Some of the activities of Buratai Tukur while he served as the nation’s Chief of Army Staff has been provided by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA.
In a press conference on Sunday, the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, spoke on the allegations against the army during the period Buratai was in charge.
There have been allegations of human rights violations against the army by local and international human rights campaigners under the watch of Buratai and some activists, such as Deji Adeyanju had accused President Muhammadu Buhari of appointing the immediate past service chiefs as non-career Ambassador in order to shield them from the ICC.
In his response to these allegations which border on extra judicial killings, torture, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention as well as sexual philandering or exploitation, poor detention facility and pitiable medical access and supplies to suspects in military detention centres, HURIWA listed some initiatives and measures taken by the former COAS to tackle such abuses by the personnel of the army.
Following the retirement of Buratai and other service chiefs last week, calls have been flying about for the International Criminal Court, ICC, to commence their trial.
But HURIWA believes there is nothing against the ex-service chiefs, adding that these allegations only succeeded in portraying the army in bad light and creating rancor and distrust between the army and the civil populace.
According to HURIWA, on resumption of office in 2015, Buratai, as a disciplined military strategist, understood the key roles of excellent civil military relations particularly in a period of multiple and dynamic security challenges such as terrorism, farmers – herdsmen clashes
HURIWA said to this end, the former COAS instantly reorganized and empowered the Department of Civil – Military Affairs (DCMA) to function effectively, especially in the campaign for the protection and respect for human rights by the Nigerian Army.
“The first step taken to checkmate human rights abuses was to rejig and strengthen the DCMA. Consequently, sensitization workshops and campaigns on protection of human rights where dynamically conducted for members of the Nigerian army.
“Another laudable initiative by the Buratai’s leadership in its consistent efforts to checkmate right abuses was the establishment of Human Rights Desk at the Army Headquarters and in all the formation headquarters across the nation.
“On 19 June 2018, at a Military – Media – Public Awareness Programme at Jabi Motor Park in Abuja organized by CLEEN Foundation, the COAS through the Army Human Rights Desk Officer.
“These measures included the opening of Free Toll Line 193, designated Toll Free Call Centre and Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit”.
“Also Buratai, through Major Lanpoe added that the Army, during its first quarter staff conference for that year (2018) launched some books on respect for human rights during military operations.
“Construction and Commissioning of Joint Investigation Centre and Cells for Boko Haram suspects.
“Construction of Additional Safe Holding Facility. On the 15th of November 2018, the Nigerian Army’s leadership approved the commencement of the construction of an additional holding facility to improve the management of detainees during investigations.
“Composition Of Special Board of inquiry to probe alleged cases Of human rights abuse. Buratai, according HURIWA, had said that the board was set up in line with the provision of Section 172(1) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“Enforcement/application of full military justice system to human rights violators Under Buratai, HURiWA noted that any confirmed case of rights infraction was met with maximum punishment. This way, human rights abuses were also drastically curtailed in the Nigerian Army.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that the transformation of the Nigerian Army rapidly manifested under the leadership of Buratai.
“Perhaps, those still unconvinced by the impactful exceptional transformational measures contrived in repositioning the army for effective counter-insurgency combats and maintaining military – civil relationship practices are certainly poor adherents of history or have a faulty retentive memory.
“Again, through the establishment of Human Rights Desk Offices in the Army headquarters and across the Nigerian army divisions, the Army was able to address petitions and other different kind of claims against it.
“More so, while Buratai held sway, the Nigerian Army ensured that all cases pending in civil court against it were either assigned to competent registered Nigerian Army external advocates or military lawyers in the Directorate of Legal services.
“Furthermore, Court Martial cases or trials in the field were also given professional attention by deploying legal officers, who are not only trained military personnel, but legal practitioners.
“Adherence to the rule of law was consistent with Buratai’s vision to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of constitutional roles.
HURIWA said it was important that Buratai, who according to the group, had shown patriotism in the service of the nation, should not be branded with agents and saboteurs working hard to destabilize the army.
The rights group warned that the attack on Buratai and the other retired service chiefs, who had offered their lives to the service of their fatherland could be dangerous and a discouragement to the newly appointed security heads.
The group called on hateful politicians and propagandists who may have hated the retired service chiefs for some selfish reasons to stop circulating what it described as “poisonous perception.”
Recall that Buhari had last week nominated the service chiefs as non-career ambassadors to the shock of many Nigerians.
The Presidency said that the names of the former security chiefs are in the Senate awaiting confirmation.
Their nominations are still generating controversies around the country as many people feel that the President’s decision was to help the ex-service chiefs escape judgement at the International Criminal Court, ICC.
However, in reaction, the Presidency had lambasted the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, accusing the party of leading the propaganda against the ex-service chiefs, insisting that their nomination for ambassadorial positions was reward for hard work and patriotic service to the nation.
Mr. Onwubiko argued that Buratai and the other former security chiefs who resigned about a week ago, deserve some appreciations from Nigerians and not propaganda and bashing, insisting that Buhari has not done anything wrong in rewarding their patriotism through ambassadorial appointments.