A civil society group, under the aegis of Independent Human Rights and Crime Monitoring Group, has warned the Nigerian Army against human rights abuses in the course of the Operation Cat Race in Benue State.
The group also called on the Nigerian troops and the international community to help avert a repeat of human rights abuses experienced in other parts of the country.
Patriot Solomon Adodo, Executive Director, Global Human Right Watch, while speaking at a press conference, noted that the military had been involved in operations in Nigeria at various times and locations and a common occurrence in all of the military operations is a tendency for the abuse of human rights.
Adodo said, “According to Amnesty International, the incidents in AdamawaState in 2017 marked a highpoint where the military fired “rockets” as “warning” to deter communal clashes. Such actions have led to a good number of civilian casualties in many cases across the country.
“Our objective is to monitor the execution of exercise Ayem a Kpatuma by the Nigerian Army to ensure an even handedness in the implementation of the operational objectives of restoring peace to the ravaged communities.
“In this regard, we have concerns which we wish the world should take note. This is imperative to enable both the Army and the international community to work upon our observations and help avert a repeat of the human rights abuses experienced elsewhere in the course of military operations of this nature.
“We hope to see a highly professional and well coordinated outing by the country’s military to guarantee the safety of all members of the communities where the exercise is to take place. We expect that:
“The Army will humanely relate with members of the farming communities who have been the victims of armed herdsmen who attack and leave the attacked locations in a guerilla fashion.
“The Army will not bring an extra burden on the farming communities by exploiting the weak circumstances of the moment especially now that inhabitants of the affected communities are sacked from their ancestral homes.
“We fear sexual exploitation of vulnerable women in those communities in the present circumstances. This ugly incident, we hope won’t be allowed occur.
“We expect that the military will not be compromised and their attitude may reflect in their operations while in Benue State.
“Reports reaching us suggest that there are human rights abuses already taking place in the state. These condemnable acts are suspected to have been perpetrated by some military men who are part of exercise Ayem a Kpatuma. We condemn these acts and urge the military high command to order immediate investigation into the reported cases and accordingly saction their personnel found culpable of the said crimes.
“We expect the Army to be neutral, fair and resist the temptation to take sides with rampaging herdsmen as the police recently did.
“We fear that the military operation may turn to be a tool in the hands of those who wish to truncate the implementation of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law of Benue State. This must NOT be allowed to happen as it will jeopardize the roadmap to peace in the BenueValley. Benue like any other state has the constitutional right to make laws for the running of the state.
“We fear that the Army may use the operation as an opportunity to provoke farmers into a negative reaction thereby leading to “justifiable” response of indiscriminate arrests.
“The absence of codified rules of engagement from the Army to the affected communities leaves room for concern because there are no clear expectations and code of conduct on the part of the communities or the general public.
“We are hopeful that at the end of this exercise, the Nigerian Army will discharge itself creditably and fulfil it’s mandate by bringing only peace to the ravaged communities.
“We are hopeful that the attacks will cease at the end of exercise Ayem a Kpatuma and the terror that has been visited on farming communities will become a thing of the past.
“We expect that the Army will empathize with locals who have been ravaged and displaced rather than antagonize them.
“We are confident that the resources the Army needs will be provided so as to leave no room for excuses.”
Culled from dailypost
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