Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin has called on the federal government to consider the amendment of the Armed Forces Act (AFA), to accord statutory entitlements to members of the Armed Forces of Nigeria that are killed or wounded in action, as such provisions are not available in the extant enactment.
He made the call just as the minister of Defence, Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali said the review of the AFA must address the issue of the fundamental rights of both the officers and men of the armed forces while still maintaining military discipline
Speaking in Abuja at the inauguration of a stakeholders meeting on the review of Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Laws of the federation of 2004, the CDS said, “I understand that this exercise will consider possible amendments to AFA in order to improve on alleged human rights violations by the military”.
“We have no issues with any amendment that will improve the welfare and rights of the citizens of this country as that is exactly what all our operations aim at. However, it is also pertinent to consider the larger violations of rights of innocent citizens by terrorists.
“While we remain law abiding in our efforts to restore hope and dignity of our compatriots, the terrorist especially in asymmetric warfare we are fighting has nobody to account to. It is in this light that I urge you (stakeholders) to consider such issues in the amendments.
Continuing General Olonisakin said, “Another major area of concern to the AFA is the issue of appearance of lawyers in the armed forces before civil courts.
“At present, our lawyers are restricted to appear only before Courts Martial and even where courts martial decisions go on appeal, the appeals are handled by civilians that did not take part in the trial.
“Consequently, several courts martial decisions are reversed on technical grounds to the detriment of enforcement of discipline, which is a cardinal requirement of any military service.
“I therefore urge you (stakeholders) to consider the necessary amendments in our laws that will afford lawyers in the armed forces the opportunity to handle cases beyond courts martial and possibly assist in handling other cases that are of national interest’ the CDS said.
On his part, Defence minister, Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali said, the inter-ministerial committee of legal luminaries, retired and serving military officers was constituted with the mandate to critically examine the armed forces act of Nigeria, collate views from relevant stakeholders and come up with a reviewed act that is comparable with what obtains in other developed democracies while taking into consideration our current peculiarities and security challenges across the country.
Recalling that the AFA emanated from the repealed Armed Forces Decree of 1993, the minister said, “It is pertinent to note that while the laws from which the AFA was copied, (UK), her own law has undergone several reviews reflective of the ever-changing status of the world, ours have remained stagnant regardless of the dynamism of change in the society”.
He urged the stakeholders to pay attention to the welfare of members of the armed forces who have given a good account of themselves in the war against Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and similar operations in other parts of the country.
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