Mr. Mansur Dan-Ali, The Minister of Defence, on Thursday, urged productive relationship between members of the Armed Forces and the civilians aimed at enhancing the military’s performance in safeguarding Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He made the call at the opening of a two-day National Workshop organised by the Ministry of Defence in Lagos.
The theme of the workshop is “Citizens in Uniform: Implementing the Rule of Law and Human Rights in the Armed Forces ”.
According to him, the military/civilian engagement is most appropriate at the time that efforts are geared towards fighting terrorism, insurgency, militancy and banditry in the country.
“Beyond the insurgency in the North-East, security threats, previously alien to our country, such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, farmers/herders clashes and banditry have now more than ever before threatened the peaceful coexistence of our country.
“This situation calls for proactive actions and increased inter-security-agency collaboration and engagement with the civilian populace to turn the tide against criminals.
“Until crime rate and criminality is greatly reduced, the hope of creating the enabling environment required to attract foreign investors and increase national revenue generation will continue to be a mirage, ” he said.
Dan-Ali noted that security agencies should be recognised and treated as full citizens with the same rights and obligations as any other citizens.
He also assured Nigerians that the Armed Forces and other security agencies involved in various security operations across the country would continue to exhibit the highest professional standards.
At the event, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said that security agencies were bound by the rules of engagement and constitution in carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.
Ambode, represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, identified the observance of the rights of citizens and the rule of law as one of the key rules of engagement which often constituted a ground of conflict between the military and the civilians.
The governor urged the armed forces to continue to adhere to its constitutional roles and respect the dignity of human lives.
“In a democracy, there is no place for arbitrariness. In the process of enforcing the law, great care must be taken to act professionally and in accordance with the rule of law.
“Our security agents have a strong role in protecting our nascent democracy as well as projecting the positive image of the country globally, ” Ambode said.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, said that the workshop was to place in the front burner the critical issues of civil-military relations and rights of security personnel.
Olonisakin said that this initiative would enhance the understanding and application of human rights and the rule of law in administering justice to security personnel who in spite of the peculiarities of their schedules were first and foremost humans and citizens with inalienable rights.
He said the workshop would also provide intellectual impetus to boost and sustain mutual trust and understanding between security agencies and the civil populace in their collective efforts to safeguard the internal security and territorial integrity of our country,” he said.