The Nigerian army is yet to fulfill its promise of releasing to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the soldiers who brutalised a citizen at Mararaba, near Abuja on August 8.
The citizen, whom the army claimed was a robber, was stripped naked and brutalised in public on the busy Mararaba road 10 weeks ago.
The torture happened one day after Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, vowed to a delegation from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that there would be no violation of citizens’ rights under his watch.
The army later acknowledged the incident, promising to investigate it and bring the assaulters to justice.
Admitting the malfeasance of its men, Sani Usman, spokesman of the army, issued a statement saying: “The attention of Nigerian army has been drawn to a front page photograph of some soldiers maltreating a suspected robber at Mararaba, Nasarawa state, on the front page of today’s edition of Daily Trust newspaper.
“Sadly, it is also trending in the social media. There is no doubt the photograph has done incalculable damage to the image of the service. The act was unfortunate and at variance with military ethics and professionalism.
“The Nigeria army wishes to inform the public that the perpetrators of the offence have been identified, summoned and would face disciplinary action. We wish to assure the public that the Nigerian army would continue to protect and respect human rights and that this regrettable incidence should not be used as a yardstick to judge the entire Army.”
The army had also promised to turn in the assaulters to the NHRC.
“The Nigerian army is aware of the demand by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) requesting for the release of soldiers involved in the unfortunate incidence of ill treatment of robbery suspected as shown on the front page of today’s Daily Trust,” Usman said.
“I wish to inform the commission and the public that all those involved would be released to the NHRC after carrying out our investigation in accordance with our regulations.”
But after 12 weeks, not one of the assaulting soldiers has been handed over to the NHRC, and the matter appears to be going into a coma.
An official of the NHRC told TheCable that the commission was still investigating the case, but that the army was yet to turn in the assaulters after many weeks.
“We are still investigating the incident side alongside the army,” he said.
“They told us they had identified the perpetrators, and that they would hand them over to us when they finish investigation. But that has not happened.”
On the likely time the investigations would be completed, the official simply said: “There is no time frame. You know some investigations take time.”
Speaking with TheCable on Wednesday, Usman simply said that the soldiers who allegedly unleashed terror on the alleged robber had been punished.
”The whole issue was blown out of proportion,” he said. “Yes, the soldiers have been charged and given appropriate punishment. We should not be over-flogging an issue that has been overtaken by time and event.”
Despite its repeated pledge to respect the rights of citizens, the Nigerian army has been consistently accused of abusing citizens across the country, most especially in the northeast where the war against insurgency is raging.
Suleiman Dauda, a taxi driver who operated in the area where the civilian was tortured, had told TheCable at the time: “The soldiers just find any excuse to treat you like an animal. The sight of soldiers maltreating ordinary people has been a daily occurrence here. But we have no voice.”
Ibrahim Mohammed, a resident, said: “Soldiers are giving us a bloody hard time. They stop people at random. If you refuse to obey their humiliating command, they beat you until you collapse.”