The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has strongly deplored the attitudes of the Nigeria Army to the frequent incidents of unprovoked violent attacks on communities in the South East of Nigeria.
HURIWA said it regretted that the clearly stated rules of engagement for internal security operations are not been complied with by substantial number of soldiers in the South East of Nigeria.
The rights group said it was deplorable that military authority is denying the alleged Christmas eve invasion of Akpawfu Community in Nkanu East Local Government of Enugu by security agents believed to be soldiers which threw the community into tension and fear.
HURIWA said the soldiers, according to the natives, stormed the community at about midnight on Friday and allegedly raided Agudene village, shooting sporadically and forcing the villagers to scamper for safety just as this would be about the second time Akpawfu community was being invaded by soldiers this year, causing the people to flee their homes.
The human rights group wondered how the Army is denying such an operation by their operatives which the villagers and the traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Christopher Nnamani alleged that the invasion was by soldiers who they claimed were still in their village as at Christmas morning.
The spokesman of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Enugu, Abubakar Abdullahi had said that he has no brief of any such operation in the said community.
“In the light of this apparent pretension by the military authority in Enugu about this incident, we are of the view that this criminal pattern of sending out rogue military operatives to communities in the South East to harass and drive away citizens from their homes amounted to a gross violation of the Constitution and the Rules of Engagement for internal security operations by the Nigeria Army”, HURIWA said in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko.
“The Chief of Army Staff must call his officers and men to order. How can the Enugu division of the Army pretend not to be aware of such a big operation that lasted many hours whereas some villagers who pleaded anonymity due to fear told newsmen that their people had ran away from the village for safety.”
HURIWA also disclosed that the media quoted the traditional ruler of Akpawfu Community, Igwe Nnamani as informing newsmen that he had reported the raid to the Divisional Police Officer in the area and he promised to get back to him.
The Traditional ruler according to HURIWA had disclosed that some villagers have already been reported missing, adding that he had sent people to the village to get a clearer picture of what was happening.
HURIWA said it is running out of patience with the hierarchy of the Nigeria Army and may be compelled to take other legitimate steps such as either staging peaceful protests to embassies of global leading nations in Nigeria or send a compilation of reports of use of extrajudicial executions of innocent citizens by soldiers to the International Criminal Court ICC.
The group said it would specifically petitioning President Muhammadu Buhari and the service chiefs including Police heads in Nigeria and Imo State so they are prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
HURIWA accused the Army of violating the Nigerian Armed Forces Rules of Engagement (ROE), and Code of Conduct which are enshrined in Section 217 (2) (c) of the 1999 Constitution and Section (8) (1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (LFN) 2004 provide code of conduct and rules of engagement for the armed forces in internal security.
The rights group said the rules are to the effect that, no officer or soldier must be found aiding or abetting any act of arson, vandalism or unprofessional conduct; and troops are duty bound to intervene in any situation to avoid a breakdown in peace, stability or law and order of an area where they are deployed.
Specifically, Section 217 (2) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that Nigeria’s armed forces shall suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, Commander-in-Chief reinforced by Sect (8) (1) and (3) of the Armed Forces Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (LFN) 2004, it stressed that this presupposes that troops have to use necessary force to quell crisis resulting in deaths, injury and damages to properties.