Defence Ministry Review The Armed Forces Act A20
In response to the yearnings of the people, coupled with the determination to bequeath a responsive modern 21st Century Nigerian Armed Forces with laws that are in tandem with human rights and international best practice, the Honourable Minister of Defence has inaugurated a committee for the review of the Armed Forces of Nigeria Act, Cap20, LFN 2004.
Addressing the members of the committee, the Hon. Minister stated that the organic feature of law and the dynamics of human existence demands that law should respond to the changes in the society in order to expand the frontiers of development in an organized manner and curb or minimize the vagaries of deviants or the mischief in the society. He further said, for a compact and efficient army feared by its enemies and respected by the citizenry, the time honoured tradition of discipline and respect of constituted authority is a sine qua non for efficient service delivery
Historically, Dan-Ali posited that this Act which is the subject of review and amendment was enacted to repeal the Armed Forces Decree of 1993 promulgated by the military regime for the command, maintenance and the administration of the Armed Forces of the Federation. It was also enacted to harmonize the administration of the Military Justice System and correct certain lapses observed in the operation of the laws of the services.
In his words, Amb. Sheni said “It is worthy of note that the provisions of the Armed Forces Act were copied from the United Kingdom, who had since amended her own military justice code in conformity with the Human Rights Acts of the United Kingdom and to adapt to the best international practices, human right protocols and conventions”. For instance the rules and regulation of 1972 applicable in Nigerian Military Court Martial were copied from the United Kingdom.
Continuing, the Minister said that the amendment will no doubt erase the perception by the members of the public and even the judiciary, that the structure of the Nigerian military justice system for the time being in force has resulted or has the tendencies to result in several complaints of unlawful command influence on the court martial due to the enormous power vested in the convening officer of the court martial to decide the types of court to try an accused officer, to frame charges and more importantly to appoint the president and other members, palpably skewed the scale of justice against an accused officer.
Further to this, he said that there have been several calls from notable well-meaning Nigerian NGOs and international organisations for the review of the Armed Forces Act based on noticeable or perceived lapses and violation of human right laws.
Congratulating the members of the committee, the following terms of references were given to them:
i. to critically examine the Armed Forces Act LFN 2004 and collate views from relevant stakeholders on areas of suggested amendments;
ii. to undertake comparative study/analysis of the AFN with that of other advanced democracies i.e. South Africa, Egypt, USA and UK and harmonize same;
iii. to suggest amendments to the Armed Forces Act in order to bring it into conformity with the human rights and international best practices;
iv. to produce a clean copy of the proposed amendments for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council; and
v. and any other matter incidental to the actualization of this project.
In her acceptance speech on behalf of other Committee members, the Director Legal who is also the Chairman of the Committee thank the Hon. Minister for given them the opportunity to serve the nation, and gave her commitment to take this assignment very serious, emphasizing on the importance and the confidence to come up with worthy contributions to improve on the Armed Forces Act and the administration of our military justice system.
By Patience Ituke