Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, has urged officers to ignore the move by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe Nigerian military operations.
On Friday, Fatou Bensouda, ICC prosecutor, called for a formal inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Nigerian military fighting Boko Haram in the north-east.
She said although “the vast majority of criminality within the situation is attributable to non-state actors”, preliminary findings showed “reasonable basis to believe that members of the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF)” had committed crimes.
But in a statement on Saturday, Buratai described the probe as a “wicked and unnecessary distraction” which he said the army must ignore and “fight on to secure our country and people.”
“There is no doubt such statement and instigation can distract the Nigerian Army troops with its demoralising effects. It will have negative consequences on troops morale, interest in military service by Nigerians and severe setback to all our internal security operations in the country,” the statement reads.
“However, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General TY Buratai, enjoins Nigerian Army troops to ignore the distractions and call on the gallant troops never to be worried or demoralised by these moves.
“He further enjoined troops to ignore the wicked, unnecessary distractions and directs troops to fully concentrate on the final defeat of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists group which is in sight.”
Long before the ICC’s findings, the Nigerian army has severally been accused of various forms of human rights violations by international actors such as Amnesty International.
Amnesty International had accused soldiers of raping female internally displaced persons (IDPs) in exchange for food and killing hundreds in detention.
However, the army has denied the allegations, often insisting that its decade-long fight against Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east follows international best practices.