By Charles Ibekwe
When someone or an entity begins to offer commendations it is proper to first review antecedents, motives, affiliations and any other variable that will give indications as to the true intent of the commendation. These same sets of considerations should apply when condemnations are also coming instead of commendations. One must know what interest an organisation serves before making much out of its utterances.
Given its antecedent and a longstanding commitment to impartiality, the commendation for the Nigerian Army detention facilities from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a plus for the Army. According to ICRC, detention facilities under the purview of the Army meet international standards. Head of ICRC delegation in Nigeria, Mr Karl Mattli, who made the assessment even, went further to offer additional support to the Army in sustaining this standard.
Let’s contrast this with other bodies that came out within the same timespan to accuse the Army of right abuses in the fight against Boko Haram. These organisations dish out what has now become traditional criticisms via questionable reports that are strategically released to coincide with when the Army is gaining the upper hand on insurgents or whenever it is on the threshold of forging new partnerships to take on the terrorists. Curiously, these same entities have no qualms about other nations using disproportionate force to tackle terrorism even when this leads to astronomically high civilian casualties. Neither do they have any alternatives or positive ideas beyond criticisms.
The line of reasoning in the preceding paragraph is not a justification or a call for the Nigerian Army to follow in the step of such nations, but it goes to highlight the double standards being employed by some organisations, whose missions are unclear, especially when they discuss the on-going fight against Boko Haram. They carry on in ways that suggest that the terrorists are in the right while the Army is the aggressor.
This development highlights the need for Nigerians to get real and recover their country from grips of Boko Haram–both the militant and political wing of the terror group. The Army has made significant gains in routing the militant arm of Boko Haram but defeating the political element of the group and their sympathizers becomes a task for which the Army needs the active participation of the populace and the country’s political leadership.
For instance, the commendations from the ICRC barely got the attention of Nigerians, even when it clearly reflected the improvements made by the Army under the current Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai. One guess is that no frenzy was whipped up because this has no value to the political and propaganda wing of Boko Haram terrorists that is not able to use such information for its recruitment drive. It and its backers are unable to demonise the military with the genuine and unsolicited commendation from the ICRC because, contrary to the hues and cries of those who hide under the cover of human rights to unleash psychological warfare, the Nigerian Army has been proven to be highly professional and mindful of national, international laws and conventions in their engagement.
It is reassuring that General Buratai was able to affirm that International Humanitarian Laws have been integrated into course contents for officers and soldiers. It shows a leadership that has its sight set on long term peace and stability in the country. Knowing that their soldiers are ensuring the nation’s security without inflicting more human misery would be comforting to Nigerians who had earlier been bombarded with messages aimed at damaging the standing of the Army in their minds.
The commitment by General Buratai to investigate human right complaints brought before the Army is indeed a welcome development and reassuring. The establishment and commissioning of the Army Human Rights Desk is a testimony that this is not one of those promises or declaration made for the sake of photo op. The creation of the desk has been widely acclaimed as setting an important precedence for human rights work in Nigeria. With the operation of the desk, anyone with concerns about right abuse knows where to head as opposed to providing fodder for terrorists’ recruitment drive by circulating contents that might be harmful to collective security in cyberspace.
Considering that corruption constitute another form of abuse of the rights of all Nigerians, it is noteworthy that General Buratai has pitched in his worth in this regard by ensuring that the Army fully cooperates with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The Army has thus regained its place of pride as an institution where discipline, including resisting the temptation to steal public funds, prevails.
One must also recognise and commend the fact that our soldiers are now motivated to do what they have committed to doing for the country. The Chief of Army staff has ensured those on the frontline get not just the hardware they need to take on the insurgents, but has also ensured that they get their entitlement thereby bringing to and end the era of asking soldiers to fight with low morale. This is in addition to General Buratai leading the troops on the ground and not just dishing out orders from an air-conditioned cocoon in Abuja.
At this point in Nigeria’s quest to stem the tide of terrorism, one must thus appeal to the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai to do all that is necessary in ensuring that the accolades from the likes of ICRC and other international continue to pour in. The glory from such commendations belong not just to the Army alone but to the whole of Nigeria because they proved that despite the ill-intentioned reports aimed at putting the country in bad light, the Army under his leadership has proven that Nigeria is on the right course.
Ibekwe is a human rights crusader based in Owerri, Imo State