The decision of the Army to fully investigate the allegations of undue and illegal interferences by some soldiers during the governorship polls in parts of the Country with specific reference to events in Rivers and Bayelsa States will inevitably require more openness and inclusion to create the needed sense of confidence and trust of the good people of Nigeria on the credibility of the investigative processes.
A prominent Non Governmental organisation- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which made the observation against the backdrop of the initiative by the Chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to probe the wide range of accusations levelled agaunst his operatives during the governorship elections in parts of Nigeria and especially their widely criticised interference which occasioned the suspension of the governorship poll in Rivers State, also called on the Army to be more openned to constructive criticisms especially from very friendly quarters like the position advanced by the United Kingdom on the alleged misconducts of some armed security forces.
HURIWA said it was more important to clean up whatever illegality that happened than waging public relations warfare against the United Kingdom.
“What needs to be done is to meticulously look at the issues raised by the UK government and to realistically search inwards for how robustly to fish out the misbehaving soldiers and their commanders so as to face appropriate sanctions in line with the clearly publicised rules of engagement in internal security operations.
There is no doubts any longer that some military operatives unnecessarily breached the codes of conducts and violated the electoral Act by creating security challenges that forced the Independent National Electoral Commission to suspend the Rivers State governorship poll at the point of substantial collation of results.
These badly behaved soldiers must be sanctioned and this act of impunity must not be tolerated”.
HURIWA charged the Army authority to ensure that ministers do not deploy soldiers to achieve political goals which was what happened in Rivers and Bayelsa States.
“We call on the Army Chief to identify those commanders that released armed soldiers in their hundreds to accompany ministers from Rivers and Bayelsa during the last two sets of elections and these soldiers were clearly used to attack perceived political opponents. There has to be thoroughbred and professionally clinical investigations and all indicted operatives fished out and sanctioned so Nigerians can continue to repose our confidence in our national institutions like the military.
This is the reason we called for inclusion of representatives of the civil society community in the investigative mechanisms so it doesn’t appear like a case of somebody playing the role of a prosecutor and a judge in his own case. The lack of involvement of the human rights community in this ongoing process if investigation by the Army may not augur well for an acceptable standard of investigations”.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission has clearly indicted the Nigerian Army in the issues that frustrated the smooth completion of the Rivers State governorship poll so the Army authority must now take concrete, transparent, open and credible steps to identify the individuals in the Army that have brought this opprobrium to the corporate and institutional image of the Nigerian Army.
This is not the time for unnecessary confrontations with critics or with some hitherto friendly nations who are only making their positions known so as to help us to build a thoroughly professional Nigerian Army devoid of political influences from the political forces in Abuja”.
HURIWA recalled that the Nigeria Army said it had constituted a high powered committee to probe all cases of alleged misconduct by troops during the Presidential and National Assembly elections .
The committee is also expected to probe any act of misconduct by personnel that may be involved in the Governorship and House of Assembly elections slated for Saturday, March 9
The Chief of Army Staff , Lt. Gen . Tukur Buratai, made this known at a meeting with Principal Staff Officers , General Officers Commanding and Commanders at the Army Headquarters in Abuja .
Buratai explained that the committee was constituted to ensure that “ all cases’’ were thoroughly looked into so as to “ dispense justice . ”
He also said that the purpose was to uphold the Nigeria Army’ s “ credibility , professionalism and apolitical stand. ”
“ We have received complaints from some stakeholders , major political parties, governors of Bayelsa , Oyo and Ogun states of allegation of misconduct as well as unprofessional conduct by some of our personnel.
HURIWA recalled that on the soldiers killed during the February 23 elections , Buratai vowed that those responsible would be fished out and made to face justice .
An officer and two other soldiers were killed by gunmen at Abonema in Akuku Toru Local Government Area of Rivers , during the presidential and national assembly elections .
HURIWA quoted the Army General as saying thus: “ Let no one be in doubt that those desperate politicians and criminals that attacked our troops in the course of carrying out their legitimate duties will be tracked down and brought to justice .”
HURIWA applauded General Tukur Yusuf Buratai for his prompt response to the critical issues of welfare of his operatives just as the Rights group however asked that the due process of the law be adopted in addressing the circumstances that led to the gruesome killings of the Army officers during the Presidential election and the killer of the INEC’s Ad-Hoc staff in Rivers State believed to be a military operative must equally be prosecuted and punished for this crime against humanity.
“We are totally against any invasion of a community in search of the criminals that killed the soldiers. Let the due process of the law be followed”.