By Femi Ogunshola
Abuja – The Presidential Panel of Investigation to review compliance of the Nigerian Armed Forces on rules of engagement on Monday in Abuja began hearing on alleged human rights violation by the armed forces.
Justice Biobele Abraham, Chairman of the panel, said at its sitting that insurgencies, military and local conflicts were asymmetric and could not be executed according to any particular pattern.
He said that the challenges inherent in the fight against insurgencies, militancy and armed local conflicts in Nigeria had led to allegation of non compliance with human rights obligations by the Nigeria army.
According to him, only a bold step by the Federal Government to ascertain the veracity of the allegations could assuage both the Nigerian public and the international community.
“The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari had thus risen to the occasion and taken very bold step to constitute the Presidential Panel of Investigation with the following mandate:
“To review extant rules of engagement applicable in the armed forces of Nigeria and extant of compliance thereto, to investigate alleged act of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law,
“To investigate maters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgences,
“To recommend means of preventing violation international humanitarian and human rights law among others.”
Abraham said that the panel had received memoranda from across the country, adding that the panel would sit in each of the six geopolitical zones.
He said that this was a unique opportunity for those with genuine and verifiable cases of alleged human rights abuses by the armed forces in the course of managing and containing local conflicts and insurgencies in the country.
Brig.-Gen. Yusuf Shalang, Director of Legal Service, Nigeria Army, said that the setting up of the panel was a welcome development.
He said that the panel would put paid to allegations of cases of alleged non compliance by the Nigerian armed forces to human rights.
He said that the Nigeria army was prepared to answer the series of allegations against it; hence, it had set up a formidable legal team to defend it, adding that it would come out unscathed.
Cdr. John Ikhimiukar, who represented the Air Force, said that there was no allegation of human rights violation against the air force at the moment, adding that if there was any the Air force would defend it.
Group Capt. Musa Sanda, Deputy Director, Legal Service of the Nigeria Navy, said that there was no allegation of human rights violation against the force, adding that the Navy would also defend any such allegation against it.
Miss Chisom Ihekwaba, Human Rights Agenda Network (HRAN), said there were complaints and evidences of human rights violation by the Nigeria Army, adding that the network would provide the victim for the panel to see.
She, however, said that the security of the victims needed to be guaranteed before HRAN could bring them as witnesses in the case.
Mrs Oti Ovrawah, Executive Secretary, National Human rights Commission (NHRC), lauded the Federal Government for the move by setting up the panel, adding that the commission would give its full backing.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the government had on August 11 set up a presidential panel of investigation to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement.
Member of the panel include; Maj.-Gen. Patrick Akeem, Prof. Hauwa Ibrahim, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Dr Fatima Alkali, Mr Olawole Fapohunda and Mrs Ifeoma Mwakama. (NAN)