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Published On: Fri, Jan 10th, 2014

Time to Check Excesses of Military Brutality in Delta State

The fear of soldiers is the beginning of wisdom in Delta State

By Brisibe Perez
With the birth of the Nigeria Army in 1960 which originally was a fallout of the Lt. Glover Royal Navy in 1863, used by Glover, while he was Governor of Lagos to mount punitive expedition in the Lagos hinterland and to protect British trade routes around Lagos to boost its economic (Slave Trade) and commercial activities, the military, though claims to be the “Pride of the Nation” which can be interpreted to mean the “Pride of every Nigeria”, could be said to be brutish on civilians who are supposed to be proud of its formations.
I stand to be corrected based on my assertions, but at the end of this piece, you would concur with me based on recent happenings that, though there might be some “Angelic Soldiers”, but a handful out of a majority can’t reflect on the saintly nature of our uniformed gun tooting brothers (this includes the police and other military agencies).
It has been said that, having metamorphosed into the current Nigeria Army from its Governor Glover days, the Nigeria Army, especially it’s ‘Foot Soldiers’ still treat the Nigerian civilians as ‘slaves’ that they are during the British Colonial days.
There is a saying in the local parlance that, “The fear of a soldier, armed or unarmed, is the beginning of wisdom”. No doubt it is following the wanton use of firearms by these gun tooting brothers on armed-less civilians who in most cases are not alive to tell their story, after being brutally cut down in the prime of their lives by the ‘unknown’ soldier.
The recent killing of a motorcycle rider popularly referred to as Okada simply identified as Dafe and an innocent traffic volunteer in a market place at Ughelli, Delta State during school rush-hour by the soldiers attached to SETRACO Construction Company leaves more to be questioned on the level of professionalism and ethical rules of engagement of personnel of the Nigeria Army.
Let’s play Devil’s Advocate and toe the storyline of Lt. Col Victor C Ibeh, Commanding officer of 222 Battalion based in Agbarha-Otor, where the military men in question are stationed. He stated that, the dead Okada rider (herein referred to as the suspect) attacked and literarily demobilized ‘two armed soldiers’ hence,he was gunned down with a shot on the head (which reflects a shot to kill) by the Unit Commander.
“That prior to being shot in the dead, the unarmed suspect had succeeded in making away with the magazine attached to the riffle of one of the soldiers.
“That the unarmed suspect who was not known to the soldiers present, stormed the scene with a brand new motorcycle, unnumbered, with the sole aim of attacking the soldier unaware that there are other soldiers around.
“That in making his attack, the suspect arrived the scene from God knows-where with a helmet which he used on the soldiers.”
According to him, as a result of these, the actions of his men were justified.
Hmm, nice line of defense for his men, but on the contrary, I do not mean to debunk the claims of Lt. Col. Ibeh, but in trying to be liberal to all parties involved, one may be forced to question the level of professionalism and combat competence of the soldiers in question.
First, in a town where the only medium of transportation in the day is ‘Okada’ hence the high number of motorcycles, is it possible for a soldier (who is not resident of Ughelli) to know the faces of Okada riders? Well maybe outside their line of duty in guarding the Lebanese expatriates they are attached to, they embark on memorizing the faces of Okada riders.
Secondly, is it not a known fact that an average of 40% of commercial motorcycle in Ughelli is not registered? Is it wrong for a commercial motorcycle to be brand new? Thirdly, in reference to the Kokori Crisis as stated by Ibeh, hence the influx of supposed associates of Kelvin, if with the actual intention of attacking the soldier, would the Okada rider storm the scene armed with just his helmet rather than being combat ready for battle as experienced in Kokori?
Finally, is it not funny and indeed preposterous that an unarmed civilian would demobilize an armed soldier by slamming him on the ground, grabbing hold of his rifle and ejecting the magazine from it? Is it not witty to the hearing that, on getting hold of the magazine according to Ibeh, the suspect decided to make a run for it before he was felled with a shot from a cleverly observing Unit Commandant within the scene?
According to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence, of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” Based on this, the guilt of the suspect needs to be interpreted by a court as against being found wanting by a ‘kolofo’ who passes judgement with his riffle.
Similarly, the fear of the army in Sapele is the beginning of wisdom, as the soldiers seems to be having a field day breaching the constitutional rights of citizens.
Late last year, I was opportune to stumble into a picture of a soldier in Sapele, who during his routine check on motorist, singled out a male passenger from the cab, got a scissors and used to wantonly cut his hair. Reason being that he had styled his hair in what is popularly referred to as ‘Galas’.
Digging deep, I also found out that, these same soldiers in Sapele, taking it upon themselves in what most persons refer to as “enthroning proper dress scenes” amongst residents of Sapele. Persons that have in one way culpable of their “enthroning proper dress scenes” includes those who seem to have embraced the tattoo rave, those who take delight in hanging their trousers mid-way down their butts popularly referred to as sagging amongst others.
Though am not a proponent of lewd dress sense, especially as reflected by the youths, my question is, in as much as we are in a democratic system of governance, since when was it enshrined in the constitution, that soldiers should be mandated to enthrone proper dress scense amongst Nigerians on whose tax funding these soldiers are being catered for? Is it not sheer over zealousness or joblessness that would make a soldier, take up the role of a barber with one hand, while holding his rifle in the other?
With series of military check points crisscrossing different parts of Delta State, especially in areas where motorcycle popularly known as Okada still operates, it is admirable to see the cleanliness of the surroundings of these check points, but what begs for attention is the oppressive modus operandi used in actualizing these cleanliness. Being opportuned to be around these check points in the early hours of the morning, it is indeed shocking to discover that, okada riders are used like slaves with brute force to sweep these surroundings. Protest by any of these okada riders in refusing to sweep, leaves him at the mercy of the soldiers.
With all these scenarios, you would agree with me that the average Nigerian soldier sees his/her self like a demigod, especially when they bark out that phrase, “You Bloody Civilian!”
Based on the above circumstances, lets imagine the countenance of the average soldier posted to the ‘crisis torn’ Kokori community in Ethiope East LGA of Delta State which has been under siege by our gun tooting brothers. If they could feel insulted and vexed in their rapport with armless “Bloody Civilians” according to them, what would be the clime, when they are being challenged?
Our military men including its women should know that, the organization they stand for was formed by its founding fathers “To win all land battles in defence of the territorial integrity of Nigeria, protect her national interests, and accomplish other tasks in aid of civil authority” anything short of this is a slave and master relationship.

Brisibe Perez is Delta State based journalist

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