The Nigerian Armed Forces have been deployed in internal security operations in 32 out of the 36 states of the federation, National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) said yesterday.
He also said efforts are being redoubled to tackle the menace of Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.
He, however, assured that the Federal Government will encourage troops to observe human rights, and international humanitarian law norms in their fight against insurgents.
Dasuki made this known at an international seminar on the Imperatives of the Observance of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Norms in Internal Security Operations, jointly organised by his office and that of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The seminar, holding at the National Defence College in Abuja, is being attended by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Fatou Bensouda.
He said: “As you are well aware, our great country has been grappling with a plethora of security challenges occasioning loss of lives and property.
“These civil disturbances, ethnic tensions and recently, terrorism and insurgency in the North East geopolitical zone have engaged the attention of the government and security agencies as concerted efforts are being made to contain the situation and restore normalcy in the affected parts of the country.
“The declaration of a State of Emergency by Mr. President with the support and approval of the National Assembly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States is one of the several initiatives implemented to address these security challenges.
“While these efforts are ongoing, experience has shown from a post-mortem of the crises situations and robust interaction with the affected communities that although, civil authorities often employ their best endeavours in tackling these crises, they are sometimes overwhelmed by the degree of sophistication both in terms of operational modality and weaponry used by the perpetrators of these crises.
“In the circumstances, it has become imperative to deploy the armed forces in aid of civil authority. It is significant to note that our armed forces are presently involved in internal security operations in about 32 states of the federation.
“I have no doubt that our participation in this seminar is a demonstration of our collective will and commitment to put an end to the spate of mindless killings taking place across the country and to build a progressive and stable society, where we can all sleep under the cover of peace and security. It is our fervent hope that we will realise this objective”.
On the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law norms by troops in their engagement, the NSA added: “The frequent interaction between the armed forces and the civilian population has also come at a cost in terms of human lives and material resources. Allegations of human rights abuses and proportionality of military response to crises situations are issues that have been thrown up within the country, as well as, the international community.
“While the observance of appropriate rules of engagement has been institutionalised in the training of members of the armed forces, it is our conviction, particularly, while organising this seminar, that frequent sensitisation will go a long way to encourage the armed forces to imbibe these norms and promote voluntary compliance”.
Dasuki said the seminar became imperative to guide commanders and troops on their responsibilities; treatment of victims and other vulnerable groups during conflict situations.
He said: “The seminar is therefore designed to sensitise the armed forces and other security agencies on the imperatives of observing human rights, international humanitarian law norms and interrogate issues with the potential of reducing the risk of exposure to prosecution or other unpleasant consequences that could flow from the disregard of these norms.
“This is consistent with our national laws and the obligations imposed by various international legal instruments, including but not limited to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which Nigeria is a State Party.
“As a State Party to these instruments, Nigeria has the obligation to teach its rules and norms to her armed forces and the general public.
“We are duty bound not only to prevent violations, but also, punish the perpetrators when they occur”.