After several months of dithering, the Nigerian government has finally set up a commission to investigate alleged rights abuses by the military.
Despite reports by local and international groups and media accusing the military of rights abuse in several operations, the government had largely left the military to investigate itself and thus clear itself of the allegations.
On Friday, however, the presidency released a statement announcing the establishment of a judicial commission of enquiry.
“Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has appointed a 7-man Judicial Commission, headed by Justice Biobele A. Georgewill, of the Court of Appeal, to review compliance of the Nigerian Armed Forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement, especially in local conflict and insurgency situations,” a statement by Mr. Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, said.
Some of the allegations that have been levelled against the military by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as several PREMIUM TIMES investigations, include extra-judicial killing of over 300 Shiite protesters in Kaduna in 2015, the extra-judicial killing of dozens of pro-Biafra protesters in the South-east, and that of suspected Boko Haram members in the North-east.
The military has always maintained it did nothing wrong and recently set up its own panel which cleared it of any wrongdoing.
In his statement on Friday, Mr. Akande said the presidential committee “is empowered to review extant rules of engagement applicable in the Nigerian Armed Forces, and the extent of compliance thereto.”
“It is also empowered to investigate alleged acts of violation, (by Nigerian security agencies) of international humanitarian and human rights law under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Geneva Conventions Act, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other relevant laws,” he said.
Mr. Akande added that the “the commission equally has a mandate to investigate factors that might be militating against a speedy resolution of local conflicts and insurgencies and also advise on means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflict situations.”
He listed members of the judicial commission to include Mr. Georgewill as Chairman; and Patrick Akem, a major general, as member.
Other members are Wale Fapohunda, Hauwa Ibrahim, Jibrin Ibrahim, Ifeoma Nwakama, and a representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
“The Commission is expected to commence work immediately and submit its report within 90 days,” Mr. Akande said.