The armed forces have zero tolerance for violence against civilians- Commander

Representative sample of workshop participants on Protecting Civilians in a Challenging Environment

By Philomina Attah

The Commandant of the National Defense College, Rear Admiral Murtala Bashir, said the Nigerian Armed Forces have zero tolerance for violence against civilians.

He said this during a workshop on the protection of civilians in a difficult environment on Tuesday in Abuja.

The workshop was organized by the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) in partnership with the National Defense College Alumni Association (AANDEC).

While admitting that there could be unintended harm to civilians in conflict situations, the commander said every effort must be made to protect civilians at all times.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria operate under certain established rules and the rules of engagement emphasize the need to protect civilians.

“The armed forces of Nigeria do not tolerate any form of irresponsible act.

“Just this week there was news of justice commissioners going on in the North East.

“Some soldiers were recommended for dismissal and others for multiple sentences like demotion,” he said.

While congratulating the organizers of the workshop, Bashir, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said continuous training and retraining of security personnel, especially on the protection of civilians, was paramount.

One of the solutions is this kind of training workshop, where we sensitize the middle officers who are those on the ground with the civilians.

“Although they know their responsibilities, this type of workshop reminds them how to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner.

“This type of training should not be limited to Abuja. We can sensitize commanders on the ground to their primary responsibility to protect civilians.

Regarding the fight against asymmetric conflicts, the commander said that the training curriculum of military institutions is increasingly focusing on the trends of asymmetric warfare.

Bashir, noting that asymmetric warfare was a global challenge, stressed that training and retraining would help commanders in the field learn how to protect civilians.

Dr. Benson Olugbuo, national director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, said the workshop had become necessary following repeated reports of alleged violence against civilians.

He said the aim of the workshop was to build the capacity of security forces in Nigeria to mitigate civilian harm and repair accidental cases.

Olugbuo added that the workshop was organized to expose participants to the concept of civilian damage monitoring as a tool for understanding conflict-related damage.

“The objectives of the workshop include enlightening participants on the principles of protection of civilians in accordance with international best practices and applicable national laws.

“It is also to expose participants to the Technology Enhanced E-Learning Application (TEELA), designed to enable security personnel to appreciate the dilemma faced by civilians during security operations. “, did he declare.

Olugbuo said CIVIC pays particular attention to parties to armed conflict, ensuring the prevention of civilian harm.

He assured that CIVIC will strive to hold more workshops across the country, especially in conflict-prone areas.

This, he said, will help remind security guards to abide by the rules of engagement, especially with regard to preventing human rights abuses.

Retired Brigadier General John Temlong, pioneer commander of the multinational joint fiscal force, said the troops’ first duty was to protect civilians.

He said it was important to give meaning to the sections of the defense policy and the Constitution that emphasize the protection of lives and property.

Temlong said the constant interaction and capacity building would enable security personnel to perform their duties effectively.

“If we fail to protect civilians, we have failed in our duty because if there are no civilians, there will be no need for military operations.

“We should extend this type of training to other trainings outside of Abuja as those facing the crisis are in the states.

“So we need to organize this type of workshop all over the country,” he said.

On the security situation in Nigeria, Temlong said asymmetric warfare was difficult to fight.

According to him, it is difficult because terrorists can blend into society to cause harm to unsuspecting citizens.

He commended the military and other security agencies for their efforts to fight insecurity despite limited resources.

He further commended the Army Chief of Staff for recalling some retired officers and soldiers to join forces with the troops in the field to find a lasting solution to the problem.

The former commander also hailed the deployment of technology in countering terrorism and other security issues.

He called on all Nigerians to play their part in winning the war, especially by providing information to the relevant authorities. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Benson Iziama/Isaac Aregbesola