The Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement has recommended that the Federal Government should examine the present state of the National Human Rights Commission to enhance its ability to promote and protect the rights of all Nigerians.
This is even as the federal government has assured of its commitment to forward the findings by the panel to the relevant agencies especially the military, where there is a need for disciplinary action among others
The panel also recommended that practical steps be taken to make the Nigerian police more professional in fulfilling their constitutional role of providing security to all Nigerians, irrespective of financial status, ethnicity, gender or religious inclination.
The recommendations were contained in the report of the findings of the panel submitted to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday at the State House.
The Eight-man Investigation Panel, headed by Justice Biobele Georgewill of Court of Appeal, was set up in August 2017 to investigate allegations of human rights violations and non-compliance with rules of engagement in local conflicts and insurgency leveled against the Nigerian armed forces.
Osinbajo in his remarks said the need to know if the rights of citizens were being violated led to the setting up of the panel.
“I think that it is absolutely important, because of the sanctity of the rights of our people and the sanctity of their lives and livelihoods, that we ensure that we are finding out when the occasion arises whether their rights are being respected or violated, especially in situation where you have light conflicts or even serious conflicts and situation where you have security concerns in different parts of the country,” he said.
According to him, President Buhari, being a soldier himself, was keen to “know the content of the report” and was “interested in knowing what the panel’s findings were.”
Osinbajo said that he was pleased that a full report of the panel’s findings and recommendations has been submitted.
He noted that in most of the places visited by the panel, the people said they were comfortable with military presence, noting that “it shows the confidence people have in the Nigerian military.”
Osinbajo said the findings would be referred to the relevant agencies for action.
“Whatever the findings are not only will they be referred to the necessary or to the relevant agencies but also to the military, especially where there is a need for disciplinary action or for any type of action, they will certainly be referred to the military for action, and if there is need for civilian authorities or the courts to take action, that will also be done and where there is a need to commend we will also do so,” he said.
He commended the members of the panel for their diligence and for the timely and thorough job they did.
Presenting the report, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice Georgewill, said “building a culture of respect for human rights and accountability depend largely not only on existing law, but also on a strong and well funded, equipped and empowered National Human Rights Commission.”
He said the commission should play an important role in taking forward most of the recommendations.
Georgewill also said many of the allegations of human rights violations against the Nigerian armed forces were largely the direct result of increased visibility of the Nigerian armed forces in almost all the 36 states of the federation.
“Indeed, the Nigerian Army is increasing taking on the role of policing many communities across Nigeria,” the jurist stated, calling for steps to be taken to make the police more professional.
He said the members of the panel visited the six geo-political zones of Nigeria; listened to petitions of the people; heard the response of the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces within its mandate; and evaluated and analyzed all they saw and heard before putting their report together.
Also present at the event were other members of the panel, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabriel Olanisakin, and government officials.