Nigerian Army lacks power to declare civilians ‘wanted’ – Femi Falana

Femi Falana
Photo credits: Newsbreakers
Femi Falana Photo credits: Newsbreakers

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.”

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  • Abdullah Musa

    Oh sure!
    They should go to Court, where a perpetual injunction will be given against them, case dies unnaturally.

  • Patrick

    I am fully for enforcement of human rights.My worry is the cacophony of reactions by our experts could make any Government ineffective during it tenure. Government must draw a line and move quickly to implement it’s development programme and services before vested interest create a needless distraction.

  • Izedomi Ohirein

    The report baffled me when I first read about it. Nigerian military are illiterate of the limit of their powers. They make public statements meant to be made by the defence minister as if their are part of the executive.
    They should be reminded that they are public servants. Only the Police have power of arrest. The military is not part of the executive. We have defence minister to speak on defence matters for the government.

    • share Idea

      Is it today that Nigerian agencies have been behaving as if they are above the law. Under this administration, the army have been granting BH members amnesty when the president have not officially declared such. Nigeria we hail thee

      • Izedomi Ohirein

        Democracy is work in progress. Nigerian military must be told their place in a democratic set up.
        They lack discipline & corrupt.

    • Nigeria4u

      Defense minister is clueless and mute, he is as good as dead.

      • Izedomi Ohirein

        Defence Minister is a member of Buhari’s government. The military chiefs are not.

  • Devils Pen

    This man dey goof at times and gullible Nigerians will be carried away with his opinions on some issues. Let him tell us under which section of the CFRN, Police Act or National Security Agencies which provides that it is only the police or DSS that can declare somebody wanted or which excludes the army or any other from declaring a person wanted. Am not surprised even with our bukuru ppl are hailing an opinion that is unfounded in law….

    • John A

      You should be ashamed of yourself for making such comment, the army in a civilized country works under the police supervision in terms of internal security. The sole role of the army is to protect the country from outside invasion.
      Our army has lost their glory.

      • Nigeria4u

        Do not mind that brain dead guy, he is a devil created by clueless Buhari.

    • Otile

      You must be a semi-dullard from Daura, Core North.

  • favourtalk

    What is falana doing now, he is confused most time

  • Stanley

    It takes only people like Falana who read the laws to remember what duties army does or shouldn’t do. They are deployed daily to do the job internal. They are on the road blocks, they escort goods, they pursue thieves, they settle civil disobedience, even the civil society prefer to seek their services to draw debts. The army is actually been abused by the government and the people. We need to use this awareness from our SAN to correct this abuse immediately, not telling them that they cannot declare people wanted, which practically has become their job, especially with regard to boko haram.

    • Marcus Ijele

      Well, bros,I agree with you that it takes courage to confront this type of excesses from the Army,however, Falan should have imputed the relevant sections of the Law that confines the Army’s duty to what and where it should be.In Law,facts are necessary. I do not say that Army has not been usurping powers since the enthronement of their Ex–Service man,they have indeed become so reckless,flogging girls for using phone and wearing miniskirt—bad as such wears could be,but they are constitutional offense. They have no right doing that but because when the wicked is in rule, the people groan. Who can you cry to against the Army? Non. Then, Falana spoke like a charge and bail Lawyer in that some of his comments suggest that declaring somebody wanted is an infraction on the person’s right He further said that it denies the person right to fair hearing,Haba, Falana missed it here. How can declaring some body wanted mean that his right for hearing is infringed? He further stated that their dignity was tempered with, No sir. Liberty affected, Yes, because if they are in error, they will begin to hide or go out of circulation. But fair hearing when they had not responded to the call casts a doubt on the freshness and up to date of Falana’s legal documentation. I do believe that Falana will be consistent, because he a man of inconsistent character especially when situations from the Government do not favor him. I stop here hoping that the central culprit–the Army should curtail their misdemeanors. Face their constitutional duties and stop interloping.