Nigerian Army Steps Up Non-Kinetic Approach, Holds Seminar on National Security and Complexities of Human Rights

For the ultimate need to enhance capacity for efficient employment of the instruments of national power while harnessing the potentials of our allies towards achieving the desired results, the Nigerian Army has stepped up all aspects of engagement with all actors in the field of operations in line with best practices to effectively confront the common adversaries.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Taoreed Abiodun Lagbaja revealed this today, 6th September 2023 at the maiden Nigerian Army Human Rights Seminar at the Command Officers' Mess 1 in Abuja with the theme, National Security and the Complexities of Human Rights; which he said is quite apt and is in consonance with current realities.

Lt General Lagbaja who was represented by the Chief of Administration (Army), Major General Jimmy Akpor disclosed that the Nigerian Army is collaborating and interfacing with human rights advocacy groups in all theatres of operations to ensure commonality in understanding and practice. 

The COAS said the practical understanding of the issues relating to human rights are varied and challenging especially in contemporary military operations. He said the Nigerian Army Human Rights Seminar was conceptualised to engage organizations, security agencies, media and other stakeholders involved in human rights advocacy and the protection of civilians in conflict areas on the issues relating to human rights during conflicts. 

"The protection of civilians and their basic rights requires special attention as it takes up a lot of field commanders' time. Specifically, the Nigerian Army troops are deployed in the Northeast to combat Boko Haram and Islamic States of West African Province terrorists, in the Northwest, they have to contend with armed bandits, terrorists and other criminal elements. 

"Our troops are also deployed to checkmate the activities of the separatist IPOB in the Southeast while carrying out operations to deal with ethnic and occupational based conflicts in the Northcentral region of the country. The South South and South West also have crises of militancy, cultism and oil theft as well as an assortment of well-armed criminals.

"These deployments involve kinetic and non-kinetic approaches that require collaboration between security agencies and all well-meaning individuals and organisations. I wish to state that securing a country within the ambit of contemporary security environment involve harnessing the efforts of citizens in a "whole of the nation approach" because the operations are conducted within civilian populated areas."he noted. 

Earlier in his remarks, the Chief of Civil Military Affairs, Maj. General Nosakhare Ugbo said the maiden edition of the Nigerian Army Human Rights Seminar is part of the multidimensional approach adopted by the Nigerian Army in furtherance of the Chief of Army Staff's Command Philosophy; "To Transform the Nigerian Army into a Well-Trained, Equipped and Highly Motivated Force Towards Achieving our Constitutional Responsibilities within a Joint Environment".

He said over the last decade the Nigerian Army has been engaged in Internal Security Operations on a scale never seen before. The Army is currently deployed in all states of Nigeria. The massive deployment of troops for operations within and among the civil populace has opened a new prospect on human rights issues requiring a new approach. Thus, this Seminar is one of the means of dealing with human rights issues arising within the contemporary operating environment.

He noted that the Seminar will expose participants to the values and perspectives of organizations engaged in human rights advocacy and the protection of civilians in conflict areas. It will also expose us all to the values and perspectives of the Nigerian Army as well as other security agencies engaged in the conduct of operations for the defence and protection of civilians while upholding human rights. 

"It is important to state that whenever the Nigerian Army is deployed for Internal Security Operations, it is for the defence and protection of civilians and their rights particularly the Right to Life. In this regard, the Nigerian Army and the Human Rights advocacy groups share a common goal, which is the protection of innocent civilians in conflict areas. Therein lies the relevance of the interface provided by this Seminar." he added 

One of the discussants at the Seminar, Dr Benson Olugbo, a Country Director at the Centre for Civilians in Conflict harped more on non-kinetic means of resolving conflicts. He said "there is needs to infused non-kinetic means. One of the key things is the right of civilian in conflict places should be protected. In cause of fighting insurgency, we should not trample on the right of the civilians." 

"Of course, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Chapter 4 provides the right to life, the right to dignity of human person on other constitutional responsibilities which even the armed forces, you know, say they are going to uphold." he noted.

The Executive Director of Centre for law Enforcement in education in Nigeria, (CLEEN) Foundation, Mr Gad Shamaki Peter that's a very strong perception out there that most uniformed people, in particular the Nigeria army, do not have respect for human rights basically because in the last 20 years, the Nigeria army doing more of internal policing and internal security than the police.

"And so for every time you have interaction with the army in response to crisis, either farmers headers crisis, the Boko Haram issue, kidnapping, banditry, we are bound to have issues of human rights violation because of the nature of their intervention. And so I think this conversation we're having today is to strengthen that relationship, to give people more insight into the working of the Army and what we need to do too as civilians, to ensure that we show respect to them when they're working and when issues of human rights happen.

Dignitries at the maiden edition of the Nigerian Army Human Rights Seminar were Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Tony Ojukwu, represented by the Deputy Director Legal, representatives from Civil society, Human Rights activists,  representatives from media, military and paramilitary personnel.

The Nigerian Army as a professional force created by law for the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has always emphasized training on International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict. 

To its credit, the Nigerian Army has operated in places like Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Angola, former Yugoslavia and many other places outside Nigeria without any significant infringements on the rights of the civil populace. 

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