Major A.A. Goni, a lawyer serving in the Defence Headquarters’ Legal Services, has complained to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding a land dispute with a civilian.
Goni alleged that the civilian failed to deliver a parcel of land he purchased or refund his money.
Goni addressed the issue during a forum hosted by the NHRC in Abuja on Friday.
The forum, “Current State of Civil-Military Relations,” was aimed to discuss the complex relationship between the military and civilians.
“Once civilians see an officer in uniform seeking to enforce their fundamental rights, they immediately reach for their phones and claim the officer is assaulting people,” Goni explained.
He expressed concern that such accusations often overshadow the actual facts of the situation.
Goni highlighted that the challenges of civil-military relations are not one-sided.
He shared his personal experience of attempting to recover a land purchase through legal means, ultimately proving unsuccessful.
“When I returned from Sudan with my savings, I bought land in Kaduna. However, the seller never provided the property nor returned my money,” Goni recounted.
He further explained that despite apprehending the seller and taking him to the police station, the authorities released the individual, claiming lack of jurisdiction due to the civil nature of the case.
“I pursued the matter in court, but the hearing was constantly adjourned. As a military officer, I don’t have the time for these endless proceedings,” Goni lamented.
He urged the forum to address the issue of human rights violations against military personnel, emphasizing the unfairness of accepting accusations without due process.
“What about military personnel? Are we not victims of human rights violations?” he questioned.
Goni assured the NHRC that the Nigerian armed forces adhere to strict rules of engagement and relevant laws in all operations.
In his opening address, NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu, acknowledged the importance of human rights in modern warfare and internal security operations.
He said incidents of human rights violations, however isolated, still cast a long shadow on the noble service of the military and the trust placed in them by the citizens they swore to protect.
“Therefore, human rights education must become an integral part of military training and operations,” Ojukwu said.
The ES called for the incorporation of comprehensive human rights training within the military curriculum and that such training should encompass the legal aspects and the moral and ethical imperatives of human rights.
“Every soldier needs to understand that respect for human rights is not antithetical to military objectives but is fundamental to achieving lasting peace and security.
“Moreover, establishing clear channels of accountability and transparency within the military structure is crucial.
“Allegations of human rights abuses must be investigated promptly, impartially, and transparently,” Ojukwu said, adding that the call was not only about justice for the victims but also about maintaining the integrity and honour of our military forces.
The ES assured that the NHRC remains committed to working closely with the military to promote and protect human rights as well as provide training, resources, and support to ensure that human rights are respected in all military operations.
In her remarks, the Chair, Governing Council, NHRC, Dr. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, extended gratitude to the brave men and women of the Nigerian military, saying their selfless service, often under arduous circumstances, forms the bedrock of Nigeria’s security and stability.
She disclosed that the Commission acknowledges and commends the significant progress made by the Nigerian military in integrating human rights principles into its operations.
“Your cooperation with the NHRC is a testament to your dedication to upholding the highest human rights standards, even in the face of formidable challenges.
“This partnership has been instrumental in cultivating a culture of human rights within the military, and for this, we are genuinely appreciative,” Suleiman said.
Suleiman noted that the journey towards a more humane and rights-respecting military has not concluded, adding there was a need to infuse human rights into the armed forces due to the ever-evolving challenges to human rights protection.
“We urge the Nigerian military to continue expanding their human rights training programs, ensuring they permeate every facet of military life.
“We also encourage you to fortify mechanisms of accountability within your ranks,” she said.
The event was graced by military officers and civil society organisations who took their turn to speak.
The forum was created by the NHRC to discuss issues relating to mainstreaming human rights in military operations.
At the end, both the NHRC and the participants agreed to build on successes garnered over the years.
Army Officer Asks NHRC To Protect Rights Of Military After Civilian Fails To Deliver Purchased Land is first published on The Whistler Newspaper