By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the alleged military invasion of Konshisha Community in Benue State and the attendant destruction and the indiscriminate killings and destruction over reported unwarranted killings of about one dozen professional Soldiers.
HURIWA has therefore strongly urged the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Attahiru Ibrahim to adhere strictly to the PRINCIPLES OF THE RULE OF LAW AND TO ABSOLUTELY COMPLY WITH EXTANT CONSTITUTIONAL BENCHMARKS FOR ALL INTERNAL SECURITY OPERATIONS JUST AS THE MILITARY BY LAW MUST BE MADE TO KNOW THAT NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAWS OF THE LAND.
“The new Army Chief must prioritise RESPECT FOR THE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS OF CITIZENS if he hopes to succeed in his arduous and challenging task as the head of Africa’s biggest Army.
HURIWA which absolutely condemned the unwarranted attacks on the Army in their line of duty and the unnecessary murders of over a dozen soldiers by some armed hoodlums in Konshisha community in Bunue State, however stated that it was primitive and absolutely unconstitutional for the military to carry out revenge attacks in such a way that over three dozen completely innocent people were reportedly slaughtered for offences they know nothing about.
HURIWA stated that tolerating this sort of revenge attacks by members of the armed forces would amount to the institutionalization of anarchy and impunity. The Rights group said the Army could have deployed highly trained Intelligence officers to fish out, apprehend and prosecute the exact killers of these soldiers whose deaths were Absolutely Condemnable and totally unacceptable.
“The Military under the democratic setting is governed by Constitutional norms. The Nigerian Constitution being the grundnorm absolutely prohibits the use of extralegal killings of citizens under section 33 (1). Under section 36 (5) citizens are guaranteed fair hearing. There is no legal support for the infliction of mass killings as a consequence of any illegal and criminal acts of killing of soldiers.
The Military authority is not allowed to resort to self-help because Nigeria is not a banana Republic but a Nation governed by laws. The soldiers are not immune from prosecution for offences of genocide. We hereby call for the Institution of an investigative panel to uncover the soldiers who reportedly unleashed blood cuddling violence on Konshisha Community in Benue State.”
HURIWA wishes to reiterate that the Nigerian Armed Forces when deployed for either internal or external operations, are bound by the laws of war and international law in the conduct of the operations. The laws regulate and limit the conduct of operations by acting as checks against arbitrary use of force. They are intended to minimize unnecessary suffering by combatants and non-combatants during war.28 The laws of war and international law are therefore sources of military law in Nigeria and include the following: (a.) The four Geneva Conventions of 1949; (b). The two Additional Protocols of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949; (c. ) Multilateral and bilateral agreements to which Nigeria is a signatory and have bearing on military service or operations.”
HURIWA reminds the Chief of Army Staff that the Nigerian military does not perform its roles in a vacuum as it derives the roles from the constitution, presently the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. As stated earlier, the Constitution is the grundnorm or supreme law that voids any other law that is inconsistent with it to the extent of the inconsistency. Sections 217-220 provide for the establishment, roles, command and operational use of the armed forces and related matters. For clarity, section 217(1) and (2) provides as follows:”(1) 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.
HURIWA further maintained that constitutionally, (2) 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 or air; (c) Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, 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 Rights group said the Army under a CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY is not permitted to resort to the use of SELF HELP MEASURES such as invading communities whereby their officers are illegally killed by some armed hoodlums and then behave similarly like unruly armed hoodlums by indiscriminately shooting and killing innocent people only because they are found within the same crime scene whereby soldiers were killed.
“HURIWA condemns the fact that soldiers were said to have invaded the Benue Community without due respect for the dignity of their human person and the PRINCIPLE OF THE RULE OF LAW and the report circulating is that at least 50 unarmed civilians have been allegedly killed by military men in Shangev-Tiev, Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State following reports that two soldiers were missing in the community. Media report says that the soldiers went missing during a routine patrol in the community days after a communal crisis between towns in Konshisha and Oju LGAs.According to reports, three soldiers were initially missing but one of them was later found. It was learnt that troops of the Operation Whirl-Stroke (OPWS) on Wednesday and Thursday morning invaded the community. The operation, which involved deployment of military helicopters using missile launchers, left scores of unarmed civilians dead and property said to worth billions of naira destroyed. About 200 houses including the palace of Tyoor Unaha Kôkô in Agidi and several cars in village, which is now deserted were set ablaze by the soldiers.”
HURIWA regrets that this primitive collective punishment of the people of this Benue State community has brought international opprobrium on the international image of Nigeria. “We hereby asked for an independent inquiry into the alleged invasion of the community and the violence that was unleashed with a view to unveiling the soldiers who carried out this alleged mass killings of civilians because Soldiers are not above the laws of the Land. We must realise that the World is watching us.”