By Danladi Babangida
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) One Mechanized Division, Kaduna – Major General Adeniyi Oyebade was quoted to have said in the Nation dailies, that “— an assassination attempt on the Nigerian Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) is like an attempt onthe President –“.
Referring to the so called "assassination attempt" on the CAOS by the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), as the army claimed, and that their actions (their massacre of over one thousand innocent members of IMN) confined with the “Rules Of Engagement”( ROE).
From the above statement by the GOC, Nigerians have the following questions to ask the GOC:
(i) Is Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement different from those of other countries?
(ii) Are the rules always applicable to all situations?
(iii) Are they the same Rules which the Ag. Director Army Public Relations Officer, Col. SaniUsman enumerated in item 4 of his press Release? (as shown below):
(iv) For the avoidance of doubt, the Rule of Engagement (ROE) for Operation MESA and other Internal Security (IS) Operations are as follows:
a. Principle of minimum force and proportionality must be applied at all times.
b. Whenever operational situation permits, every reasonable effort shall be made to control
the situation through measures short of using force, including personal contact and negotiations.
c. The use of lethal force shall only be resorted to if all other means to control the situation
have failed or in case of unexpected attack or suspected Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack during which a delay could lead to loss of life or serious injury to personnel.
d. Any force applied must be limited in its intensity and duration; it must also be commensurate with the level of threat posed.
e. Force shall be used only when absolutely necessary to achieve an immediate aim.
f. The decision to open fire shall be made only on orders and under the control of on-scene commander, unless there is insufficient time to obtain such order. Fire can however be opened if the life of a soldier, any law abiding member of the public and/or property of which it is our duty to protect is in grave danger.
g. Fire must be aimed and controlled. Indiscriminate firing is not permitted.
h. Fire may be opened to forcefully stop any vehicle that fails to stop at a checkpoint or road block when ordered to stop for search.
i. Automatic fire will only be opened as a last resort.
j. Avoid collateral damage.
k. After fire has ceased, render medical assistance and record details of incident both in writing and using audio/visual equipment whether or not casualty has been recorded.
l. Whenever in doubt, seek clarification from higher headquarters.
Now for the sake of comparison, an extract of the American Army Rules of Engagement are shown in appendix A. I employ readers to check if they are different from those of the Nigerian Army. Let us now examine whether the Army actually confined to the ROE as claimed by the GOC.
1. Item 4 (a) states that minimum force and proportionality must be applied at all times. Now the Army claimed that the IMN attacked the convoy of the COAS with catapults, machetes and stones but military used life bullets and killed some IMN members in an attempt to force their way through the “blockade”. Are guns with life bullets proportional to catapults, machetes and stones? Or is using life bullets the minimum force when there are things like tear gas, robber bullets, and water cannons.
2. Item 4 (c) states that: Lethal force can be used if other means failed or unexpected attack with IEDs is suspected. In the video clip provided by the military the IMN members were not shown carrying any IED, but the military claimed that the IMN members threw stones and IEDs at the COAS’s convoy and how they force their way through the blockade was also not shown. This again contravened item 4 (k) of the ROE which requires them to record, in writing and visual/audio equipment, details of the incidence.
3. Item 4(e) states that: Force shall be used only when absolutely necessary to achieve an immediate aim. Now if the military adhered to this rule, after forcing their way through the “blockade”, the killings should have ended there because that was the immediate aim.
But what happen later that day (12th Dec. 2015) and the following day (13th Dec.2015)? The army sieged HusainiyyaBaqiyyatu-llah, killed many IMN members and destroyed it with grenades and this was followed by another siege at Gyallesu, the house of IMN leader, ShiekZakzaky, where they killed uncountable number of people, set the house ablaze, shot ShiekZakzaky four times and shot his wife after killing three of his sons. Subsequent actions by the military includes complete destruction of: Husaniyyah, Darurrahama (grave yard), the grave of Zakzaky’s mother to mention only the few. From all these killings and destruction, one may ask if what happened in Gyallesu, Husaniyyah and Darurrahama happened also as a result of road blockade or assassination attempt on the COAS. Because the “assassination attempt” was duringSokoto road blockade as claimed by the military.
As a matter of fact, we expect the military to behave like their masters, the Americans, and the Wests; since they (the military) were trained by them (the Americans and the Wests) and whose interests they are protecting. For instance, if the assassination attempt on the COAS is like an attempt on the President, as the GOC claimed, we will examine some assassination attempts or attacks on some sitting presidents of America and some European countries and see the actions taken by the military or security agents of those counties in response to those attempts or attacks.
On March, 30th 1981, American president Ronald Reagan was attacked with life bullet (which broke his rib, punctured his lung and caused serious internal bleeding) and was also assaulted with a flying glass by anti-nuclear protester on October 23rd, 1992 (Refer to: Attack on Ronald Reagan and President Reagan assaulted by protester at www.googlevideo.com).French president Sarkozy was attacked on 30th June 2011 (Refer to: Sarkozy attack video at www.googlevideo.com) . Polish President was attacked on15th July 2013 (Refer to: Polish President attacked —– at www.googlevideo.com). George Bush was attacked with shoes in Iraq on 14th December 2008 (Refer to: George Bush shoe attack at: www.googlevideo.com) . Pope John Paul was attacked with life bullets on May 13th, 1981 by a man (Refer to: Assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II at www.googlevideo.com). Many other personalities more influential than Nigerian president not talk of the COAS were also attacked.
But in all the above mentioned cases, the militaryor security agents of those countries did not kill uncountable number of their own citizens and destroyed properties of those who are directly or indirectly connected with the attacks or attempts. Even those related to the suspects did not suffer in any way.
What the security agents did was arrested the suspects, took them to court and they were convicted, some of them were even set free. So for military to carry out this unprecedented massacre of innocent IMN members under the pretext of “assassination attempt “on the COAS is unfortunate and unprofessional of the Nigerian Army who are believed to have vast experience which they acquired in their participation in various peace keepings in different countries.
We therefore call on the Nigerian government, under the leadership of MuhammaduBuhari, to come out publically and denounce this barbaric act of the military short of which we Nigerians will assume it is fully behind the massacre of our fellow citizens. The government should also set up an independent judicial inquiry to investigate the matter with the view of bringing the culprits to book in order to guard against future occurrence.
Danladi Babangida is a concern Nigerian.