A disturbing video trending on social media has captured the moment some newly recruited soldiers in the Nigerian Army vowed to deal with any civilian they come across. In their brash manner associated with only military bravado, they vowed that they would be very merciless with any civilian who crosses their path.
In the viral video, the soldiers can be heard celebrating their recruit as they warn civilians not to cross their paths as they also threaten to flog civilians.
In the 30-second video, the new recruits were asked what they think about civilians and they took turns to embarrass them.
When one of the new recruits was asked to give some words of advice to the civilians, she said:
“They are very useless and hopeless. If I catch them, body go tell them. Tell them say make them no cross my lane o, if them try am”.
Another said in the video: “The worst thing on earth is to be a civilian.”
Another said “I’ll flog them. I’ll flog them,” when asked what she will do to erring civilians.
This shows how terrible the Nigerian Army is with the civilians they are supposed to protect. Every year, a fresh video of recruits disgracing themselves always surface and the Nigerian Army does little or nothing to stop it.
The Nigerian Army is sick and requires urgent intervention. Clearly, public intervention in military affairs is a sensitive issue, and our politicians generally avoid commenting on military issues except when it affects their electoral interests.
However, Nigerians must not remain mute when it is clear that an intervention is needed.
Boko Haram insurgents, an extremist Islamic group that Tukur Buratai under Buhari’s directives had promised to decimate within three months when he first took the presidential oath in May 2015, have been having a field day in some parts of the North-East, particularly Borno, kidnapping, killing, maiming, raping and in the process turning hundreds of schoolgirls into sex slaves. This shows how grossly incompetent Tukur Buratai is in handling the affairs of the Nigerian Military. And instead of taking out their wrath on the insurgents, they rather vent their anger and frustrations on innocent, harmless civilians.
In the last three years, Nigeria has witnessed the military’s increased impunity in the conduct of its operations, disregard for the rule of law and civilian control, and contempt for public accountability.
The Nigerian Army has become uncontrollable in a way that Nigerians have not seen since the transition to civilian rule. The civilian authority has to recognise and accept the professionalism and autonomy of the military and minimise the use of the military in politics or the politicisation of the military.
As it exists today, the Nigerian Army lacks professionalism. Instead, it has willingly become a political tool aimed at the brutal suppression of ordinary Nigerians.
In February 2016, the Nigerian Army established a Human Rights Desk tasked with investigating all cases of human rights complaints brought before it. For a period between 2016 and 2017, several military trials were conducted based on complaints to the Human Rights Desk. But, in the long run, nothing has changed.
Instead of improved military-civilian relations and increased respect for the lives of Nigerians, the Nigerian military has, between 2015 and 2018, become more reckless in its operations and more brazen in its impunity. In December 2015, over 300 people (including children) were killed in an attack by the Nigerian Army on a Shiite compound in Zaria.
Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra have suffered similar atrocities. Between December 2015 and May 2020, up to 500 agitators have been killed by the military during pro-Biafran protests. In other instances, the military has simply been careless while handling peaceful protests.
In January 2017, the Nigerian Air Force bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno state and killed 167 civilians, again including children.
A 2018 report by Amnesty International also showed how soldiers used force and threats of force to rape women in IDP camps. Till date, on one has been held accountable for these horrific incidents.
And, as these things often go, the military has turned cannibal, becoming a victim of its own atrocities, and devouring itself from inside.
It has become common for soldiers to rebel or protest the conditions of their service, including expressing dissatisfaction with equipment and welfare conditions. Even unemployed Nigerians are fearful of joining the army despite an ongoing recruitment exercise.
In fact, the Nigerian Army has lost public trust. The military authorities are prone to deceitful information and issuing outright lies. The command chain continues to be secretive, if not confused. The Nigerian public rarely knows who gives operational orders and who to hold accountable.
Today, only those who want to bury their heads in sand will believe that the Nigerian military cares about protecting Nigerian lives.
Instead, the military concerns itself only with protecting state security – personified in the president and his supporters – at the expense of ordinary Nigerian lives. It is completely abominable that the supposed defenders of Nigerian lives are the ones most likely to take it. Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai has ruined the reputation of the Nigerian security.
If constitutional democracy is to be sustained in Nigeria, then the Nigerian Army must be reformed and reoriented to prioritise the life of the ordinary Nigerian. And the first step in this reorientation process is accountability.
If progress is to be made, it must be ensured that those who commit atrocities must be confronted by justice either under domestic or international law.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK