UK training to reduce civilian deaths, welcomed by Nigerian church leaders
The British Army is training the Nigerian Army in restoring security, while minimising casualties among “our personnel and preventing incidental harm to civilians.” The Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Abayomi Olonisakin, said in Abuja. “The training will reduce abuse, exploitation and extrajudicial killings,” he added.
Church leaders welcomed the intervention claiming that it would save lives. “Many have died, needlessly, through reckless and deliberate military actions in Plateau and the Northeast. I believe not only Christian, even the Muslims in northeastern Nigeria will welcome the expertise of the British Army in training soldiers to differentiate between criminal insurgents and innocent civilians,” said the Rev Canon Nenman Gowon, of the Christian Association of Nigeria and special adviser to the Plateau State Government on Religious Affairs.
“The Church has suffered a lot. The military has lost a lot of credibility and is only now trying to build it up. it is a welcomed development to have the British Army assist the Nigerian Army,” Canon Gowon added.
British specialists will train soldiers in how to mitigate collateral damage and instruct on intelligence-based targeting to reduce collateral damage.
Marla Keeran, spokesperson of the British team said, “We have seen in conflicts around the world, troops using civilians as targets and what we have found in other conflicts is there are tools and policies and practices that can be put in place to help security forces better help protect civilians even in these difficult situations.”
The Nigerian Army has been widely criticised for its human rights abuses in its campaign against Boko Haram in the Northeast. Critics claimed that soldiers are polarised along the religious lines. The army has consistently denied these accusations.
Recently, soldiers in the fight against militant youths in the Niger Delta region, killed a pastor who was kidnapped claiming he was part of a militant group blowing up oil pipelines in Port Harcourt.