Major General Rogers Nicholas, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, has reiterated that respect for human rights and protection of civilians by troops in the ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in North East must be sacrosanct.
Gen. Nicholas made this assertion, weekend, at the headquarters of the Theatre Command in Maiduguri, Borno State, when he received in audience Martin Ejidike, a senior human rights adviser from the Office of the Resident Coordinator, United Nations System in Nigeria.
Speaking further during the meeting with the UN envoy, the commander pointed out that though the operations in the North East was asymmetrical in nature, pointing out that there were mechanisms in place to guide troops’ conduct in their host communities, as well as Rules of Engagement for the execution of their operational mandate.
He added that the “hierarchy of the military has zero tolerance for violation of any of these provisions”, hence the establishment of a standing Military Court Marshall to try errant personnel.
General Nicholas also disclosed that suspects were only arrested in the theatre when they were found to have participated directly in acts of terrorism or acted to aid and abet acts tantamount to terrorism.
Boko Haram suspects in custody, he noted, are pending prosecution because it does not fall within the purview of the military. He called on the prosecuting agencies to expedite action on the trial of the suspects to sieve out the acquitted from the convicted.
The commander also revealed that Boko Haram suspects, who voluntarily surrendered to troops and in custody, were being processed for onward transfer to Operation Safe Corridor, for deradecalisation and rehabilitation programme. He assured the UN adviser of unfettered access to the sittings and proceedings of the Military Court Marshall in the theatre, when the court resumes.
Ejidike, on his own part, said he was in the theatre to deliberate on pertinent issues bordering on human rights, and also to meet with the commander to acquaint the command with the developments on the establishment of a UN human rights office in the theatre.
He added that the move was also aimed at ensuring that the conduct of ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in the North East were consistent with human rights provisions in Nigeria.