The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, says the army has commenced investigations into the alleged extrajudicial killings of unarmed pro-Biafran protesters in Aba, Abia State.
Buratai said this on Thursday in Enugu.
About 10 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra were reportedly killed when troops opened fire on them during the agitation for the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in February.
There were also reports that about 30 other members of the group sustained serious injuries during the incident.
The Amnesty International had condemned the development, accusing the army of ‘excessive use of force’ against the pro-Biafran activists.
Fielding questions from journalists on Thursday after addressing officers and men of the 82 Division, in Enugu, Buratai said the army was investigating the alleged extrajudicial killings.
“We are already investigating it. When such incidents involve the loss of lives, we usually conduct an investigation – that is our procedure,” the army chief said.
Buratai, however, said he believed soldiers could not have opened fire on the activists without provocation.
He said, “We have our rules of engagement, the troops cannot just open fire.”
Earlier, while addressing officers and men of the military formation, Buratai said the army’s rules of engagement permitted the use of force, where other measures failed to address a security challenge.
Instructing soldiers on the need to be professional in the discharge of their duties, Buratai said, “We have to ensure that we work within the framework of our rules of engagement.
“You know that the rules of engagement provide for the protection of human rights, especially the protection of innocent citizens.
“But in situations that entail the use of fire, the protection of human rights does not apply.
“So, when you apply the rules of engagement and it is necessary to open fire, human rights will not apply.”
The COAS stressed that both the 1999 Constitution and the Armed Forces Act provided for the use of force when necessary.
Buratai also told the soldiers to be ‘decisive’, in order to prevent the breakdown of law and order.
“You must apply the rules of engagement and also be decisive – you have to be professional in the discharge of your responsibilities,” he said.
The army chief stressed the need for loyalty and patriotism among soldiers.
“You must make the President proud because he is behind us,” he added.
In the same vein, he urged the soldiers to protect and assist the families of their colleagues who were on military campaigns.