Nigerian Army cannot declare citizens wanted – Court rules

An Abuja Federal High Court has ruled that the Nigerian Army cannot declare citizens wanted because it lacks the power to do so.

According to the news report, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu made the ruling in the case of Issa Perry Brimah Vs the Nigerian Army.

Perry Brimah had dragged the Nigerian Army to court for declaring him wanted in January 2019.

Perry Brimah sued the Nigerian Army for defamation after the security body shared a press release on Facebook declaring Brimah wanted for reportedly raising funds for troops and vigilantes fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria’s North-East.

In her ruling, Justice Ojukwu said the Nigerian Army had no right to declare the plaintiff wanted without making a formal report to law enforcement agencies, who enforce law and order.

Justice Ojukwu said:

“The army or defendant has no vires to declare the plaintiff wanted without due process of law. However, it must be stated here without equivocation that the defendant (Nigerian Army) has no right to declare the plaintiff (Dr Perry Brimah) wanted without following the appropriate procedure.”

Justice Ojukwu added:

“The defendant (Nigerian Army) cannot arrest the plaintiff (Dr Brimah) arbitrarily without making a formal report to law enforcement agency with the mandate to enforce law and order, otherwise, it would transmute to self-help. The duty of the defendant is to make a formal report to the appropriate authority like the police and await the outcome.”

Reacting to the ruling, Perry Brimah said,

“We are a civil society and a democratic state. The Nigerian Army has no role in arresting civilians, in brutalising us at petrol stations, forcing us to lie on our backs and look at the sun. It is time we catch up with the reality of the time. We are not under the military junta authoritarian rule. Under a civilian administration, the army has no right to mount roadblocks and arrest or declare citizens wanted. This is the role of the police –– law enforcers. We all know soldiers are not trained to document arrests and layout charges in court.”

Brimah added:

“Soldiers are not equipped with handcuffs. How then can they make arrests and declare citizens wanted? That’s why they bundle us and throw us down, causing bodily harm in the process. This is why I through my able attorney, Kashopefoluwa Olawale, Balogun Esq., ensured to defeat them in court and have also proceeded to sue them for defamation and damages.”

Perry Brimah said he hopes the court judgement brings a positive change to the way Army officers interact with civilians.

“I hope this judgment will serve as a focal point to outlaw the wanton abuse of power by the Nigerian Army and help free and empower citizens across the nation from North to South who have oft been abused and terrorized by lawless legally armed men on our payroll, whose duty is to obey the law and protect and not terrorize us.”

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