By Ikeugonna Eleke
A human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law(Intersociety) has said that the Army Probe Panel constituted by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai to dig into unwholesome practices of men of the Nigerian Army during the just concluded 2019 General Election is dead on arrival.
The group in a press statement signed by its Board of trustees chairman, Mr Emeka Umeagbalasi said the panel's integrity is challenged because the Army cannot be a judge in its case.
The group said, “We can boldly and irrefutably tell all Nigerians and members of the int'l community; inclusive of UN, ICC, Western Democracy and int'l rights groups and research bodies that the recently constituted “Nigerian Army Probe Panel” for probing the gross misconducts of the Army personnel during the 2019 polls” is not only integrity and credibility challenged but also dead on arrival and designed to end in nothingness.”
The group said it is dead on arrival because the probe panel will end up producing nothingness except self exoneration as was the case in the immediate past Army probe panels or boards of enquiry.
“It is Credibility and integrity challenged because the Army “probe panel” fundamentally lacks independence as it is constituted outside the confines or the hallowed natural law principles of Nemo judex in causa sua (or nemo judex in sua causa)-no one should be a judge in his own case and Audi alteram partem-fair hearing or let the other side justly be heard as well.
“It is well documented that the Nigerian Army under COAS Tukur Buratai has earned notoriety in recent times by “being a judge in its own case”; thereby fueling impunity among its personnel and making themchronic repeat-offenders and outlaws.”
The Army on 15th March 2019 innaugurated a panel, with Major General TA Gagariga, as its head to look into allegations of misconduct by its men during the 2019 general election, and given 31st March 2019 as a date for its wind up and submission of report.
But Intersociety said apart from the fact that the Army probe panel is dead on arrival and fundamentally lacks independence, credibility and integrity; the panel is also nothing short of cover up and self exonerative arrangement designed at shielding the Army and its personnel from “regional and international condemnation, damnation and reparative and criminal justice accountability.”
The group said Nigerians have not forgotten the outcomes of the immediate past military panels including Army/NHRC panel on Shiite massacre of 2016, the Army Board of Enquiry into Human Rights Abuses including killing of Pro Biafra activists of 2017 and the Federal Government Judicial Panel of Enquiry into Army Rights Abuses of 2017.
“In these panels, the outcomes were utterly self exonerative leading to shielding of the perpetrators; to the extent that till date, no single Army officer or soldier has been fished out, tried and convicted over the genocidal atrocities above mentioned. In all the named military kangaroo enquiries, moles within the Rights Community were recruited and used, leading to recent appointment of one of them to the top position at the NHRC,” the group said.