Assessing public perception of military as brutal, lawless institution

Due to the onerous task of protecting territorial integrity and suffocating external aggression, the military is among other things trained to kill adversaries but in Nigeria these special skill of killing with modern weapons is allegedly been visited on innocent and armless citizens instead of the adversaries and the military is up in arm to stop whoever will dare challenge her new found perverseness and aberration of unleashing terror and brutality on citizens writes LINUS ALEKE

Nigerian military has no doubt done well in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the past one decade with several soldiers and officers paying the supreme price in the process.

These patriotic sacrifice by the nation’s military cannot be taken for granted as they stay awake and put their lives on the line for Nigerians to enjoy peace and sleep with their two eyes closed notwithstanding the murderous activities of few misguided criminal elements striving to carve out Caliphate within Nigeria territorial boundary and make the nation ungovernable.

To this end, Nigerians owe their military unquantifiable debt of gratitude and appreciation.

The current crop of Nigerian military elite also deserve commendation for submitting to the legitimately constituted democratic authorities for over 2 decades and still counting unlike those before them who interrupted democratic rule for more than 3 decades.

Regrettably, some few bad eggs and trigger happy personnel in the system are dragging these excellent job done by the nation’s military in the past decade to the mud.

Like swam, these few bad eggs are staining the patriotic effort of the military with dirt that is as black as scarlet.

Unfortunately, illegitimate and nefarious activities of these misguided personnel is shaping the perception of the public on civil military relations in Nigeria.

To substantial percentage of the nation’s population, especially the youths, Nigerian military is brutish, lawless, unfriendly and averse to the civilian populace.

This seeming perception has given rise to drama skits and jokes in all social media platforms depicting the military as a brutish and lawless institution, a scenario that does not go down well with the Military High Command, especially the Nigerian Army.

But to say that the civil – military -relations in Nigeria is excellent and cordial is to live in denial or simply put reside in a fools paradise, as news report of military brutality and extra judicial killings of civilians at any slightest provocation dots the landscape of local and international media.

These news reports are often conferred legitimacy by reports of human right violations periodically released by international human right and graft watchdogs, Amnesty International and Transparency International.

Only recently, Mr. Joseph Pessu was allegedly murdered in cold blood by a soldier for disobeying lockdown order in Warri, Delta State.

While expressing displeasure over the extra judicial killing, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Barr Festus Keyamo (SAN), condemned in strong terms the killing of lives in Warri, Delta State by soldiers enforcing COVID-19 lockdown order.

He threatened to petition military authorities to ensure proper investigation into the matter so that justice will be served.

Mr Keyamo who made this condemnation in a statement in Abuja, also described the action of the Armed Forces of Nigeria as barbaric.

“I have received disturbing reports and images of the high-handedness and shooting of innocent citizens by men of the armed forces deployed to enforce the COVID-19 lockdown in my State, Delta State.
Specifically, I have received reports of the killing of an innocent young man, Mr. Joseph Pessu in Warri. I unreservedly condemn this barbaric act by men of the armed forces who should exercise restraint when dealing with the civilian populace.
I will be forwarding a petition to the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate this murder and bring the officer(s) to book. In the interim, let us not take the laws into our hands, please,” the statement reads.

He however, appealed to Deltans to be law-abiding and obey the orders of restrictions imposed by both the Delta State Government and the Federal Government.

Recall that
Soldiers of 93 Battalion, Takum, Taraba State, on August 6, 2019, shot members of a special anti-crime squad from the Inspector General of Police Office, who had arrested a notorious kidnap kingpin Wadume and were transporting him to the state police command in Jalingo, for interrogation.

The soldiers killed three policemen and two civilians on the spot, during which the troops allegedly freed the suspect.

The matter is still in court.

Also, the Nigerian Army admitted that a soldier shot dead a commercial motorcyclist in Abia State in August last year.

Ajayi Johnson was identified as the soldier who fatally shot Chimaobi Nwaogu of Umuokereke-Ngwa, Obingwa Local Government Area.
Mr Johnson, a lance corporal, was said to be away without official leave when the incident occurred near a military base in Ohanze community, according to a spokesperson for the 82 Division, Aliyu Yusuf.

Meanwhile, eye witnesses accused the soldier of opening fire after Mr Nwaogu allegedly refused to pay a N100 bribe at the military checkpoint.

These and many other ugly incidences of brutality and lawlessness too numerous to mention accounts for the negative public perception of the military.

Expressing unhappiness over the negative public perception of the military, Acting Director Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa in a statement titled,
‘Stop depicting the military as brutal in your drama skits’ warned comedians and social media warriors to desist from depicting Nigerian military in a negative light.

The statement reads, “There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a variety of measures to stem its spread in our country. Some of these measures include restriction of movement, lockdown and stay at home directives which are being enforced by various government and security agencies. Some creative Nigerians found it expedient to provide comic relief through the production of funny jokes, graphics, drama skits and video clips to entertain the public. The materials are circulated through social media.
Unfortunately, most of these clips circulating on social media bordered on the Nigerian soldier and projecting the military as lawless, brutal and being harsh on people flouting the stay at home order pursuant to the lockdown and stay at home directives imposed in some states in Nigeria. There is no doubt these drama skits and video clips denigrate and cast the military and the security forces in a bad light. This development creates a wrong impression and general perception of our soldiers negatively and projects them as undisciplined and brutal. Thus, creating an erroneous impression of the military”.

Colonel Sagir asserted that Nigerian military are well trained and dedicated professionals that perform their constitutional duties diligently and dispassionately with utmost regards for human rights and rules of engagement.

He averred that it was wrong to continue to produce such drama skits, video clips and graphics at the expense of the excellent image of the Nigerian soldier, stressing that it affects troops morale and has a broad implication for national security.

While positing that no nation or good citizen make jest of its military, the military warned well-meaning Nigerians and producers of such materials to desist forthwith.

“The military or security agencies should not be made the subject or focus of those skits at the expense of a key and strategic arm of the security architecture of our great nation.
On our part, we will continue to discharge our constitutionally assigned tasks professionally respecting human rights and rules of engagement. We will also investigate the source of such props and costumes and ensure that military uniforms will not be used to denigrate the military,” he further posited.

the High Command of the Nigerian military earlier denied in strong terms alleged brutality and human right violation by its officers and soldiers while enforcing the presidential order on COVID-19 two weeks lock down of 3 cities – Abuja, Lagos and Ogun, which is trending on all social media platforms.

The Armed Forces of Nigeria said the videos were old clips of past incidents that took place in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche who made the rebuttal in a statement argued that the clips are being used by some mischievous elements to tarnish the image of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

“The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to some video clips trending in the media. Those videos are misleading, as they are not related to the present military engagement of the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards the lockdown on COVID-19. The Nigerian Armed Forces sees those clips as calculated attempts to tarnish its professional integrity by some mischief makers,” he explained.

The statement further enjoined Members of the public to disregard those videos, saying it is the handwork of false news propagators.

Major General Enenche said the Nigerian military remains undaunted and would not be distracted rules of engagement.


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