Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnogen on Wednesday stated that there have been tremendous improvements with the military observing the rule of law in its operations in line with global best practices even though the military justice system, which is basically rooted on regimentation, has been condemned by human rights activists in the past.
Speaking at 2018 Nigerian Army Law Seminar with the theme ‘The Place of Law in Counter Terrorism & Counter Insurgency Operations in Nigeria’ in Abuja, Justice Onnogen represented by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court, disclosed that the topic was apt, bearing in mind, the need for members of the armed forces to obey the rule of law in their operations, cannot be overemphasized.
“This is because; the business of bearing arms or defending the nation involves life and death for both regular forces and citizens.
“There have been allegations and cases of human rights abuse against the military in its efforts to stamp out terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria.
“It is therefore my strong belief that this seminar will touch on both issues.
Continuing the CJN said, “It is also my belief that the armed forces of today have gone beyond their outlook in the past.
“Although the military justice system, which is basically rooted in regimentation, has been condemned by human rights activists in the past, I am of the opinion that there have been tremendous improvements as regards the military observing the rule of law in its operations in line with global best practices
“The drive today is towards professionalism and respect for the fundamental human rights of citizens as enshrined in chapter 4 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended; the African charter on human and people’s rights; UN charter; the Geneva conventions and various conventions and treaties which the Nigerian government has not only ratified but domesticated.
“It is therefore imperative to state that the independence of the judiciary is paramount in any democracy. As such, we shall continue to safeguard same for effective dispensation of justice.
He added that the judiciary welcomed the collaboration with other agencies including the Nigerian military, to build capacity of judicial officers in the specialized areas of law, all geared towards efficient justice delivery, and global best practices.
Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai in his address said the fight against terrorism and insurgency especially in the North East has preoccupied the minds of many Nigerians both within and outside Nigeria. This has also been concern for the international community.
“Therefore, since assumption of office in 2015, I and my principal staff officers have been monitoring issues and allegations of human rights abuses against troops deployed for operations across the country in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s mandate to the armed forces in the fight against terrorism.
” In furtherance furtherance to the need to crush the insurgents off Nigeria and beyond, the Nigerian Army has also ensured that the fundamental human rights of citizens are adequately in all our exercises and operations. So far we have been able to address petitions and addressed different kinds of claims against the Nigerian Army through the establishment of Human Rights desk offices in Army headquarters and across all the divisions of the Nigerian Army.
“The human rights desk has a special hotline for citizens who have genuine claims, complaints and petitions to make against the Nigerian Army to report a natural disaster or to report any act of terrorism and so on. The phone number to dial is 193. Each human rights desk is headed by a military lawyer”
In her address, the Administrator of the National Judicial Institute, Justice Rosaline Bozimo said, the collaboration with the army legal services department was borne out of the realization to build the capacity of judicial officers and military lawyers by creating a forum for interaction, exchange of ideas and for better understanding of military law, rule of law and due process.
“This is even more germane in the light of the high incidence of insurgency and terrorism, bearing in mind that military lawyers are expected to be involved in the investigation and prosecution of these cases.
“This seminar will also shed light on the human rights perspective to criminal justice response in counter-terrorism measures, as military law still remains an area of law which we must continuously confront because of its evolving nature, particularly in a democratic dispensation.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans at Army headquarters, Major General Rasheed Yusuf while the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin was represented by Major General Lucky Irabor, the Chief of Training and Operations, Defence headquarters.
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