The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has held a three-day Legal Conference for NAF field commanders and legal officers at the Air Vice Marshal (AVM) EE Edem Multipurpose Hall, NAF Base, Maiduguri.
The Conference, which has the theme, “The Role of Military Lawyers in Contemporary Military Operations”, is one of the human capacity building initiatives of the current NAF leadership, aimed at enhancing the knowledge of participants to enable them more effectively tackle legal issues associated with the performance of their constitutional roles.
The Conference featured lectures on topics such as “Targeting”, “Application of the Law of Targeting to Modern Battlefield”, “Command and Individual Responsibility in Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)” and “Rules of Engagement (ROE)”, which were delivered by highly experienced resource persons.
At the opening ceremony, the Special Guest of Honour, the executive governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who was represented by the Borno State Head of Service, Architect Yerima Saleh, expressed delight that the Conference was being held in Maiduguri. He restated the commitment of the government and people of Borno State in supporting the continuous efforts of the NAF in improving security in the state.
He also lauded NAF’s human capacity development efforts, noting that equipping commanders and lawyers with requisite knowledge were critical to ensuring that their operations were always conducted within the ambits of the law.
In his remarks at the event, the chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that the nature of non-conventional warfare requires that personnel maintain a high level of professionalism and firm understanding of their responsibilities under the law.
He emphasised that the dynamic nature of such operational environments and the attendant need to keep abreast with constantly evolving legal considerations, made it necessary for field commanders and legal officers to be knowledgeable and up-to-date with current and emerging trends in both local and international laws that govern the conduct of air operations.
He therefore urged participants to make the most of the Conference by applying the knowledge gained to fine-tune their decision-making processes for enhanced performance.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar, reminded the personnel that the fight against Boko Haram terrorists was being waged because the insurgents had violated the rights of Nigerian citizens in the Northeast to life, education, liberty and productive livelihood, among others.
He said it would thus be a contemptible breach of trust if military personnel, who are charged with combatting the terrorists, turned around to perpetrate similar offenses against those who they were supposed to protect.
He stressed that the NAF, under his leadership, would maintain zero tolerance for human rights violations. The CAS concluded by observing that the Service had always promptly investigated and dealt with all allegations of human rights violations against its personnel and would continue to do so, once such allegations are backed with evidence.
He then implored all those who believe their rights had been violated by any NAF personnel, not to shy away from reporting such alleged infractions, with credible evidence, while giving the NAF sufficient time to investigate and deal with such matters in accordance with statutory provisions.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief of Administration at NAF Headquarters, AVM Ibrahim Yahaya, said that Maiduguri was specifically chosen as venue for the 2018 NAF Legal Conference to afford all operational commanders in the Northeast the opportunity to attend the Conference along with their colleagues and legal officers from other units.
Yahaya said, apart from improving their knowledge base, the Conference would enable them further review their operational processes in line with local and international laws.
Meanwhile, according to the Deputy Director of Legal Services at HQ NAF, Group Captain Sanda Jika, the Conference was aimed at sustaining excellence and professionalism in the discharge of legal duties in the NAF.
Consequently, he specially thanked the CAS for providing the needed guidance and enabling environment for the Conference to hold.
While in Maiduguri, the CAS seized the opportunity to commission three projects that were recently completed in the Base. These included two blocks of 6 x 2 bedroom flats and a block of 10 x one bedroom flats for officers, both of which were fully furnished.
Also commissioned was a newly built mini-supermarket, which when fully stocked, would obviate the need for personnel to leave the Base to buy provisions and other essential items. The CAS promised to provide take-off grant to serve as revolving loan for stocking of the supermarket.
In his response, the Air Task Force (ATF) Commander, AVM Idi Lubo, conveyed the appreciation of the officers and men of the ATF to the CAS for his resolve to improve the working conditions of NAF personnel serving in Operation Lafiya Dole. He said this had significantly improved the ATF’s ability to effectively perform its task.