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

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu made the ruling in the case of Issa Perry Brimah Vs the Nigerian Army.

In January 2019, the Nigerian Army sent out a press release on Facebook declaring Brimah wanted for reportedly raising funds for troops and vigilantes fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria’s North-East.

Following the declaration, Brimah dragged the Nigerian Army to the Federal High Court in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/267/2019 for defamation. 

“On behalf of millions of disenfranchised citizens of the state who have often been intimidated and terrorized by the Nigerian army in flaunting of the constitution by act of wilfully declaring citizens wanted and making arrests within the democratic space in the stead of the police, the formal law enforcers,” the suit stated.

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.

“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. 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,” she said.

Reacting to the ruling, 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 road blocks 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 lay out charges in court. 

“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.

“Where the army results to “self-help” as the Honorable Justice Ojukwu declared and thuggery, it is our civic duty to tame them and bring them to order and account with the aid of the legal system and constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria.

“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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