Military and Para-military personnel in other parts of the world are doing their possible best to save the lives and properties of their host citizens. There are many instances where certain army and security officers sacrifice their lives to save civilians, especially women and children.
Some nations would cancel allies with another nation over one of its citizen that was unjustly treated, molested or killed. Military personnel would be brought to book for trampling on the rights of a civilian in other climes. However, in Nigeria many are victims of military brutality and oppression against humanity which has influenced citizens’ perception towards all officers in uniform. Little wonder, some Nigerians view soldiers as killers, Police as thieves, Customs officers as smugglers, etc. It is not entirely a misnomer for people to interpret the military with these negative thoughts because those in uniforms have created that interpretation with their actions.
The military and other government security agencies also have utmost respect for journalists around the world. Unfortunately, in Nigeria the level of the human right violation caused by the military and paramilitary is alarming. It is the norm to find Police officers harass civilians unjustly, treat journalists with scorn and disdain and this trend has equally found its way into the Nigeria Customs Service.
Recently, Mr. Yomi Olomo a journalist was almost beaten to death at the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) for inquiring into smuggling activities.
Recalling the sad experience, Mr. Yomi said, “I was pounced upon by some ferocious men led by Momoh, Shehu and Elijah who are notorious for their border activities; and I heard them say “You will die here today, so that journalists will learn to leave Seme border alone, we will kill you and nothing will happen. I was beaten to stupor and one of my eyes was almost blind with blood, I was then dumped in a pit and from the pit, I heard Ndalati telling the others that they had beaten me enough, adding that it will now serve as a warning to other journalists.”
How can officers which ought to epitomize humility and intellectual sagacity hope send a warning to newsmen by beating up a journalist? When did assault via jungle justice become an applicable method for resolving issues in the para-military?
Although the Lagos branch of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) had filed the suit on behalf of the Badagry-based journalist, seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights to life, freedom of expression and the press, how long would it take the military and para-military agencies in Nigeria to realize that harassing civilians especially journalists is a terrible practice?
This growing problem underscores the need for development of more human rights groups to transform them into truly popular institutions in the country with a measure of mass effectiveness. These groups should have a clear understanding of their political and institutional future.
However, there is also a need for vigilance on the part of the citizenry. The human and civil rights groups have a special role to play in this regard, but they face an increasingly daunting task in the face of increasing popular powerlessness against the high and mighty military. Don’t keep quiet when such oppressions arises, seek redress via human right groups and courts.