Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Presidential Investigative Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement begins sitting in Abuja today (Monday).
The panel, led by a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Biobele Georgewill, was inaugurated by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity as the Acting President on August 11 to, among others, investigate allegations of human rights abuses levelled against the military by Amnesty International.
Our correspondent, on Sunday, sighted an invitation sent by the panel to an author of a memorandum submitted to it, inviting him to attend the Monday’s hearing in Abuja.
The invite, jointly signed by Justice Georgewill and the Secretary to the panel, Mr. Suleiman Haliru, was titled ‘Invitation to the panel’s sitting/hearing in Abuja on September 11, 2017 at 1000 hours’.
According to the document, the sitting in Abuja is for the North-Central region and it will hold at the headquarters of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja, between September 11 and 15.
The invite read in part, “We wish to refer to your memorandum, dated August 22, 2017, submitted to the above-named panel and to inform you that the North-Central sitting/hearing has been slated as follows:
“Date: September 11 to 15, 2017
“Venue: Ceremonial Hall, Federal Capital Territory High Court, Tigris Crescent, opposite Corporate Affairs Commission, Maitama, Abuja.
“Accordingly, you are invited to attend the siting/hearing to present facts to support your submission.”
The commission is expected to submit its report to the Presidency in 90 days.
Members of the panel are Maj. Gen. Patrick Akem, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, Mrs. Hauwa Ibrahim, Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Mrs. Ifeoma Nwakama and a representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
The Amnesty International had alleged that the troops, involved in the counter-terrorism operations in the North-East, were engaged in extra-judicial killings, killings of innocent civilians and torture among others.
Osinbajo had, while inaugurating the panel, said all the allegations levelled against the armed forces and other security agencies must not go unaddressed so as to safeguard the good image of Nigeria.
He assured all the security agencies that the work of the investigative panel should not be seen as a witch-hunt or an act aimed at denigrating the laudable work of the military.
The VP had stated, “Failure to examine some of these allegations will also leave those who may have been victims of such abuses without any recourse to justice.
“And if history has taught us anything, it is that the failure of our justice system to adequately respond to crisis is usually a recipe for greater conflict.”
He gave the terms of reference of the panel to include “the review of the extant rules of engagement applicable to the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the extent of compliance thereto.”
Others are “to investigate alleged acts of violation of international humanitarian and human rights laws under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended); the Geneva Convention Act; the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Ratification and Enforcement Act and other relevant laws by the Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgencies.
“To investigate matters of conduct and discipline in the armed forces in local conflicts and insurgencies;
“To recommend the means of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in conflict situations
“To make further recommendations in line with these terms of reference as maybe deemed necessary.’’
Osinbajo urged the panel to also look into the conditions of service of the armed forces or any other factors that might have hindered the performance of the military in the ongoing fight against insurgents, militants and other combatants with a view to addressing them.
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