Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Rules Of Engagement: Nigerian Military Disciplines Soldier For Injuring Unarmed Man In Kaduna Community

By Iliya Kure

The image of the Nigerian military has been improving since 2016 when the army established the human rights desk and reviewed its Code of Conduct and Rules of Engagement in line with standard practice and requirements.

At the national level, the desk is composed of six legal officers from the Nigerian Bar Association and the legal section of the army, expected to investigate allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by military personnel, as well as strengthen the army’s capacity to protect human rights.

This has led to many changes – it is fair to say that gone were the days when soldiers on operations violated the citizens’ rights or were involved in extra-judicial killings and went scot-free, especially when such acts were properly documented and reported to the appropriate quarters.

In recent years, Nigerians have seen each soldier involved in violating the rights of citizens investigated and punished commensurate with the offense committed.

One of the latest cases is the one involving personnel (name withheld) of Operation Safe Haven, currently detained for stabbing a civilian, named Joseph, on his buttocks, during an early morning search operation in the Sankwap Runji community in southern Kaduna.

Joseph, who works as an assistant at the village head’s office left his house as early as 6 a.m. on 19th October, with an exercise book, which he would use to write down names of residents who were to participate in a scheduled community development work that morning.

On his way, Joseph “heard some people crying from beatings they were receiving in Mr. Emmanuel’s house,” he said. Wondering what was happening that early morning, he decided to enter the house to see what was happening.

Upon entering, “I saw about five to six soldiers beating members of the family,” he said. On enquiring what was happening, “I started receiving beatings myself from some of them,” Joseph added.

Soon after, all of them were ordered to start moving to where the leader of the operation team was waiting. “As we walked, I felt a sharp object scratched my hand, near the elbow, I looked and it was one of the soldiers who used a knife on me,” he said. “I asked what I did, but all he did was shout at me to keep moving. Not long after, he stabbed me with the same knife on my buttocks. At this point even his colleagues were not happy with him,” Joseph explained.

Shortly after, “blood started coming out and I started feeling dizzy. They now asked me to go back. I returned to my people; soon, I fell to the ground,” he said. His kinsmen now rushed him to a hospital in Zonkwa, the local government headquarters, a distance of about 20 km from Sankwap Runji village.


Runji community road

Arrival of the soldiers

Early hours of Thursday morning, when everything in Sankwap Runji village was motionless and many had not left their beds – the Southern Kaduna village was visited by men of the Nigerian Army who were in search of prohibited weapons – should any villager be keeping one against the law.

They came in about six pickup vans from Kafanchan, a major town in southern Kaduna, where their office is located. They passed through Samaru to Wawa-Rafi, and parked their vehicles over the river bank, then crossed the river and walked to the village on foot.

Akaiji Luka, a former Councilor in Zango Kataf Local Government Council was startled that morning by his 13-year-old son who came home running, “Daddy! Daddy! Come and help Mr. Hassan, some soldiers are harassing him.”

Mr. Luka was about to go out, but soon heard his gate being forced open – by the time he was in the compound, the gate was opened by the soldiers. “Am I safe?” he enquired of the military. “You are safe,” the officers responded. “Lie down on the floor,” one of the officers ordered. “I thought you said I am safe. Why are you asking me to lie down?” but another soldier who probably sensed his personality, ordered him to sit on the floor instead of lying down, saying “Everything will be fine.”

Four soldiers went on and entered his house and searched every nook and cranny. When they were done, they came out and continued the search in the compound including the animal pen – they could not find what they were looking for.

While that was happening in his house, Mr. Luka could hear the cries from beating in his neighbor, Emmanuel’s house, and also the shout by one of the officers, “These ones are being stubborn.”

Mr. Hassan was brought to Mr. Emmanuel’s house.

The personnel then asked Mr. Emmanuel, Mr. Hassan, Mr. Joseph, and Mr. Luka to follow them to the captain leading the operation [Joseph was injured by the soldier on the way]. But on arrival, the captain asked Mr. Luka to go back home.

By the time Luka came close to his house, an over-70-year-old woman was protesting the arrest of men in the community. But a soldier hit her with the base of his gun.

This led women in the community to protest against the action.

The chaos attracted the attention of the paramount traditional ruler of the area, Agwatyap, Sir. Dominic Yahaya; the Local Government Council Chairman, Francis Sani Zimbo; and the President of Atyap Community Development Association, Samuel Timbwak Achie. The trio intervened and averted the worsening of the situation.

What the soldiers found

During their search, the army personnel found three locally made guns. “They were not Dane guns,” says the spokesperson in response to the type of guns.

The personnel also arrested two persons from the community

Weapons allegedly recovered by the military from the two arrested community members

Calming the situation

When the report of the incident reached the Sector Commander of the Unit in Kafanchan, Lt. Col. Andrew Osueke, he immediately visited the scene where he alongside leaders from the area addressed the matter.

Explaining further, the Spokesperson of Operation Safe Haven, headquartered in Jos, Captain Oya James, said, the Nigerian military “does not take lightly matters like this.”

According to him, the Outfit had taken full responsibility by footing the medical bills of the injured person [Joseph has confirmed this information].

Captain James added that “the personnel who committed the act has been detained and will undergo the laid down disciplinary procedure.”

The investigation will also ascertain the reason for the soldier’s action for injuring a civilian who did nothing wrong and was not carrying any weapon.

Missing monies allegation

Upon return home, Emmanuel Ezekiel Adamu, who was among people led out of the village by the soldiers said his money amounting to N582,000 was missing. “The money was from the farm produce I sold; I wanted to use the money to buy a motorbike for my son,” he said. “The money was inside the house before they led us away,” he added.

Another resident, Mr. Akaiji, a neighbor to Emmanuel also alleged that after returning home, he did not find his money. When I called the Sector Commander and informed him of the matter, he started threatening me, that he will deal with me if I keep disturbing him,”

On this, the spokesperson said, they would investigate the matter and take appropriate action.

Security in the area

Sankwap Runji is one of the communities that suffered attacks from the Fulani herdsmen, who usually attack villages.

The community was attacked on 25th April, leaving 36 people killed, and many others injured. It was also attacked on the 9th and 10th of May, where many houses burnt down.

A house burnt by Fulani herdsmen during one of the attacks.

Sankwap Runji an agrarian community surrounded by rivers in the savannah plains of southern Kaduna has existed for over 150 years. Every year, farmers in the area grow and cultivate maize, millet, and guinea corn, and yam, among other farm produce.

Aside from the primary school buildings that stand on the edge of the village, the community has not seen meaningful development from the Nigerian government; there is no tarred road leading into the village, no portable water, and no hospital.

There is only one road, the Zonkwa – Gorah located on the western part of the community, which serves as the entrance and exit gate.

Community leadership reaction

Reacting to the situation, the President of ACDA, Samuel Achie, praised the effort of the military in taking immediate action to calm the situation, including settling the medical bills of the injured person.

Achie described the Runji and surrounding southern Kaduna communities as those that suffered incessant attacks from the Fulani herders without adequate protection.

Achie frowned at the coloration of the killings in his community as farmer-herder conflicts.

“One would expect that when you say farmer-herder conflict, it would happen on the farm or something like that, but this is a situation where people are in their homes and they’d be attacked in the night. How can you call this a farmer-herder clash?” he asked.

He however said the communities in southern Kaduna are beginning to witness a better approach to handling the issues of Fulani attacks since the assumption of Mr. Uba Sani, as the Governor of the state, “this one does not take sides; he is neutral. We believe there will be progress,” he emphasized.

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