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Assault of corps member by Army lieutenant: A nation’s character laid bare in the stupefying “culture of bucolic surrender to brute force,” and uninspiring civil rights mandate-keeping

Miss Ezeiruaku, a corper, like any of these: A video is making social media showing of a female Nigerian Army officer, Lt. Chika Viola Anele, assaulting one Miss Ezeiruaku Ifeyinwa Fidelia, performing her NYSC primary assignment with the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police, NACMP.

A video is making social media showing of a female Nigerian Army officer, Lt. Chika Viola Anele, assaulting one Miss Ezeiruaku Ifeyinwa Fidelia, performing her NYSC primary assignment with the Nigerian Army Corps of Military Police, NACMP.

It was reported that Ezeiruaku got in an argument with the female lieutenant, who forced the corps member to a kneeling position, while the Army officer began to pour a whitish substance on her, hitting the NYSC member with a bowl.

The subdued corps member was seen drenched in her NYSC kits as the female Army officer continued to pour the substance on her, hitting her with the bowl intermittently.

The Army, in a statement titled: ” Officer Dehumanizing Corps Member in video highly Unprofessional and Unacceptable”, and endorsed by Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Director, Army Public Relations, read:

“The Nigerian Army (NA) has taken cognizance of a video clip currently making the rounds on the social media, where a female officer was seen dehumanizing a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Calabar, Cross River State. This act is not only condemnable, but unprofessional and against established precepts of discipline in the NA.

Miss Ezeiruaku: For the records, the ugly incident happened in 13 Brigade, Calabar. The Brigade Commander immediately instituted an investigation and the officer involved has been identified and sanctioned on the interim

“For the records, the ugly incident happened in 13 Brigade, Calabar. The Brigade Commander immediately instituted an investigation and the officer involved has been identified and sanctioned in the interim and would be made to undergo regimental orders (trial) in line with the extant provisions of the Armed Forces Act. The submission that the Brigade attempted covering up was therefore misleading, as the NA remains a professional force that has zero-tolerance for indiscipline amongst its personnel.

“The NA further wishes to tender an unreserved apology to the victim, her family members, friends, National Youth Service Corps and to Nigerians in general for the unwholesome treatment meted out to the Corps member.”

“Nice words by the Military, one would dare say, but this is not nearly enough and this incident is reported to have occurred about two years ago, but there was no real punishment meted to the abuser,” says Dr. Graham Hart, a public affairs commentator.

The kowtowing of Miss Ezeiruaku before Lt. Anele speaks to the deeper issues of Nigeria’s renascent democracy, and to the core deliverables of education in Nigeria.

A lieutenant is the lowest rank in the league of commissioned officers in the Army. At best, an army lieutenant shares equivalence with a first-degree holder; (s)he is not superior in public service ranking to the university graduate. But in this video, Miss Ezeiruaku is seen taking “bull” from Lt. Anele, an equivalent, without offering any resistance. She crawled like an inferior, which she is not.

The NA further wishes to tender an unreserved apology to the victim, her family members, friends, National Youth Service Corps

One is reminded that owing to decades of military regimes, Nigerians had come to accept bucolic surrender to the brute force, as a way of survival.  

Even with the enthronement of democratic governance, Nigerians are yet to assume the boldness of spirit to protect their human rights and resist oppression. This was simply what Miss Ezeiruaku displayed, to the joy and satisfaction of Lt. Anele.

The question is why?

First, democracy was meant to brush the culture of timidity and fear away from Nigerians, and replace that with bold spirits of courage, freedom, and resistance to injustice. But, after 21 years, it has failed to do just that Nigerians are denied such basic rights, as the right to earn a living. Today, Nigerians can hardly access beneficial economic markets – whether in their farms or through free and unencumbered movement.

Democratic capitalism requires that people trust in the integrity of public and private institutions. This is lacking in Nigeria.

The purpose of democracy is to build a civil society. This civil society cannot happen with a multitude of citizens who do not understand their fundamental rights and who cannot summon the spirits of boldness to defend and protect them.

Headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission, Abuja Nigeria

Democracy assumes that a majority of the citizenry is aroused of some presence of intellectual curiosity, some level of emotional resistance. Beat up a toddler, and you could see him or her jump at you, in self-defense. That is the God-given nature of the human being. A lack of such instinctive response is suggestive of denatured humanity.

That a university graduate still lives in the shadow of timidity should challenge the leadership of Nigeria’s university system, as to the true purpose of university education. The late sage, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe lent to the University of Nigeria, which he founded, the motto: “to restore the dignity of man.” Zik was conscious of the imperative to seek to restore the dignity of African humanity after 100 years of colonial rule and oppression.

Are Nigeria’s university administrators mindful of a related duty to Nigeria’s democracy, after decades of military dictatorship?

Second, is the responsiveness of institutional mandate keepers, bordering on human rights and justice.

One would have expected that after the EndSARS riots- a metaphor for resistance against police and military brutality – Nigeria’s human rights enforcers would have cleaned up their acts.

It is worrisome that this ugly episode happened about two years ago, and no consequential action was taken by either Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission or Public Complaints Commission, besides the Military.

Headquarters of the Public Complaints Commission, Abuja Nigeria; courtesy, Premium Times

Nigeria’s ombudsman, the Public Complaints Commission, is charged with the mandate to investigate the actions of public authorities, including governments and the Military.

The Human Rights Commission provides an extra-judicial mechanism for the respect and enjoyment of human rights in Nigeria.

Institutional mandate keepers, especially in the corridors of human rights, must begin to overhaul their systems and act rightly. The days of waiting to receive written petitions before taking action are gone for good. These institutions maintain presences on the social media networks and should begin to respond in digital timing. And, in the instant case, collaboration or synergy with Nigeria Army’s Department of Military Civil Affairs, is necessary.

Enforcement of human rights is a critical barometer for measuring the quality of a democracy. For this reason, Nigeria needs, in the corridors of her human rights, institutional champions, who do things rightly, which honestly and justly – with eyes open and with bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never know that we truly do.

Nigeria’s halls of human rights and justice do not need regular people looking to hog the limelight. Human rights protection demands leaders who can “speak truth to power, not to NTA.”

Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission is called to rise to this occasion in line with the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jnr, when he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Let justice be given to Ezeiruaku; let strong sanctions be meted against Lt. Anele. And, let Nigeria’s academic institutions stop breeding more of the likes of Ezeiruaku, who would accept “rubbish without resistance.”

Making Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State enforceable…

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