Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday in Abuja inaugurated eight-man Presidential Investigation Panel to review compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights’ obligations and rules of engagement.
Speaking at the event, Osinbajo stated that the presidential panel was saddled with the task of investigating allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the military by Amnesty International.
It was reported that the Amnesty International has been alleging that the military had committed several human rights abuses relentless in its war against Boko Haram insurgency.
The Amnesty International’s 2016 reports on Nigeria allegedd that 240 people, including infants, died in military detention camps in the North East while 177 pro-Biafran agitators were allegedly extra-judicially killed in the same year.
The acting president said all the allegations being levelled against the armed forces and other security agencies must not go unaddressed so as to safeguard the good image of Nigeria.
He, therefore, assured all the security agencies that the work of the investigative panel should not be seen as a witch hunt or an act aimed at denigrating the laudable work of the military.
“There have been a series of allegations levelled against security forces by some local and international commentators and it is our belief that if left unaddressed these allegations are capable of undermining the good work and efforts of the men and women of the armed forces who have largely conducted themselves in a disciplined and professional manner.
“Failure to examine some of these allegations will also leave those who may have been victims of such abuses without any recourse to justice.
“And if history has taught us anything, it is that the failure of our justice system to adequately respond to crisis is usually a recipe for greater conflict,’’ he said.
The acting president listed the terms of reference of the panel to include, “the review of extant rules of engagement applicable to Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto.
“To investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws under the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; the Geneva Convention Act; the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.
“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies;
“To recommend the means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in conflict situations
“To make further recommendations in line with these terms of reference as maybe deemed necessary.’’
Osinbajo enjoined the panel to also look into the conditions of service of the armed forces or any other factors that might have hindered the performance of the military in the ongoing fight against insurgents, militants and other combatants with a view to addressing them.
He, therefore, challenged the members of the panel to carry out their duties diligently.
The panel, which is to be headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill, has Maj.-Gen. Patrick Akem; Mr Wale Fapohunda; Mrs Hauwa Ibrahim; Mr Jibrin Ibrahim; Mr Abba Ambudashi Ibrahim; Mrs Ifeoma Nwakama as members while Dr Fatima Alkali will serve as counsel to the Panel.
The Panel also has a secretary from the Office of the SGF.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian Army in February 2017 set up a seven-member “Special Board of Inquiry’’ to probe alleged cases of human rights abuse level against its personnel in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations.
It was reported that the board, inaugurated by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen.Tukur Buratai, was headed by retired Maj.-Gen. Ahmed Jibrin.
Buratai noted that in spite of the success recorded by troops in the ongoing counter-terrorism operations in the North East, some individuals and organisations had expressed concerns.
He explained that the individuals and organisations alleged cases of misconduct and human rights abuses by personnel of the army, “especially in the early days of the counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations”.
It was reported that the outcome of the Ahmed Jibrin probe panel would also be examined by the Justice Biobele Georgewill’s investigation panel.