- Soldiers that threatened to rape Warri women must promptly face the law
It is gratifying that the Nigerian Army has arrested two soldiers, captured on a video gone viral, threatening to rape women in Warri, the Delta State capital, following the alleged killing of one of the soldiers, drafted to enforce the state government’s lockdown over coronavirus.
The soldier was allegedly killed by angry youths in protest against the killing of one local, identified by the police as 28-year-old Joseph Pessu, on April 2. But in a Twitter post, the Nigerian Army said the soldiers in the video had been arrested at the 9 Brigade, Ikeja Military Cantonment, Lagos.
The 26-second video presented a picture of some ragtag soldiers. In fact, to think that these were soldiers of the Nigerian Army leaves a sour taste in the mouth. “Warri people, una don buy job! Una kill soldier baa?”’ one of the soldiers, in military camouflage in the video, bragged in Pidgin English. “Your mother… I’ll make sure she carry HIV! Your daughters will carry HIV, your wives will carry HIV!”
The video was detestable. Even the terrorist group, Boko Haram, could not have been more uncouth. Such obscene comment, coming from uniformed men paid from the public purse, is disgraceful.
We condemn this attitude of the soldiers involved. Even at the war front, soldiers have rules of engagement that define the circumstances under which they can apply force, and its degree and manner.
Certainly, threatening to rape women is out of it, no matter the degree of provocation. As a matter of fact, women and children are seen as vulnerable groups that should not be harmed except when they become threats; and soldiers have to act in self defence.
The country is not at war. Soldiers were only requested to help enforce the sit-at-home order directed by the state government, to check the spread of COVID-19. That someone was killed by soldiers in the course of enforcing the lockdown was bad enough.
This certainly would have been averted if the soldiers were more tactful in handling the situation. As a matter of fact, soldiers have a duty to minimise risks to civilians (and not to endanger their lives) on any mission they are engaged in, unless their lives are at risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global issue, with various countries adopting measures to check its spread. Nigeria also devised measures to tame the pandemic, with some state governments imposing lockdown as part of their response to it. The whole idea is to keep people safe. That someone was killed by soldiers enforcing the lockdown is, therefore, regrettable.
The matter has even been compounded by the state police command’s claim that no soldier was killed, contrary to reports. This claim has to be investigated.
But what is confirmed so far is that one Pessu was killed by the soldiers and that some soldiers of the Nigerian Army, by their utterances and conduct, presented the institution in bad light and must therefore be punished to serve as deterrence to others.
It is certainly foolish and rash for the locals to kill a soldier, in retaliation for soldiers killing a local. They ought to know that was excellent recipe for catastrophe.
So, both sides should have exercised restraint. The rule of law is far better than extra-judicial killing, mob action and allied disorder.