Nigerian Army: New Era of Impunity

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The recent arbitrary retirement of 38 officers by the Nigerian Army underscores a return to the old days of alleged nepotism and suppression of perceived enemies of power.

 

Izu Joseph, a defender with the Ibadan-based Shooting Stars Sports Club, 3SC, returned to his native Okarki, Bayelsa State, for holidays after the 2016 season, hoping to raise his game further next season for club and country. But this will never be anymore. He was wrongfully killed last week by soldiers attached to the military Joint Task Force on the Niger Delta, JTF, who claimed they were after cultists. Eye witness accounts suggest he was intentionally murdered. Had he survived the first shots he would never have played football again as the bullets maimed him. Rising in pain, he was reportedly shouting, “I am a footballer! I am a footballer! I am not a cultist!” And went on to prove it by bringing his identity card from his pocket. But to the shock of eye witnesses the soldier looked at the card, exclaimed, “Danburuba!” and shot him again at close range. Three other unlucky persons were also gunned down: Innocent Kokorifa, 17, Godgift Oduku, 5, and a 30-year-old man simply identified as Inyan.

The Ijaw Youth Council, the apex youth organization for the Ijaw Nation in demanding “that the military officers who carried out this extra-judicial murder be brought to justice,” further declared that, “President Muhammadu Buhari and his government’s claim to the rule of law is on trial.”

In Abuja, the army woke up one day in August, unilaterally annexed the 400-plots Maitama Extension and locked out the workers of Kakatar Civil Engineering, the company awarded the contract for developing the districts engineering infrastructure. Since then, the workers have been idle and machines rusting as all entreaties to the army to quit the district fell on deaf ears. The National Assembly, whose principal officers’ houses are being built in the district, other plot owners and the general public have condemned the illegal act and wondered if Nigeria is being run by the rule of the jungle or the rule of law.

Likewise, 38 army officers who were arbitrarily retired on June 9 without following due process have for the fifth month been waiting for justice to be done in their case so that they can return to the service of their country. And Nigerians and the international community are wondering if after 17 years of democracy Nigeria is back to a dictatorship where the fundamental rights of citizens are no longer guaranteed.

After over 30 years of military in power, professionalism was compromised so much that a near caste system emerged in the military where some junior officers from the North arrogated themselves over their seniors from the South. Promotions were award based on the whims and caprices of a few individuals and other political considerations. Against this background, the Olusegun Obasanjo regime of 1999 to 2007 carried out reforms that returned efficiency and professionalism to the army. Sanity returned to the military as promotions were now based on merit. For the first time since 1966 the south south and southeast produced chiefs of army staff, no† in fulfillment of federal character, but based on merit.  Harmony reigned as every officer had a sense of belonging that one could rise to any rank by merit, irrespective of place of birth..

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