning the army for effective counter-insurgency combats and maintaining military – civil relationship practices are certainly poor adherents of history or have a faulty retentive memory.
“Again, through the establishment of Human Rights Desk Offices in the Army headquarters and across the Nigerian army divisions, the Army was able to address petitions and other different kind of claims against it.
“More so, while Buratai held sway, the Nigerian Army ensured that all cases pending in civil court against it were either assigned to competent registered Nigerian Army external advocates or military lawyers in the Directorate of Legal services.
“Furthermore, Court Martial cases or trials in the field were also given professional attention by deploying legal officers, who are not only trained military personnel, but legal practitioners.
“Adherence to the rule of law was consistent with Buratai’s vision to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of constitutional roles. “HURIWA said it was important that Buratai, who according to the group, had shown patriotism in the service of the nation, should not be branded with agents and saboteurs working hard to destabilize the army.
The rights group warned that the attack on Buratai and the other retired service chiefs, who had offered their lives to the service of their fatherland could be dangerous and a discouragement to the newly appointed security heads.
The group called on hateful politicians and propagandists who may have hated the retired service chiefs for some selfish reasons to stop circulating what it described as “poisonous perception.”
On the heels of the above, Buhari had last week nominated Buratai and other retired service chiefs as non-career ambassadors of Nigeria.
The Presidency said that the names of the former security chiefs are in the Senate awaiting confirmation.
Their nomination has become bane of debate as many feel the President’s decision was to give them soft landing at the ICC.
However, in reaction, the Presidency had lambasted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for fueling the propaganda against the ex-service chiefs, insisting that their nomination for ambassadorial positions was a reward for hard work and patriotic service to the nation.
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