The Nigeria Bar Association in Borno State has accused the authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, of flagrant abuse of the Constitution of Nigeria through what they called “illegal’ imposition of curfew in a democratic dispensation.
The lawyers said soldiers have no powers in the constitution of Nigeria to impose curfews or restrict movements in a state except during state of emergency situation. They said only a democratically-elected state governor has such powers.
The NBA, led by its chairman of the Maiduguri branch, Albdulwasiu Alfa, was reacting to the recent imposition of a 24-hours curfew that later dragged to 48 hours after Boko Haram terrorists invaded Maiduguri town on Wednesday last week.
The legal practitioners said restricting movement of civilians beyond 48 hours and the later review of the curfew to 15 hours was not only in conflict with the provision of the Nigerian constitution, but had also inflicted pains and more difficulties on the poor residents.
“We have carefully gone through the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004 (as amended) and did not find the source of the power of the military to restrict movement of people within a state especially when the state is not under an emergency”, Mr. Wasiu’s statement reads.
The lawyers said only the state executive governor has such powers to declare a curfew as empowered by the constitution.
“The NBA is not aware that there are two state governors in Borno state. The law recognises only one; and he is the only one that is vested with such powers over the state. The era of military tyranny is long gone in the history of Nigeria. Today the military should either remain in the barracks or go to Sambisa Forest and fight the insurgents .
“The military has no business subjecting civil populace to military tyrannical laws such as the one at hand. The restrictions of movement by the 7 Division under whatever pretext is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.. We challenge the military to disclose to the public which law empowers them to make laws in Borno state. We are not in the state of war.
The lawyers said the Borno State government needs to assert its powers as the sole body empowered by law to protect lives and property of its citizenry.
“It is important at this stage to remind the Borno state government that security of lives and properties of the people is in its hands. Government must protect it having sworn to do so. We find the lukewarm attitude of the state government towards protecting the rights of its people from abuse”.
The officials of the NBA therefore called on “clubs, unions and associations, both professional and non professional to rise to the challenge and fight minority tyranny, illegality and indifference of the Nigeria Army in Maiduguri”.
“Curfew does more harm than good to the people. It is only good for the military who uses it as an opportunity to extort innocent civilians who could not beat the time line of the curfew”, said Mr. Alfa.
The lawyers who called on citizens of the state to continue being law abiding and said they would be dragging the military in Borno state to court should there be any further imposition of curfew directly from them.
Meanwhile, the 7 Division of the Nigeria Army, Maiduguri, has in what appears a response to the lawyers, further reviewed the 5p.m. to 6a.m. curfew back to its former regime of 7p.m. and ends at 6a.m.
Though the military has not responded to the lawyers statement, the Spokesman of the Division, Tukur Gusau, a Colonel, issued a statement notifying residents that the 15 hours curfew imposed on the town on Friday has been reviewed back to its former regime.
“The General officer Commanding 7 Division Nigerian Army Major General Lamidi Adeosun after accessing the security situation in Maiduguri and its environs authorised the suspension of the curfew enforced in Maiduguri town”, Col Gusau’s statement said.
“However, the normal curfew from 7pm to 6am is still effective. During the period only those on essential service like ambulance and fire fighting vehicles on duty would be granted passage. The GOC once again thanks the good people of Maiduguri for their understanding and cooperation towards the total eradication of insurgency in Borno”.