The National human rights commission (NHRC) on Tuesday inaugurated a special investigative panel on alleged human rights violations in Counter-Insurgency operations in the North east.
Following the allegations of gross human rights violations contained in the three-part report published in December 2022 on military operations in the north east by media group Reuters hence the panel.
The international media organisation had alleged that the Military was involved in massacre of children as well as other Sexual and Gender Based Violence(SGBV) in the North East.
However, the military has refuted the allegations saying that it was a ploy to malign the image of the Nigerian Armed Forces which has been at the forefront of the counter insurgency efforts in the North East.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor visited the Commission in Dec.2022 with respect to the allegations.
He told the Executive Secretary that the military is willing and ready for any probe, particularly as it relates to Reuter’s report as stated above.
The executive secretary, Mr Tony Ojukwu, SAN speaking at the event in Abuja ,said the National Human Rights Commission has invoked its inherent, express and incidental powers.
He added that the said power is contained in sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC Act as amended to constitute a special independent investigative panel.
” We are here today to present to the public, the Chairman and members of this panel whose terms of reference I will now have the honour of enumerating as follows:
” Investigate allegations of gross violations of national and international human rights laws/principles alleged against the Nigerian Armed Forces in the three reports by Reuters. (Sections 5(a)(b)(j) and 6(1)(a) of the NHRC Act, 2010).
” To receive memorandum from individuals and organisations with interest in the subject matter of the mandate of the SIIP North-East, especially human rights, security and humanitarian organisations working in the North-East.
” Make appropriate determinations as to culpability of individuals or institutions as may be deemed necessary in each circumstance. (Section 5(j) of the NHRC Act 2010).
” Make determination as to the damages or compensation payable in relation to any violation of human rights where it deems this necessary in the circumstances of the case (sec. 6(e) of the NHRC Act, 2010).
“Refer any matter of human rights violations requiring prosecution to the Attorney General of the Federation or of a State, as the case may be. (Section 5(p) of the NHRC Act, 2010) he said.
According to Ojukwu, the panel will also make recommendations to government on Institutional, Policy and Regulatory measures to be taken to integrate human rights principles and practices into military and counter-insurgency operations.
In addition he said, the panel will propose Remedial steps that may enhance the professional conduct of military personnel in counter-insurgency operations.
” Membership of this panel is drawn from major professional backgrounds relating to the allegations contained in the report.
” These includes law and human rights, medicine and psychology, military intelligence and humanitarian affairs.
” The National Human Rights Commission is honoured that these eminent Nigerians have agreed to share their time, talents and wealth of experience with the Commission he said. .
He reminded them that the allegations contained in the aforementioned reports are grievous and present a major concern to all of us in the human rights field.
” As I inaugurate this panel today, it is the hope of the Commission and indeed every Nigerian that this panel will work hard with all the human and other resources at your disposal to investigate and unravel the truth behind these allegations and ensure that justice is done in all appropriate cases.
” The Commission has given you the mandate and all necessary incidental powers to achieve the terms of reference and objectives for the establishment of this Panel.
” We are convinced that we have chosen the right team for this work he said.
Ojukwu called for the full support and cooperation of all stakeholders in the humanitarian efforts in the north east for this Panel to achieve its mandate.
” We welcome the pledge by the Chief of Defence Staff that the military institution will cooperate with this investigation and the subsequent deployment of a Military Liaison to the secretariate of the Panel.
“To protect human rights and ensure accountability for violations is a sacred duty which all of us as the human family have a mission to uphold” he said.
Speaking, retired Justice Abdu Aboki, chairman thanked the commission on behalf of other members for finding them worthy of the monumental assignment.
” Protecting human rights and ensuring accountability and remedies for Violations are cardinal principle of very democracy and civilised society.
” Human rights are God’s gift to humanity. They confer dignity to humankind and make us special beings.
“Their violations by any person or institutions, should be treated with all sense of justice and accountability he said.
According to him, thePanel is encouraged and impressed by the concerns that have been shown by Nigerians and international partners since the publication of the reports.
He added that It is now their job as a panel to investigate all the allegations of gross human rights violations raised in the reports .
“The membership of our Panel has been carefully drawn from major groups and constituencies that have expertise, relevance and impact on human rights, justice, humanitarian response and medicine.
“| am confident that with the support and cooperation of the Commission, the governments of the states of the north east and the stakeholders in the north east military and humanitarian responses, we will deliver on this monumental task before us.
“Our Panel will endeavour in every respect to abide by the rules of natural justice he said.
He added that they will be fair and just to all manner of persons who appear before them as victims, witness, respondent, Officer, Counsel and citizens.
NAN reports that members of the panel are Justice Abdu Aboki, rtd Supreme Court justice ( Chairman), Ms Kemi Okonyedo, representing Women Rights Organisation, Mr Azubuike Nwankenta, representing NBA
Others are Maj Gen. Letam Wiwa rtd (Military Law and Intelligence Expert), Dr. Maisaratu Bakari (Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecology (Modibbo Adama University Teaching Hospital Yola).
Also, Dr Fatima Akilu (Humanitarian Expert, representing Civil Society) and Ms. Halima Nuradeen (Psychologist, representing Youths)