By Johnson Eyiangho
The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) on Thursday pledged to protect the rights of citizens and law abiding members of the public during operations.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, gave the pledge on Thursday when he inaugurated a 12-man committee to produce Rules of Engagement for the armed forces
According to a statement by the Acting Director of Defence Information (DDI), Olonisakin was represented at the occasion by the Chief of Defence Policy and Plans (CDPP), Air Vice Marshall Balogun.
The CDS said the AFN “must carry out its constitutionally assigned tasks to the best of its ability and training with the mindset that the fundamental human rights of citizens are sacrosanct.’’
He said the inauguration of the committee was a step to holistically review existing rules of engagements and trainings to ensure they conform to international best practices during operations.
Earlier, the Chief of Defence Training and Operations (CDTOPS), Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, had said the committee was a pointer to the untiring effort of the CDS to produce a comprehensive rules of engagement manual.
“So, what we intend to do is to look at the existing rules vis-à-vis different operations with a view to producing a blueprint fit for all operations and exercises,’’ Irabor said.
Also speaking, Jean Queguiner, the Deputy Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), commended the AFN for the step taken to produce and harmonise the rule of engagement.
Quiguiner said that when produced, it would help foreclose any speculation about the existence or accuracy of the current ROE being applied by the AFN during operations.
He pledged the cooperation of the ICRC to producing a comprehensive document, describing the task of the committee as sensitive and critical to the successes of military operations.
Mr Benedict Agu, who represented the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said the committee was a significant milestone.
Agu said the commission would continue to dialogue with the military on the need to strike a balance between necessity and human rights protection during operations.
He also said that the commission would continue to collaborate with the AFN to ensure protection of human rights during operations, adding that past collaborations had yielded several positive results.
According to him, one of such collaborative efforts is the advocacy for the adoption of the National Policy on Protection of Civilians and Civilian Harm Mitigation being championed by the NHRC, AFN and Centre for Civilians in Conflict.
The committee is headed by Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Ahanotu, the Director of Campaign Planning, Defence Headquarters, with members drawn from the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Defence College, ICRC and NHRC.