Nigerian Army Lacks Power To Declare Civilians ‘Wanted’ – Femi Falana

Nigeria's military this December killed over 1000 minority Muslims in a similar but unarmed civilian situation

By Ben Ezeamalu, PremiumTimes

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has criticised the decision by the Nigerian military to declare three persons ‘wanted’ in connection with the war against Boko Haram insurgency.

In a statement on Monday, Mr. Falana said the power to declare civilians ‘wanted’ rests with the Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service.

“Thus, by declaring the three persons wanted without any legal authority the army has usurped the statutory powers of both the Police and the SSS,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

“In the process it has breached the fundamental rights of the ‘suspects’ to personal liberty, dignity of the person and fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Shortly after the Boko Haram sect released a video on August 14 showing the abducted Chibok girls, the army declared Ahmad Salkida, a journalist; Aisha Wakil, a lawyer; and Ahmed Bolori, a social worker, wanted.

According to the army, the three persons have links with the sect as well as the abducted girls.

“There is no doubt that these individuals have links with Boko Haram terrorists and have contacts with them,” Sani Usman, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, said in the statement declaring the three people wanted.

“They must therefore come forward and tell us where the group is keeping the Chibok Girls and other abducted persons to enable us rescue them.”

Mr. Usman, a colonel, added that the army relied “on the relevant laws of the land and in particular the Terrorism Prevention Act (as amended) where Nigerians could be punished for failure to disclose information about terrorists or terrorist activities.”

But Mr. Falana said the army declaring the ‘suspects’ wanted “is ultra vires, illegal and unconstitutional in every material particular.”

“Realizing that we are under a constitutional democracy which requires that the infringement of the rights of any citizen be justified in law, the army has relied on the provisions of the country’s anti terrorism legislation.

“Since the wanted persons are not serving military personnel who are subject to service law they cannot be investigated or tried under the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 LFN, 2004,” he said.

“Furthermore, under the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as amended the army has not been authorized to perform any duty whatsoever.”