Rules of Engagement: At what point does the Nigerian Army draw the line?

Amnesty International, a human rights group has condemned the Nigerian army for re-instating Major General Ahmed Mohammed. The General had been accused of human rights violations after the group managed to obtain a video showing soldiers of the Nigerian army killing suspected Boko Haram terrorists in detention. The 640 Boko Haram suspects were reportedly murdered by soldiers under General Mohammed’s command. This incident immediately caught the attention of Amnesty International as the organisation demanded that Muhammadu Buhari and his new Chief of Staff, Major General Tukur Yusuf Buratai look into the matter upon resumption in office.

Nigeria’s military has come forward by first denouncing Amnesty international‘s claims, while declaring that Mohammed was re-instated because his dismissal was not legal in the first case. “The Nigerian Army will appreciate it more if Amnesty International provides us with records and clear evidence directly indicting Major General Mohammed in human rights abuse to enable us act on it… We wish to assure Amnesty International that the Nigerian Army respects human rights and further state that we are ready to partner with the organisation in promoting human rights protection and development,”  the Nigerian army’s official statement read. However, the answer seems to miss the whole point of AI’s grouse, something the army is becoming quite experienced in doing. Calling for evidence to either directly indict General Mohammed or prove him innocent should have been the responsibility of the panel set up by the army to investigate the General and not Amnesty International’s duty.

Many have argued the fact that it is increasingly likely that the Nigerian Army does not know where to draw the line between defending the Nation and indiscipline within its ranks. And in cases where the line has been drawn, it seems it has been blurred by aggressive tactics. In many instances, a call for troops to take responsibility for their actions has been met with counter-accusation. In November 2015, Nigerian soldiers killed members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shiite Muslim group based in Zaria town in northern Nigeria. Although there are no concrete reports about what happened that day, hostilities between both groups highlighted the rather hard-handed approach of the army towards civilians.

Amnesty International’s claims are not far-fetched. The Nigerian army owes its citizens a thorough inquiry into why those Boko Haram suspects, not yet declared guilty by any court, were killed in their custody under  a democratic government. However, as the answer by the Nigerian army to the human rights group has shown, perhaps the army is deliberately missing the point.

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