When A Nation’s Army Goes Rogue

3 months ago
10 mins read

In 2016, against the backdrop of massive media attention in Nigeria about the rare decision of the then leadership of the Nigerian Army to set up the first of its kind human rights desk in addition to the appointment of a full two star General as Head of the civil and military affairs, the United Nations Human Rights Council was so impressed that a publication on its website commended the Army for such an unprecedented positive step to mainstream the respect of human rights in the operational modalities of the military in Nigeria.

Although globally, the governments of most nations do not toy with the promotion and protection of human rights of their citizens and therefore make it obligatory on all persons and authorities to follow the constitutional norms and laws that safeguard against the violations of human rights, advanced nations such as the USA don’t place a lot of premium on whether less advanced nations such as Nigeria, respects human rights of their people.

Ironically, Nigeria being one of the less developed nations which embraced democracy lately, human rights of the citizens were not so much such big issues that the government should care so much about. Incidentally, the USA that is the self acclaimed World’s policeman of democracy, has no time to look at the status of human rights in Nigeria beyond the routinely empty rhetorical reports that the US state department often issues annually without any diplomatic sanctions.

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It must be stated that since the early nineties when the military held sway as heads of government, Nigeria established the National Human Rights Commission in compliance with the Paris principles on human rights. The military dictatorial regime of Sani Abacha actually set up a structure known as National Human Rights Commission.

Specifically, the Paris Principles or principles relating to (the status of National Human Rights institutions), set out the minimum standards that National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) must meet in order to operate effectively.

The key pillars of the Paris Principles are pluralism, independence and effectiveness. On December 20th 1993 to be very precise, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution 48/134 on National Institutions for the promotion and protection of Human Rights, with an annex containing the principles, in which it encourages all states in the World to embrace.

From the council of Europe’s portal, a statement titled Paris Principles at 25: strong national Human Rights institutions needed more than ever dated 18th/12/2018, it was repeatedly stated that it is obvious that independence and effectiveness of national human rights institutions were every bit as important and relevant today. It is even more so now.

Perhaps, Nigerians who were born around the late 90s do not even know that it was a military regime globally isolated by Western democracies as brutal and dictatorial under the rulership of then General Sani Abacha, that set up the National Human Rights Commission.

The military government that set up that human rights monitoring body, did not however care a hoot about human rights.

This explains why it was just in the late 2000s that human rights desks, not department, were established by the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army.

Fast forward to today, what we see under a supposed civilian government headed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: a man who was victimised by Abacha because he was among the pro-democracy advocates who campaigned for the restoration of civilian and democratic government in Nigeria, yet it is under his very nose as a civilian president, that the Army has become very repressive of the human rights of not only civilians, but even junior military operatives who have no known political godfathers. And Tinubu who was a victim of human rights violations by the military is now the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria that has become most repressive and absolutely lawless and has gone rogue, almost.

A case in point is that of a junior female Army operative known as Miss. Ruth Ogunleye who has just been arrested even though she publicly reported repeated cases of sexual harassment in which she is the target by two senior Army officers but she got arrested and her violators and torturers are big men in the Army.

Following the arrest of the Nigerian Female soldier who recently complained in a trending video about sexual harassment in the military, Nigerians have taken to their social media accounts to express their dissatisfactions.

It was learnt that the soldier was arrested and flown to Abuja from Lagos on Tuesday.

The lady who complained in the viral video about sexual harassment in the military has been arrested and moved to Abuja by air. “She was flown out accompanied by military police in mufti from Lagos to Abuja,” a top military source disclosed.

The soldier serving in Lagos State, who did not disclose her name, raised the alarm in the trending video that some senior army officers were threatening her life for rejecting their sexual advances.

She lamented how the senior army officers had been oppressing her since she was posted to Cantonment Medical Centre, Ojo, Lagos in 2022, for refusing their sexual advances. She said she had been locked up several times for no reason, ejected from her apartment, and put in a psychiatric hospital for a month without any medication based on a false claim that she had a mental illness.
According to her, her bank account had been frozen since February 2023 and she had not been paid salary for no reason.

She further alleged that one of her alleged oppressors had attempted to rape her on multiple occasions. The female soldier said the army officer later claimed that she had a mental illness, adding that she had made several efforts including writing a petition and getting some senior and junior officers to intervene but that all was to no avail.

She also said that the same senior army officer who she claimed wanted to rape her had denied her access to every army course and passes to see her parents.

According to her, her father contacted the officer over her issues, but the officer told her father to inform her to obey the last order.

She said, “I know definitely they will come for me. They will lock me up and they will dismiss me but I don’t care. I can’t endure it again. Before coming out to make this video, I can’t endure again. I don’t want to die young.

The army through Major-General Onyema Nwachukwu, the Director of Army Public Relations stated that the female soldier did not inform relevant bodies and institutions about her predicament before releasing the video.

There are a litany of well known cases involving human rights violations against civilians committed by the Army including but not limited to even cases of extrajudicial execution of citizens.

In the year 2020 October 20th to be precise, the Lagos State governor asked for the deployment of the Nigerian Army to the Toll Gate to quell a peaceful demonstration against police brutality or EndSars.

Those soldiers so drafted by the military in Lagos, opened fire and mauled down over 80 civilians whose corpses they quickly took away and probably incinerated or dumped in God knows where.

Last year, hospital management board in Lagos said they conducted mass burial of dozens of corpses dumped with them without the owners coming forward.

Nigerians believe that these were the victims of mass killings by soldiers in the year 2020 during the ENDSARS protests.

These same soldiers that their General Sani Abacha founded the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, were the same that committed mass killings of citizens in the year 2020, and the World including the USA has moved on as if those killed are not human enough to get closures and ultimate justice.

This surely, is a manifestation of backwardness by the Nigerian army that was celebrated by the United Nations Human Rights Council for the establishment of human rights desks within Army’s institutional platforms.

Buoyed by the creation of a Human Rights Desk by the Nigerian army, and a review of the forces’ Code of conduct and Rules of Engagement, the UN Human Rights Council said it represented an unprecedented breakthrough. This was in 2016.

The UN Human Rights Council said too that: The Nigerian Government has announced the creation of a Human Rights Desk for its national army.

Composed of six legal officers from the Nigerian Bar Association and the legal section of the army, the new body will investigate allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by national military personnel. The desk will also work to strengthen the army’s capacity to protect human rights and report annually on progress.

This decision comes months after the UN Human Rights Council requested the UN Human Rights Office to send a team to investigate and report on the atrocities committed by the Boko Haram insurgent group. The Council also urged the Nigerian military forces to respect human rights during their counter-terrorism operations and to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses.”

The UN then promised to work with the Army to train them and provide necessary technical knowledge on protection and promotion of Human Rights.

The United Nations then in 2016 said also that: The UN country office will help the Nigerian army better respect human rights. The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Country Team have provided a detailed review of the Code of Conduct of its national army and presented recommendations for amendments to make it fully compliant with international human rights and humanitarian standards.

“The adoption of a Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement implied that mechanisms will be put in place to implement them. The Desk is one such mechanism,” said UN Human Rights Advisor in the UN Country Team in Nigeria, Martin Ejidike. “They could directly impact peoples’ lives by reducing the number of cases of human rights violations and deny impunity for perpetrators within the security forces.”

Last December 2015, Ejidike helped bring together at the same table National Defence officials, UN agencies and the National Human Rights Commission who, during a workshop, analysed with troops real case studies on the ongoing Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, north-eastern Nigeria.

“Counter insurgency and counter-terrorism operations are usually difficult for conventional forces as insurgents do not observe human rights norms,” Major General Akem pointed out during the workshop in Maiduguri. “But, as professionals, the armed forces are obliged to do so.”

General Rogers, Chief of Civil and Military Affairs, said that the creation of the Human Rights Desk addresses the increasing interest by local and international actors on the human rights issues related to the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria. The army’s aim is to bridge the gap with civil society on human rights.”

This was then.

Now the Army has gone rogue in Nigeria.

And both the government and all agencies of government set up to monitor compliance to human rights provisions by the Army, have gone virtually dead.

The National Human Rights Commission is comatose. The office of the President of Nigeria is not in any way bothered whether civilians are slaughtered by soldiers or whether the human rights desks in the Army have gone comatose. The minister of justice is unaware of what goes on in the Army and appear not to be passionate about human rights. The justice minister rarely mentions human rights in his public speeches which are few and far between.

The heads of the soldiers including the Navy, the Airforce and sadly, the Nigeria Police Force are unfriendly to human rights because they benefit from the decadent system that does not inculcate the principle of accountability on the leaders of the different platforms of the security agencies and the political institutions.

And because accountability and transparency have been thrown to the dogs, impunity and lawlessness have assumed frightening dimensions.

To compound the situation, the UN which has the Deputy secretary General from Nigeria in the person of Amina Mohammed, a Gombe state-born diplomat who has a Swedish Mum, has also gone silent concerning the deterioration of human rights abuses committed by the soldiers and the police in her fatherland.

Next week, the United States Secretary of State will visit Nigeria and as expected, public speeches would be made by the Country’s political leaders under whose watch the Army has gone totally rogue and don’t respect the human rights of the citizens and even the rights of their soldiers who are not connected to the powers that be in the military or political institutions.

Information reaching me says that the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Nigeria, Angola Cabo Verde and Cote d’Ivoire next week.

In a press statement released by the US Mission in Abuja on Thursday, Blinken’s trip will commence from January 21-26 2024.

Throughout the trip, the Secretary will highlight how the United States has accelerated the US-Africa partnership since the US-Africa Leaders Summit, including in areas such as climate, food, and health security.

“He will also emphasize our future-focused economic partnership, and how the United States is investing in infrastructure in Africa to boost two-way trade, create jobs at home and on the continent, and help Africa compete in the global marketplace.

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“Additionally, the Secretary will advance security partnerships based on shared values such as respect for human rights, promotion of democracy, and expansion of the rule of law.

“He will reaffirm US commitment to our coastal West African partners through the Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, U.S. partnership with the Economic Community of West African States to address regional challenges, and US efforts to support African leadership in de-escalating tensions and adopting diplomatic solutions to the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the statement added.

Blinken had visited Nigeria in November 2021, where he met with the former Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama.

Interestingly, the US government informed us that during his last visit, Blinken also praised the increasingly deep collaboration between Nigeria and the U.S. and stressed the importance of cooperation. And to think that the immediate past Muhammadu Buhari’s maladministration is one of the most criminal administration in the area of human rights abuses and yet the USA related robustly with that satanic regime, tells you that OUR HELP WILL NOT COME FROM THE USA but from within.

But everyone who is rational knows that the USA under president Joe Biden doesn’t care a hoot about human rights in Nigeria and doesn’t even care about restoration of stability and security in Nigeria or West African nations.

The truth is that America cares only about its own interest and provided the manufacturers of weapons and military grade weapons of war in USA are smiling to their banks with humongous amounts of dollars by way of huge turnover from arms sells and supplies to both governments and terrorists in West Africa, then America wouldn’t mind if the Nigerian Army has truly gone rogue.


Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and was National Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.


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