Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, has faulted the decision by the Nigerian Army to declare three persons ‘wanted’ in connection with the war against Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.
The Army had over two weeks ago declared a citizen journalist, Ahmad Salkida; lawyer with the National Human Rights Commission, Aisha Wakil and social worker, Ahmed Bolori, wanted following the release of a video showing some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram.
Mr. Salkida, who is known to have rare access to the leadership of Boko Haram, released the video on August 14, 2016 after it was exclusively sent to him by the terrorists.
Subsequently, the Army declared him and the two others wanted, over suspicions that they have links with Boko Haram as well as the abducted girls.
While Bolori and Wakil turned themselves in to the nearest military formation in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and Abuja respectively, Salkida, who resides in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, promised to turn himself in to the authorities as soon as he is able to pay for his flight to Nigeria; a trip he is yet to make as at the time of publishing this report.
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Reacting to the declaration of the trio wanted, Mr. Falana, in a statement issued Monday, accused the Army of usurping the statutory powers of 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”, the senior lawyer said.
“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”.
The Army, in declaring the civilians wanted, said it acted on the Terrorism Prevention Act (as amended), which prescribes punishment for Nigerians that hoard information about terrorists or their 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”.