The Nigerian Army had in its statement, titled: “Reminder on Nigerian Army Rule of Engagement for Internal Security Operations”, stated: “the Nigerian Army would like to send an unequivocal warning to all and sundry, more specifically to all those threatening and agitating for the dismemberment of the country”. The statement is in vivid reference to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which has in the past one week grabbed global attention with sweeping marches in major cities of Nigeria and foreign countries.
The army statement further said: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), 1999 (as amended) vide Sect 217 (2) (c) provides that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) shall suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, Commander-in-Chief. This provision is reinforced by Sect (8) (1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (LFN) 2004. This presupposes that troops have to use necessary force to quell crisis resulting in deaths, injury and damages to properties”.
We wish to state firmly that the Army statement is totally incoherent with and unknown to the 1999 Constitution particularly its Fundamental Human Rights Charter. It is also a clear misinterpretation of the 1999 Constitution particularly its Section 217; which clearly states that “there shall be an armed forces for the Federation”; and not “the army for the Federation”. The “armed forces” include other recognized armed forces segments like navy, air force, DSS etc. That is to say that the view of “the Nigerian Army” cannot represent the collective view of “the Nigerian Armed Forces” and the Nigerian Army is not “the Nigerian Armed Forces”.
The statement also failed woefully to understand the common meaning of “suppressing insurrection”. The word “insurrection” is a military act of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government or a range of violent behaviors aimed at destroying or taking over the position of an established authority such as a government, president, governor, or political leader.
When compared with the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); a self determination pressure group, the stern warning or riot act so issued, is totally misguided, vexatious, shallow, dubiously intended and constitutionally incoherent. The stern warning or riot act was also grossly misdirected, as it ought to have been directed to the Boko Haram terror insurgents who have severally disclosed their intention to violently destroy the country’s existing socio-legal system and put in place radical Islamic theocracy.
Till date, the IPOB pressure group and millions of its supporters have not used or advocated violence. We see the stern warning or riot act as a clear declaration by the Nigerian Army of an intention to commit crimes against humanity by indicating its readiness to deploy and use brute force to “suppress” ongoing peaceful and non violent processions involving the IPOB pressure group and its teeming supporters. From the body language of the Nigerian Army, it may most likely stage-manage or create group violence, arson, vandalism and damages to property so as to find grounds to deploy and use brute force as well as justification of same.
We wish to warn and remind the leadership of the Nigerian Army not to forget that there still exists International Criminal Court and other formidable local and international mechanisms through which its commanding officers found engaged in “brutal suppression or quelling” of ongoing peaceful and non violent protests shall be held accountable for crimes against humanity. Let the Nigerian Army also be reminded that during the recent economic meltdown in USA, some States agitated to secede from the United States, yet they were not tagged “insurrectionists” warranting “military suppression”. Even in the present United Kingdom, Scotland, which agitates for secession has not been militarily crushed. It is an unarguable case of “crimes against humanity” when brute force is deployed to
crush a people asserting non-violently for fair belongingness and fortification of their ethnic identity.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons), Criminology & Security Studies Board Chairman
[email protected], [email protected]
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor-Nwonu, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program www.intersociety-ng.org