By Chibuike Nwabuko
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu on Tuesday inaugurated the Special Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations in Counter-Insurgency Operations in North-East Nigeria (SIIP North East).
According to him, the setting up of the investigative panel was against the backdrop of allegations of gross human rights violations contained in the three-part report published in December 2022 on military operations in the north east by Reuters.
The NHRC boss stressed that the allegations contained in the aforementioned reports are grievous and present a major concern to all in the human rights field and as such invokes its inherent, express and incidental powers as contained in sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act as amended to constitute a special independent investigative panel.
Ojukwu while presenting the Chairman and members of the panel to the public, listed their terms of reference as follows:
- Investigate allegations of gross violations of national and international human rights laws/principles alleged against the Nigerian Armed Forces in the three reports by Reuters. (Sections 5(a)(b)(j) and 6(1)(a) of the NHRC Act, 2010).
- Receive memorandum from individuals and organisations with interest in the subject matter of the mandate of the SIIP North-East, especially human rights, security and humanitarian organisations working in the North-East.
- Make appropriate determinations as to culpability of individuals or institutions as may be deemed necessary in each circumstance. (Section 5(j) of the NHRC Act 2010).
- Make determination as to the damages or compensation payable in relation to any violation of human rights where it deems this necessary in the circumstances of the case (sec. 6(e) of the NHRC Act, 2010).
- Refer any matter of human rights violations requiring prosecution to the Attorney General of the Federation or of a State, as the case may be. (Section 5(p) of the NHRC Act, 2010).
- Make recommendations to government on:
(a) Institutional, Policy and Regulatory measures to be taken to integrate human rights principles and practices into military and counter-insurgency operations.
(b) Propose Remedial steps that may enhance the professional conduct of military personnel in counter-insurgency operations.
(c) Any other related issues that the SIIP North-East may be considered appropriate.
The Executive Secretary reiterated that the SIIP North-East shall operate under the mandate of the National Human Rights Commission and shall enjoy its express and incidental powers under section 6(1) and (2) of the NHRC Act. Adding that membership of this panel has been drawn from major professional backgrounds relating to the allegations contained in the report. These he said includes law and human rights, medicine and psychology, military intelligence and humanitarian affairs.
He who conveyed the gratitude of the NHRC to these eminent Nigerians who have agreed to share their time, talents and wealth of experience with the Commission also thanked the Nigerian Bar Association and the Nigerian Medical Association whose members are represented in the panel.
Ojukwu said with the inauguration of the panel, it is the hope of the Commission and indeed every Nigerian that this panel will work hard with all the human and other resources at their disposal to investigate and unravel the truth behind these allegations and ensure that justice is done in all appropriate cases.
He further reminded that Commission has given the panel the mandate and all necessary incidental powers to achieve the terms of reference and objectives for the establishment of the panel and expressed confidence that they have chosen the right team for this work.
The NHRC therefore solicited the full support and cooperation of all stakeholders (state governments, the Nigerian Military, the United Nations System, international and local non-governmental organisations and the traditional and religious institutions) in the humanitarian efforts in the north east for the Panel to achieve its mandate.
Ojukwu commended the pledge by the Chief of Defence Staff that the military institution will cooperate with this investigation and the subsequent deployment of a Military Liaison to the secretariate of the Panel.
The NHRC Boss highligjted that to protect human rights and ensure accountability for violations is a sacred duty which all of us as the human family have a mission to uphold.