Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The military ban on sirens, horsewhips

The recent report that the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, has banned military personnel from using sirens and horsewhips anywhere in the country is cheering and welcome.

The CDS, who briefed the press on the issue through the Director of Defence Information, Col. Chris Jemitola, has observed that the persistent use of sirens and horsewhips by military personnel to terrorize civilians is unacceptable in the new dispensation. The ban becomes imperative considering the fact that the unwarranted assaults on civilians do not portray the military as a noble and respectable profession.

Rather than depict the military in good light, the attacks create negative publicity before the public that the military is supposed to serve. The CDS also emphasized that the horsewhip is not a part of military uniform and should not be seen with any military personnel.

However, some military officers were excluded from the ban on the use of sirens. Those excluded include all the Service Chiefs– the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff. The exclusion has a caveat as these officers were also directed to use sirens only when it is absolutely necessary.

This move by the military authorities to check some unacceptable and unbecoming conduct of some of its officers and men is highly commendable. We believe that the ban, which came on the heels of the recent assault on one Miss Uzoma Okere by some naval ratings attached to the convoy of Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade of the Nigerian Navy, is apt and timely.

It demonstrates that the military is aware of the unbecoming attitude of some of its men and would readily do something that would portray the military as a disciplined Force whose existence, in the first place, is to protect the public against any harm as well as protect the territorial integrity of the country.

While the public is still awaiting the outcome of the various probes instituted to unravel the circumstances surrounding the attack on Okere by some naval ratings, we commend the CDS for coming up with these far-reaching measures that would ensure cordial relationship between the military and members of the public.

We also urge the military authorities to ensure that this ban is faithfully enforced throughout the country. There is also the need to ensure that those who flout this regulation are dealt with accordingly. Military men should not treat civilians like animals. Such use of brutal force on fellow citizens for no just cause is inhuman and barbaric.

We also call on the police to borrow a leaf from the military authorities by banning its men, especially those driving bullion vans, from brutalizing road users. Apart from the police, all persons in whatever uniforms, too many in Nigeria, should henceforth desist from using horsewhips or any other dangerous weapon at their disposal, on defenceless civilians.

We enjoin those thus treated to seek for legal redress and compensation from the law courts. The way to prevent a recurrence of the Okere saga is to adequately punish all those behind the dastardly act. Anything short of this would embolden others in uniform to do more.

Military authorities in Nigeria should include in their curricula, aspects of human relations, especially how to relate with the civilian population in a democratic dispensation, if they have not already done so. This, we hope will inculcate in them the needed respect for human dignity and values of members of the public.

Like we said in an earlier editorial on this, let those who indulge in this inimical and anti-social behaviour understand that this naked show of power and dehumanization of fellow human beings is no longer acceptable in a civilized world where the human rights of every individual is accorded due respect. Nigerian roads belong to all of us– military and civilians. As we use them, let all abide by existing traffic rules.