Few weeks back, I read in one of the obscure blogs about an event that ordinarily should have occupied the front pages of major newspapers in Nigeria because the very rare and salutary nature of the scenario that took place in the center of the war on terror in the North East of Nigeria.
I am talking about the very impressive act of human kindness that was done by some Soldiers on the frontlines of the ongoing war on terror in which they were actually said to have assisted an internally displaced woman in the North East to deliver of her baby.
Although the specific blog that carried this story did not actually explain to their audience that it was a routine charitable conducts of professional Nigerian Soldiers which they are trained to do to benefit the civilian population around their zone of responsibility. Doing CSR is a universal practice especially in constitutional democracies.
Soldiers have also being seen administering medical assistance to the needy in the war ravaged North East of Nigeria just as this kind of socially responsible duties were highly encouraged during the tenure of Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai and he effectively left his footprints in this area on the sands of time which subsequent Army Chiefs have built upon.
The current Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya has started boldly in carrying out legendary corporate social responsibility tasks with his men and officers.
This writer is highly impressed and inspired to do this piece by that photograph of Soldiers who are at the war fronts but still found time to help a woman deliver a baby in Borno State.
The reason for my repeated emphasis on this particular act of human kindness by Soldiers is because even the United Nations have spoken so much about the plight of pregnant women in the different internally displaced people’s camps in the North East of Nigeria as can be seen from a report done few months back by UNICEF.
UNICEF wrote on the 17th October 2018 that Hauwa Bukhar and her newborn daughter, Aishat, sit quietly in a row of chairs at a health clinic in the Muna Garage displacement camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She is among a group of women waiting their turn to be seen. Many of them share the experience of being mothers, and all have endured the hardship of being forced to flee their homes.
The Muna Garage camp is home to over 35,000 residents. They are among at least 1.76 million people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria – their villages ransacked, their property lost and their lives changed forever. The majority of people who have been displaced are living in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis, which is where Muna Garage camp is located.
Hauwa and her family were displaced a year ago, after an armed group raided their village, taking with them cattle and villagers, mostly young women. Hauwa managed to escape, but lost everything, including four of her children after they got separated. After four long months, she was finally reunited with her children and husband and they settled in Muna Garage Camp.
“That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed,” she says through tears.
Giving birth in crowded camps says UNICEF is traumatic because Life in the overcrowded camp is hard, but it is especially difficult for pregnant women.
“It is not easy for these women but we give them the best we can. Pregnant women need space, comfort and a peace of mind, but the women in the camp have none of that. It is even worse for them when they have to deliver at night,” says Aisha Mustapha Kolo, a midwife at one of the clinics.
That was the worst four months of my life, I did not know whether my children had been abducted or had been killed.
At night, there are no health services available in the camp because it is too dangerous for health workers to travel after dark. Women who go into labour at night must therefore give birth at home. Others decide to give birth at home due to traditional beliefs. But for most people in the camp, home is just one grass hut with shared toilets. This means that many pregnant women are forced to deliver their babies in a communal bathroom.
Aisha has worked at the clinic for over a year, and says there were 600 births in the camp and 10 under-five deaths in 2017. Although there were no recorded newborn deaths in 2017, most mothers whose babies die at home soon after birth rarely report the cases to the health facility.
UNICEF that wrote about a particular happy ending for the subject matter aforementioned and informed us that Aisha is checking up on Hauwa’s newborn baby, who is “in perfect health”, according to the midwife.
“This is my sixth baby. But this pregnancy was the hardest, I was not sure my baby was going to make it,” says Hauwa. “I was lucky, my baby was ready to come during the day and I delivered here at the clinic.”
Hauwa’s story is one of the few with a happy ending. So many others have sad stories to tell.
UNICEF is supporting the government of Borno State by providing primary health care services in the two clinics located in Muna Garage Camp, and in about 50 other camps in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – the states most affected by violence. This support includes training for health workers; providing emergency medicines, supplies and equipment; and paying monthly stipends for volunteers working in camps and in newly liberated areas. It also includes treating common diseases, immunization services, antenatal care, delivery, post-natal care, vitamin A supplements, distributing deworming tablets, hygiene promotion, community mobilization, referral services including maintenance of ambulances.
Across the world, 7,000 newborns die every day. Raise your voice to demand affordable, quality health care for every mother and newborn, concludes the UNICEF report.
Before delving further to specifically list just a few of these CSR landmarks made by General Buratai and then how so well the current Army Chief has begun, let us read from a piece dated June 29th 2021 Written by Gordon Scott titled “Why Social Responsibility Matters to Businesses”. In our own case we can as well substitute the term businesses with the term Nigerian Army.
The aforementioned author says that Companies are increasingly ramping up their focus on social responsibility, whether its championing women’s rights, protecting the environment, or attempting to obliterate poverty, on local, national, or global levels. From an optics perspective, socially responsible companies project more attractive images to both consumers and shareholders alike, which serves to positively affect their bottom lines.
CSR is key because Customers (citizens) Matter says the author and argued thus: “Embracing socially responsible policies goes a long way towards attracting and retaining customers, which is essential to a company’s long-term success. Furthermore, many individuals will gladly pay a premium for goods, knowing that part of the profits will be channeled towards social causes near and dear to them.
Companies can likewise witness increased foot traffic if they enhance the local community. For example, banks that dispense loans to low-income households are apt to see an uptick in business, as a direct result.
Socially responsible companies tend to attract employees who are eager to make a difference in the world—in addition to simply collecting a paycheck. With large companies, there is strength in numbers, where collective employee efforts can achieve substantial results, which increases workplace morale and boosts productivity.
Community-oriented companies often enjoy a leg up on their competition, as well, thanks to superior brand imaging. Socially responsible companies cultivate positive brand recognition, increase customer loyalty, and attract top-tier employees. These elements among the keys to achieving increased profitability and long-term financial benefits, he concluded.
The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies positive, as opposed to negative, influence and contribution of an organization to society and its environment. It is the way in which a corporate body, group or body impacts its milieu by providing basic amenities or contributing to its host community or society outside its strict legal bounds or contract with such a community, individuals or society. According to Nigeria Social Enterprise Reports Vol.2, CSR is generally understood to be the way a company achieves a balance or integration of economic, environmental and social imperatives while at the same time addressing shareholders and stakeholders expectations. This stems from the fact that organizations like businesses owe the society beyond the production of goods and services and making of profit.
While it is not news that in May 2008 Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council approved the development of a CSR policy for the country, to instill ethical behavior in Nigerian Business, words used by the then Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr Sanusi Daggash, makes it clear that the policy includes “beyond law commitment” and activities that would necessitate an expectation to ‘give back’ to the society by groups existing in society not merely limited to “companies”.
The theory is rooted in the humanity of man and the need for everybody or organization to act in accordance with that humanity or respond to same irrespective of their core traditional role for which they were primarily set up to achieve. Thus the concept of corporate social responsibility extends to all organizations of human endeavor including such as the army. It is in this regard that the definition of the concept of CSR by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) is quite appreciable because of its broad base. EFQM, in its Framework for Social Responsibility, 2004, defines CSR as:
“a whole range of fundamentals that organizations are expected to acknowledge and to reflect in their actions. It includes among other things respecting human rights, fair treatment of the workforce, customers and suppliers, being good corporate citizens in the communities in which they operate and the conservation of natural environment.”
On the other hand, the Nigerian Army is established under section 217(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides that there shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly. The functions of the armed forces are expressly provided in under section 217(2) thus:
“The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of –
(a) Defending Nigeria from external aggression;
(b) Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea and air;
(c) Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and
(d)Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”
The place of the army in society cannot be over-emphasized. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive principle of State Police makes a correlation between security and welfare of the people by stating under section 14(1)(b) that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. It must equally be noted that it is not out of place that the subject of security and welfare is immediately preceded by the sovereignty of the people under section 14(1)(a). The point being made is that the sovereignty of the nation is only guaranteed and protected by where the security and welfare of the people is prioritized. A most functional institution of the state involved in protecting the sovereignty, security and welfare of the people is the military and especially the army. The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf is even called ‘Mr. Staff Welfare’ in his office because he is known for his passion for welfare of staff and services to the communities in form of CSR.
This role of the army in society is much more understandable in the light of section 218 (1) of the Constitution confers on the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces with “power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.” The functions and use of the army are therefore not confined to the ones mentioned under section 217 of the constitution and could go beyond as far as the President considers it necessary. This role will better be understood in the light of its corporate social responsibility.
First the army is neutral, non-partisan and peaceful. Section 55 of the Armed Forces Act says:
‘A person subject to service law who-
(a) Fights, quarrels or behaves a disorderly manner with any other person, whether subject to service law under this Act or not; or
(b) Uses threatening, abusive, insulting or provocative works or behavior likely to cause disturbance,
Is guilty of an offence under this section and is liable, on conviction by a court martial, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or any less punishment provided by this Act.
The army authorities continue to ensure that the neutral, non-partisan and peaceful role of the army in society is observed, any breach of which immediately gets a reciprocal response by summons to Court Martial in appropriate circumstances.
Second there is another part of the CSR which defines its ability and efficiency in other respects, it is in taking care of its own workforce. Although there is no specific legal provision regulating CSR in Nigeria, section 279 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) has a guiding principle to the effect that the director of a company is to have regard in the performance of his functions to the interest of the company’s employees in general as well as in the interests of its members. The concept of CSR in this regard has thus been identified to entail: provision of a conducive working environment in making available modern working tools and equipment, ventilated offices, good infrastructure, decent and official cars, health and safety equipment at the workplace; payment of competitive salary remuneration commensurate with level commitment and offer of opportunities for training and career development; maintaining equal opportunities among members of workforce; involving members of the workforce in decisions affecting them; establishment of clear cut bargaining and grievance procedures known to and followed by members of the workforce.
In the case of Lt. Col. MF Komonibo v. Nigerian Army (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt.762) 2, it was held that an accused about to be tried by a Court Martial shall be entitled to object in any reasonable grounds to any member of the court martial or the awaiting member whether appointed originally or in lieu of another officer. The Court went further to affirm that:
“for the purpose enabling the accused to avail himself of the right,
The names of the members of the court martial and the waiting members shall be read over in the presence of the accused before they are sworn in and the accused shall be asked whether he objects to any of those officers.”
The Military have organized structures to assist civil authorities in emergency situations. For instance, “Operation Second Eleven”, is an aid to civil authority initiative aimed at complementing civil agencies in the maintenance of essential services like telecommunications, petroleum product distribution and medical services in the event of strike by the “first eleven” employees. The Nigerian Army Signals, Supply and Transport and Medical Corps all have operational structures that can be activated at short notice to become “second eleven”.
The Nigerian Medical and other Corps within the military have equally rendered valuable services that have contributed to the socio-economic well-being of the nation. Retired Brig. Gen Ovadje of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, of a ‘Blood Transfusion Set’, earned Nigeria international recognition.
Similar intervention programmes had been in the six geopolitical zones of the country. Four solar-powered water projects were inaugurated in different settlements in Obeititu autonomous community of Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State by the Nigerian Army represented by General Officer Commanding of the division, Maj. Gen. Abubakar Maikobi in 2019. Speaking on these interventions the Chief of Army Staff had said the projects were meant to strengthen the existing civil-military relations and turn the minds of Nigerians towards the positive actions of the Nigerian Army meant to provide security and development in the country. He said:
“I want to believe that these water projects will serve the needs of this community and environs. I wish to also appeal to us to see the projects as symbols of unity. Let these projects serve as symbols of peace, unity, tolerance and love to this community and the state at large….”
The Traditional Ruler of the Community, Eze Amadi Obo, in his response said:
“the entire community, which include our children, youths, women and elders are very happy about the project coming from the Nigerian Army.”
It is reported that over ninety five percent (95%) of the Chief of Army Staff intervention projects has been successfully executed and inaugurated across the six geo-political zones.
Recently, the Army as part of efforts to enhance civil-military relations, the Armed Forces often carry out free medical advocacy campaigns in their host communities.
A reporter with Thisday newspaper reports that for the military, they would often want the society to understand that they are more than their guns and that’s why they are often engaged in community services to the respective communities in their Areas of Responsibility (AOR).
While some might see such moves as corporate social responsibility (CSR), the underlying factor is that it helps to enhance Civil-Military Relations (CMR). In essence, what this does is to strengthen the ties binding the military and civil populace.
So, for the armed forces, it’s become an act entrenched in tradition to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for their host communities
The Civil Military Cooperation primarily serves as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace. For the Nigerian Army, the import of Civil-Military Relations cannot be overemphasised. In fact, the army established the Department of Civil-Military Affairs (DCMA) in December 2010. Set up by the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General OA Ihejirika, it was positioned to serve primarily as an interface between the Nigerian Army and the civil populace and was also charged with the responsibility of underscoring the fundamentals of Civil Military Affairs as a strategic national institution.
The department is also charged with the introducing and transmitting the core elements of effective civil-military relations in areas of human rights, rule of law, negotiations liaison and conflict management. All these are binding on all divisions and units of the army.
At the 81 Division Headquarters, it was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots, that they recently held several medical outreaches in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State and Ajah- Ilaje Community in Lagos.
Outreach at Ijebu
The first medical outreach took place at Ijebu North Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State where the General Officer Commanding, (GOC) 81 Division, Major General Lawrence Fejokwu, also assured the community of adequate security.
At the free medical outreach conducted by 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala as part of the formation’s Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities, the GOC said the CIMIC exercise was in line with the vision of the Chief of Army Staff to provide a platform to further strengthen relationship between the NA and civilian populace at the grassroots.
He further enjoined the communities to be alert and report any breach of security within their vicinity immediately, while he charged personnel that the use of force should always be the last resort to solving issues.
Earlier, the Commander 35 Artillery Brigade Alamala, Brigadier General Adewale Adekoya during the flag off, noted that the CIMIC exercise was an integral part of 35 Artillery Brigade efforts to enhancing civil/military relations and NA’s corporate social responsibility, adding that it is a tradition for the NA to regularly conduct medical outreach and grassroots social services for rural communities.
He further disclosed that the exercise provided an avenue to enlighten the communities on the implications of drug abuse, render free medical consultations and services and enlightenment on recruitment into the NA.
The 35 Brigade CIMIC exercise was extended to traditional rulers, staff of Ijebu North LGA, market women, less privileged, members of Community Development Association and students. The medical services included blood pressure check, eye examination and medication for malaria and fever.
Commemorating NADCEL in Ajah-Ilaje
Not done, the division also in commemoration of the Nigerian Army Day Celebration (NADCEL) 2021, last weekend offered free medical outreach to Ajah-Ilaje Community in Lagos.
At the flag-off, the GOC 81 Division reiterated that the NA has a tradition of regularly reaching out to host communities as part of measures towards enhanced Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC).
Stating that the exercise was part of the activities lined up for NADCEL 2021 with the theme “A professional and ready Nigerian Army: A prerequisite for successful operations in a Joint Environment”, he further explained that the exercise was meant to offer public health services to the Ajah-Ilaje Community.
The GOC also used the occasion to implore the community not to relent in offering assistance to the Army by providing timely information on the activities of criminal elements within their communities. He further urged the people present to take their medications as prescribed by the doctors and ensure routine medical check ups as a follow up to the exercise.
He disclosed that the areas being covered by the medical outreach include blood test, blood pressure screening, voluntary HIV counseling and dental consultations, deworming and general treatment.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson, Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA), Mrs. Oghenerukevwe Fejokwu and members of the excos donated a truck load of rice on behalf of the division to the community.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Baale of Ajah Ilaje land, His Royal Highness Murisiku Alani Oseni Ojupon ably represented by Honourable Chief Wasiu Olaosebikan Eshinlokun stated that the people of the community were delighted to have the NA in their midst to provide medical services and distribute palliatives.
Strengthening Ties at Onigbongbo
At the 9 Brigade Army Cantonment, Ikeja, the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General MLD Saraso, also conducted a medical outreach at its host community, the Onigbongbo Kingdom. The commander said the outreach further strengthened the existing relationship between the army and the host community.
The Oba of Onigbongbo kingdom, Oba Oluwasegun Adeyemi Ajasa also commended the army for the outreach, as well as ensuring security of lives and properties in the area. His sentiments were echoed by Alhaji Tajudeen Irawo, the Jagunmolu of Onigbongbo Kingdom.
This is to encourage the Chief of Army Staff to maintain the tempo of CSR such as assisting communities with roads construction making use of the Army Corps of engineers. This can be done by mutual partnerships with State administration because the Nigerian Army has a good name in the area of building solid and sustainable road infrastructures if given the right supports by the civil authorities.
EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights commission of Nigeria.