Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Military Brutality

NIGERIANS are used to rankless soldiers descending on civilians over the least disagreement. These sometimes billow into bigger disputes that require the intervention of higher authorities. In the past few weeks, the military brutalised civilians and their victims in both cases were women whose only offence seemed to be that they crossed the path of the military.

The first incident was in Bauchi where an army captain ordered his men to brutalise a woman who was carrying out her official duties. The woman, an inspector with the National Youth Service Corps, queried two female NYSC members who were not at their duty posts when she visited. Her report led to extension of the service for the duo by three months. It was reversed when they appealed.

Investigations showed the two ladies had been on a trip with the captain. Weeks after, the captain ran into the woman at a bank and ordered his men to beat her thoroughly. They beat her and tore her cloths. The intervention of bank officials appeased the military officer.

Only last week, naval ratings descended on another woman in Lagos. Her offence, apparently, was that she did not make way quickly enough for their boss, a rear admiral, whose official car blared its siren in the traffic jam.

In a typical Lagos traffic jam, nobody moves fast enough. The ratings horsewhipped the woman, beat her more with the butts of their guns and shredded her clothes before dragging her into the residence of their boss.

Many witnessed the incident. Those who tried to intervene were also beaten. The ratings symbolically spared two pregnant women who were in her car.

According to accounts, the rear admiral sat in his car as his boys set to work. He did not stop them, and it turned out he knew the lady, whose father is a retired colonel. His only admission of the incident was offering the lady a shirt she wore to the hospital where she tended her eye and head injuries.

Official position of the Nigerian Navy is that the bashed lady infuriated the ratings when she seized their horsewhip. The Navy expected no protest, in any form, from a hapless woman who was undergoing torture. Did she hold the whip before the beating started? Was tearing her dress a measure to retrieve the horsewhip?

These incidents illustrate the mindless brutality the military unleash on people, not minding that women were involved. What worsens the whole thing is the feeble defence the Navy gave in its account of the incident. It is not as if any explanation would have justified brutalising the woman.

An important part of the discipline of the military should include relations with civilians. The easy resort to brute force in resolving matters with civilians creates pictures of a military that lacks discipline.

Might is no right to beat up defenceless civilians, and in these cases women.The military officers involved should apologise to their victims, pay their medical expenses and some compensation.