The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Thursday began training of front-line troops on accountability and respect for human rights during counter-terrorism operations.
The Executive Secretary of NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, who made this known at the opening of the two-day training in Bama, said that the troops were drawn from five military bases fighting Boko Haram in Borno.
Ojukwu said that the areas covered in the training included Borno communities of Gwoza, Bama, Damasak, Mongonu, and Ngala, which are considered the epicentre of insurgency.
The NHRC chief, who was represented by the commission’s Assistant Director Public Affairs, Mrs Fatimah Mohammed, said that the training was designed to strengthen the capacity of the troops on the front line on application of basic human rights principles and norms during counter-insurgency operations to stem violations.
Ojukwu said: “The insurgents live among us and there is hardly a clearly drawn battle line between the insurgents and the civilian population.
“Therefore there is a need to prosecute insurgency operation in order to win the hearts and minds of the civilian population in Nigeria.”
He expressed dismay at the untold hardship insurgency had brought to bear on innocent civilians, saying that the training was imperative considering that most of the officers, who had encountered the insurgents were on the front line.
He noted that the experience officials of the commission had gathered from years of training troops in the Northeast had shown that officers on the front line deserved to be trained and retrained on mainstreaming human rights during operations.
According to him, this will enable them to uphold the human rights and fundamental freedom of citizens as guaranteed by the constitution.
The executive secretary added that in order to sustain the successes recorded in the fight against insurgency, the commission in collaboration with United Nations United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducted a train-the-trainer programme for key military officers in Maiduguri early in the year.
“It is expected that the training will step down to the brigades, platoons, other military formations and units in other parts of the Northeast like it is presently taking place here today,’’ he said.
In his remarks, Col. Vitus Unachukwu, the Brigade Commander of the 21 Armoured Brigade in Bama, expressed satisfaction with the training.
Unachukwu said that the trainees could not afford to fall short of their duties especially in relation to the respect for human rights.
He, therefore, advised them to make best use of the opportunity to better their performances so that they could leave a good legacy for emulation in the military.
Maj. Emmanuel Krigbode, Commander, Military Police said that the training had exposed participants to a lot of acts considered condemnable by the military.
He said even though some of the acts were contained in the rules of engagement, learning about them from another agency of government such as the commission would not only refresh their memories, but make them guard against such unacceptable acts.