Posted by News Express | 29 October 2016 | 2,909 times
There is little doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari had a formidable military background during his years in service, as attested to by no less a person than Lieut-Gen Theophilus Danjuma (retd).
In the foreword Gen Danjuma penned for the official biography of Muhammadu Buhari written by an American biographer, Mr. John N Paden, entitled Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria, some of his sterling qualities were highlighted.
Danjuma wrote: “The military was not his first career choice, but it was the military that helped to mould his outstanding character and his competitive spirit. In the course of his brilliant military career, Muhammadu earned a reputation as an officer of great personal discipline, competence and valour, driven by a deep sense of patriotism and an abiding concern for the welfare of his troops. It is now evident that these qualities have helped him enormously, sharpening his capacity to adapt to needs of his country and to make a seamless transition from an autocratic leader to democratic one…”
Danjuma, in general terms, characterised the then Maj-Gen Buhari as “a no-nonsense top General.” Hate him or like him, this is the sum total of how most Nigerians evaluate Buhari’s military career.
On May 29, 2015, when Buhari became a democratically inaugurated President, he began searching for a no-nonsense top military General who would enforce a regime of professionalism and efficient discipline among both rank-and-file and the officers cadre of the Nigerian Army. When he finally settled down for Lieut-Gen Tukur Buratai as his choice for the tough and rigorous job as the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, the general expectation was that service discipline and professionalism would become the twin virtues that should signpost the administration of the Nigerian Army in the current democratic dispensation.
Has Gen Buratai successfully enforced service discipline since he was appointed into office? This question would be answered after we flip through a beautifully-written and profoundly intellectual book by a military lawyer whom I know very well before he passed onto the great world beyond – Brig-Gen TEC Chiefe (retd) PhD, entitled “Military Law in Nigeria Under Democratic Rule”.
Dr Chiefe, who was Director of Legal Services at the Nigeria Army Headquarters, wrote as follows:
“The military in a democracy is unique in that the most physically destructive power of the state is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of unelected government officials. This unique status inevitably leads to a large number and variety of laws designed not only to control the armed forces, but also to assist in ensuring that the values of broader society are maintained within the social fabric of military.”
The military author of the book also pointed out the imperative of a nation to build a military institution that would be subservient to the Constitution and the democratic tenets. “As postulated by Huntington, the military profession like other professions has the major characteristics of expertise, responsibility and corporateness.”
Chiefe wrote that responsibility has been explained by Janowitz to mean prescribed ethics and standards of discipline, which members of that profession must maintain and prescribed sanctions for their breach. Members of the military in his judgment are expected to be highly disciplined and under the doctrine of compact, provisions in the law are made for the appropriate sanctions for any deviations from ethical norms.
The doctrine of compact, according to Chiefe, was further explained by Justice Willies in Dawkins versus Lord Rokeby when he said: “But with respect to persons who enter into the military state, who take His Majesty’s pay and who consent to act under his commission, although they do not cease to be citizens in respect of responsibility, yet they do by a compact which is intelligible and which requires only the statement of it to the consideration of any one of commonsense, become subject of military rule and discipline.”
As a person, Buratai, since coming to office, had had to confront ethical challenges associated with claims and allegations of impropriety; but on the major plank of the allegation of financial indiscipline, the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Buhari has given him ‘a clean bill of health’, specifically on the issue of ownership of offshore housing assets. Buratai has, also, effectively put the available legal templates to enforce regulatory discipline among his operatives, even as he has practically set up structures to co-ordinate smooth civil cum military relations, and the mainstreaming of respect of the fundamental human rights provisions in all internal military operations. It is yet to be conclusively affirmed that this human rights desks have successfully resolved many of the emerging human rights violations such as cases of extra-legal killings of civilians, but the Chief of Army Staff has never shied away from deployment of the relevant legal frameworks to sanction indicted military operatives. There are ample examples to justify the above affirmation.
For instance, early October 2016, a Nigerian soldier was demoted and jailed for three years for maiming a minor. Scores of soldiers have been dismissed for undermining the counter terror war. Speaking specifically about the indicted soldier who physically assaulted a minor in Maiduguri, Borno State, we read that a military tribunal sitting in Maiduguri, Borno State, sentenced a staff sergeant in the Nigerian Army to three years behind bars for causing permanent disability to a 10-year-old boy. The convict, Umar Sule, who has served 26 years in the army, was also stripped of all ranks and demoted to a private by the tribunal presided over by Brig-Gen Olusegun Adeniyi. Mr Sule, according to the charge sheet presented to the Military Court Martial, inflicted a permanent injury on Muhammed Sale by tying him up for stealing his N2,000. The tall and heavily built demoted officer admitted before the Court Martial that he tied the two hands of the boy to a poll for over seven hours. Due to the torture, Sale’s two wrists suffered gangrene. The condition is a premature death of cells caused by lack of blood-flow. Doctors later had Sale’s jaundiced right hand amputated. The other, though paralysed, was partially salvaged by grafting of skin from the victim’s lap to patch it up.
The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) took up the matter by petitioning the Nigerian Army on the conduct of the soldier. The army responded by arraigning Sule before the Court Martial, which was set up on August 11, to try miscellaneous offences under the Operation Lafiya Dole. The court found the accused soldier guilty on two charges of “unlawful assault, and disobedience of Standing Order of the Nigerian Armed Forces”, by entertaining a minor at his guard location.
In his ruling, president of the Court Martial, Brig-Gen Adeniyi, said:
“Having found you guilty of the charges against you, and having listened to the prosecution counsel urging this court to treat you as a first offender, and this convict’s touching plea to litigation, we have also looked at various punishments provided by both section 104, sub-section 2B of Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation 2004; as well as section 119 of Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation 2004.
“This court also considered the need to ensure discipline in the system. This court, therefore, sentence you as follows: on count one, three years imprisonment; on count two, reduced to private. This sentence is however subject to confirmation by the confirming authority as provided by Section 141 sub-section 2 and section 152, sub-section 1A of the Armed Forces Act, CAP A20 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.”
A representative of the NHRC at the trial commended the Nigerian Army for ensuring that the victim got justice via a transparent trial. She said the NHRC office would help the victim, “who now has to live with permanent disability for the rest of his life,” to pursue compensation through the civil court.
“We commend the Nigerian Army for a job well done, because we brought the complaint to them in March, 2016, and by October, they are done with the case.
In respect of getting compensation for the victim, we will communicate with our head office which has the powers to take that decision; but we are going to send our recommendation to ensure that this is achieved.”
She also commended the General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Nigeria Army, for offering to sponsor the boy’s education. The father of the boy, Usman Muhammed, narrated to journalists at the venue of the tribunal the events that led to his son’s brutalisation.
“My son, who used to go to the soldiers’ base for errands, was invited on that fateful day by Sergeant Sule who said his N2,000 was stolen. My son confessed to him that he was the one that took it, and that he should forgive him. Sergeant Sule asked my son to wait for him to return from the Friday mosque. When he returned from the mosque, he tied up his two hands to an electric pole, and left him there for over seven hours. He tied his hands with a rubber band and continued to flog him for that long period.
“When he finally left him after hours of plea, the two hands had been damaged. When we took him to the hospital, we were told that the right hand had gone bad and had to be amputated. The left hand too was almost beyond repair, they had to peel off skin from his leg to patch it up. As it is now, the boy has lost two hands due to the action of a soldier,” said Mr Muhammed.
He noted he was pleased with the judgment of the Court Martial, even as he worried that his son still needed support now that he would have to live the rest of his life with no hands. The victim’s mother, Amina Usman, said her son now depended on her to feed, bathe and even clean up after using the toilet.
The tribunal adjourned to further dispense justice in similar matters of service indiscipline. There are a plethora of cases of gross indiscipline that have been satisfactorily handled since Buratai came on board, which has earned him the nickname and sobriquet of the ‘ultimate enforcer of service discipline’. But he already has his job of bringing sanity and restoring professionalism fill up to the brim even as most Nigerians still point to cases of gross human rights violations by soldiers that are streaming on many online and new media platforms. This seemingly acclaimed no-nonsense soldier’s soldier must continue to enforce discipline without fear or favour in line with due process of the law, and in compliance with best global practices.
As I put pen to paper, the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Col Sani Kukesheka Usman, has issued a statement disclosing the arrest of 30 soldiers, policemen, and others over sabotage.
His words: “Please be informed that the ongoing investigation on suspected Boko Haram terrorists’ collaborators and saboteurs in the fight against terrorism and insurgency has led to the arrest of nine more persons over the last 24 hours, thus bringing the number to 30. This comprises two officers, two soldiers, two policemen and 24 civilians. Many more suspects would be arrested and prosecuted based on evidences against them and level of culpability.”
Gen Buratai should investigate the extra-judicial execution by soldiers of a professional footballer in the Nigerian Professional League, by name, Mr Joseph Izu, who was killed while he was in his Bayelsa State country home to mark his off seasonal break. Writers and observers will in the coming days be busy, evaluating how well Buratai has enforced service discipline in the Nigerian Army.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via email@example.com
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