The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, has assured members of the public, as well as the local and international human rights bodies that the Nigerian Army (NA) under his leadership will investigate all cases of human rights complaints brought before it. Lt Gen Buratai, who was represented by the Chief of Civil-Military Affairs (CCMA), Rogers Nicholas, at the Commissioning of the Army Human Right Desk, said that the event marked another important day in the history of Nigerian Army by establishing the human rights office. He noted that the establishment of the desk office was borne out of the increasing interest of the local and international human rights bodies on what the army was doing in the North East and other parts of the country. He said: “The concept note for the efforts of the Human Rights office in the Army Headquarters (AHQ) has as a result of increasing interest of local and international Human Rights organisations and institutions in the Nigerian Army human relations footprints but specifically in areas of our operations in North East. “The nature of inquiries and commentaries from these institutions requires a response of professional and specialised in nature by the NA. What we are witnessing today has been facilitated by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).”
Speaking further, Buratai’s representative listed the functions of the newly established human rights desk under the supervision of the CCMA and as well as inputs from the Provost Marshal’s office to include receiving documents, investigate complaints from individuals, organisations and institution on rights violation involving Nigerian Army personnel. “They are also to make their findings to the COAS on human rights complaints in the country; produce annual reports; review, update existing training manual; facilitate participation of NA officers in local/international training programme,” he said. He further listed other functions of the desk including liaising and facilitating interaction with the human rights organisations; strategise and strengthen capacity of the NA in promoting human rights; and as well as developing a network of contacts of human rights offices in Nigeria. Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, NHRC, Ben Angwe, commended the Nigerian Army for what he described as a novel and bold initiative. Mr. Angwe who was represented by a Director at the NHRC, Mr. Saka Azimazi, said that by the NA has set a commendable precedence for other Services of the armed forces. “My plea is that the office remain open for enquiries and with this the Nigerian Army will remain close to the civil populace. We also ask for technical and logistic assistance be given to the desk to operate effectively,” he said. In the same vein, the Senior Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team in Nigeria, Martin Ejidike, commended the initiative of the Nigerian Army. “This is Nigerian Army is setting important precedence for the human rights work in Nigeria. This will create a context of engagement and information exchange between the CSOs and the NA. The NA has done a commendable work for improved human rights records. We want to extend the support of the UN system and to furnish you with technical support to the desk,” Mr. Ejidike assured.