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Civic Group, RULAAC Cautions Nigerian Army Over Reprisals In Delta Community, Okuama

RULAAC which made the call in a statement issued on Tuesday in reaction to the killing of 16 personnel of the Nigerian Army in Okuama Community in Delta State, South South Nigeria, cautioned that the Nigerian military shouldn’t descend to such level of criminality.

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has called for an end to military revenge and indiscriminate actions that lead to injury, death or displacement of innocent civilians.

RULAAC which made the call in a statement issued on Tuesday in reaction to the killing of 16 personnel of the Nigerian Army in Okuama Community in Delta State, South South Nigeria, cautioned that the Nigerian military shouldn’t descend to such level of criminality.

Condemning what it described as “unprovoked” and “dastardly attacks and killing” of 16 soldiers, the group commiserated with the families of the fallen gallant officers, and the Nigerian military, even as it advised that its operations must be conducted in compliance with the rules of engagement.

Signed by the Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma, RULAAC said it welcomed the resolve of the military authorities to investigate and bring the culprits to book.

It also tasked the government of Delta State to go beyond condemnation of this tragedy and ensure thorough investigation of the root causes of the communal dispute and clashes that necessitated military intervention and unfortunately culminated in the ambush and deadly attacks and killing of the soldiers.

“All the perpetrators, and others directly or remotely linked to the crisis that resulted to the dastardly killing of the soldiers must be arrested, investigated, and if found culpable, tried in accordance with the law. They must be made to bear the full weight of the law if convicted.

“We appeal to the military to end reprisals on communities. A repeat of the sad events of the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) when the military destroyed communities in Odi and Zaki Biam for killing soldiers must be avoided.

“We recall that after the military’s violent reprisal attack on the town of Odi in Bayelsa State in November 1999, the community took legal action against the Nigerian government. They sued the federal government for the destruction of their homes, properties, and the loss of their lives in the attack.

“In June 2013, the court awarded a monetary compensation of 37.6 billion naira (about $98 million USD) to the people of Odi for the damages done by the military during the attack.

“However, the government of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to pay the compensation to the community and appealed the judgment. The case remained in legal limbo for years, with the government not paying the compensation despite several court orders.

“It is unclear if the people of Odi have received the monetary compensation awarded to them by the Federal High Court.”

It added, “Innocent civilians and their properties must at all times be protected. They must never be made to suffer for the atrocities of a few deviants in the community.

“Military reprisals that result in the killing of civilians are not an acceptable practice under the rules of engagement. The rules of engagement are designed to ensure that military operations are conducted in a manner that upholds human rights principles and respects the lives and dignity of all individuals.”

RULAAC explained that military reprisals are often regarded as an act of revenge, which brings into question the legality of the action.

It insisted that the use of force must always be proportional and limited to what is necessary to achieve a legitimate military objective. “The indiscriminate use of force that results in the killing of civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

“Therefore, it is important for the military to ensure that it does not descend to the level of criminals. It must ensure that its operations are conducted in compliance with the rules of engagement, which require that the use of force be proportional, necessary, and discriminate.

“The military must uphold its duty to protect civilians, and not take part in acts of reprisal or any other form of violence against innocent civilians. The military must remain focused and committed to its mandate of maintaining peace and security in the community.”

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