Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has inaugurated the Presidential Investigation Panel to review the Compliance of the Nigerian Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement.
The panel, which is headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Court of Appeal, is mandated “to review extant rules of engagement applicable to the armed forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto”.
The panel is also mandated to “to investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights law under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; the Geneva Convention Act; the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and enforcement Act) and other relevant laws by the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies”.
“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies. To recommend means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human right laws in conflicts situations.
“To make further recommendations in line with its terms of reference as may be deemed necessary.”
Speaking at the inauguration, Professor Osinbajo assured the armed forces that the panel was not set up to witch hunt them.
He said: “I’d like to use this opportunity to assure the armed forces and all of our uniformed forces that excises such as this should be regular and would be regular and must not be seen as a witch-hunt or in any way to degrade the very great work that the armed forces and uniformed forces are doing all over the country. It is the responsibility of the armed forces and all of us who are in government that we interrogate our own activities to ensure that those activities meet up to human rights norms and basic rules of decency observed across the world.”
Osinbajo said that setting up of the panel was necessitated by “a series of allegations levelled against security forces by some local and international commentators which I believe if left unaddressed, these allegations are capable of undermining the good work and efforts of the men and women of the armed forces who have largely conducted themselves in a disciplined and professional manner.”
Respond to crisis
He said failure to examine some of these allegations would leave those who may have been victims of such abuses without any recourse to justice.
“And if history has taught us anything, it is the failure of justice or our system of justice to adequately respond to crisis that is usually recipe to greater conflict,” the Acting President stated.
He acknowledged the gallantry of the Nigerian armed forces in the fight against insurgency in the north east of Nigeria and the militancy in the Niger Delta.
“These brave men and women have fought valiantly to keep this country safe despite all odds,” Osinbajo said, stressing that “they are indeed heroes and we must celebrate them.”
He said the unconventional tactics and asymmetric warfare waged by the insurgents have thrown up challenges for the armed forces, bringing up issues of human rights that were not known before.
Professor Osinabjo said that the qualification of members of the panel was an indication of the quality of work expected from them.
In his response, the chairman of the panel, Justice Georgewill promised that the committee would work with the fear of God and ensure that justice was done to all.
Other members of the panel inaugurated by Acting President Osinbajo on Friday were Major-General Patrick Akem, Wale Fapohunda, Hauwa Ibrahim, Jibrin Ibrahim, Ifeoma Nwakama, Mr. Abba Ambudashi Ibrahim and Dr. Fatima Alkali, who will serve as counsel to the panel.