Civil Rights body, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has slammed the report granting clean bill of health to the Army by a military panel which purportedly investigated the claims made by a former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (retd) that the Army was colluding with armed hoodlums unleashing bloody violence.
The Rights group said the report which was released by the Army authority in which the allegations made by General Danjuma was dismissed as untrue, cannot pass the test of time because it was made by a panel largely composed by the same military officers and their cronies masquerading as civil society stakeholders, who in any event are the accused and friends of the accused in the allegations of collusion with armed hoodlums.
The Rights group, which described the report as ‘dubiously self-serving; subjective; whishywashy and pre-determined’, said it was incredible that the Army’s authority had to set up such a kangoroo panel after the media Director of the Defence Headquarters has already dismissed General Danjuma’s allegations.
HURIWA in a statement on Monday, signed by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko made her position clear against the backdrop of the report of the Army panel which purportedly discredited General Danjuma’s allegations of Army collusion in the series of blood cuddling attacks.
The group said the Army shut itself on the leg when the Defence Spokesman had dismissed General Danjuma’s allegations just as it said “the setting up of the panel was basically a product of an afterthought which came about by the huge body of constructive criticisms of the military in the aftermath of the allegations of collusion with armed terrorists by the military as made by no other ordinary person but General TY Danjuma, who is one of the few remaining pioneer military officers of post-independence Nigeria.”
The group said it was unfortunate and disappointing that the Army could waste money and resources to procure the same pre-determined conclusions that had already been made public by the Directorate of media and public Relations in the Defence Headquarters.
Besides, HURIWA said: “The investigative panel was not independent and the members simply executed a choreographed plot aimed at providing a pre-determined clean bill of health that could patch up any bad publicity and damage to the corporate image of the military institution done by the allegations.”
The Rights group therefore asked the Federal Government of Nigeria to institute an independent body of investigators to conduct evidence-based findings and the investigative mechanisms must comply with best global practices including the identification, collection and documentation of available evidence with the strictest confidentiality and the security of the persons giving evidence guaranteed.
“We call on government to ensure that the membership of such an independent investigative team must be headed by a respected statesman/woman not below the rank of a serving justice of the supreme court of Nigeria, even as representatives of the security forces, credible, tested and trusted civil society platforms and experts in forensic investigations must become part of such a comprehensive, objective, science-based and thorough probe of the allegations of collusions in the killings by the Army.”
Recall that the Rights group recently returned from a week long visits to the locations of armed attacks in Taraba state, alongside six other non-governmental groups. It insisted that only an independent body of investigators can be able to conduct a transparent, accountable, open and an objective investigations because the Army can’t be the prosecutor and the judge in its own case.
“There have been allegations of military collusions in the various attacks waged against different communities all over Nigeria by armed Fulani herdsmen or other freelance armed hoodlums.
“There were even allegations in Southern Kaduna and Delta State of persons alleging that ‘mysterious’ helicopters dropped weapons to herdsmen.
“We reject this pre-arranged report of the Army panel which as expected has done the official bidding of the current hierarchy of the military. We demand an independent probe panel because the military as an institution in the opinions of experts must respect and protect the people; must be professionally disciplined; must stick to the constitutional and ethical codes of conducts in internal military operations.
“The allegations of collusion must be thoroughly looked at because even from Zamfara state, the governor and a Senator had once accused the security forces of failing to act even after several hours of receiving actionable intelligence. These allegations are not just made by General Danjuma. It should not be a personality fight or a religious fight but must be qualitatively probed.”
It will also be recalled that the COAS, has earlier dismissed the Danjuma allegation before setting up the probe panel, saying that the claim by the former minister of defense was baseless. The Nigerian Army had at the weekend said allegations against it by retired Gen. T.Y Danjuma that it colluded with the militia in Taraba State and refused to protect the people were untrue.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, made this known at a news conference in Abuja where he gave details of the findings of the 10-member panel the Army constituted to probe the allegations.
But Buratai, who was represented by Maj.Gen. Nuhu Angbazo, Chief of Military/Civil Affairs, said: “With respect to the statement by Lt. Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, it is clear that the allegations were not true. “There is a need to urge for caution on the part of the elder statesman in view of the security implication of such comments.”
Buratai exonerated the army, saying that there was no collusion between it and bandits in Taraba as alleged by the former chief of army staff. “Rather, he said there was sustained media campaign to belittle Nigerian army and other security agencies’ operation in the state without saying who was behind the campaign.”
HURIWA has therefore called for proper investigations by a wholly independent and credible body of investigators so an unassailable position can be determined through evidences and accounts by eye witnesses.