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Nigerian Army and the right to arrest

I  T was Judy Biggert who said: “No one ever said that fighting the war against terrorism and defending our homeland would be easy. So let’s support our troops, law enforcement workers, and our mission to keep our nation and our children safe in the days and years to come.”

My attention has been drawn to an article appearing in several newspapers and online media credited to learned silk, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) with the caption: “Army Lacks Power To Declare Civilians Wanted.” I disagree with this view. The Nigerian military or army has both constitutional and statutory mandate to fight terrorism, and in the course of securing the country from terrorism, have the power to summon any person to assist them with this task. And if, in the course of questioning any person who is suspected to have links with terrorists, the army or Nigerian military, where the facts warrants, may refer the person to appropriate agencies for further investigation and prosecution.

I do not see how any person would suggest that the Nigerian army or military would allow any person they suspect may interfere with war against terrorism to go scot free simply because the person wears civilian garb or is a civilian? Certainly, public safety and national security would not encourage such. Rather than condemn the Nigerian Army for declaring certain persons wanted or summoning any person, we should commend them for their sound intelligence gathering.

On October 28, 2015 the Nigerian Army declared 100 Boko Haram terrorist suspects wanted in Borno State. There was no write up condemning this declaration, even where the photos of these persons were published. So why would declaring three persons wanted now generate controversy. The Nigerian Army has full powers under Section 217 of the Nigerian Constitution to summon or declare any person wanted in the course of defending Nigeria’s territorial space from terrorists and rebels. They do not need to wait for the Inspector General of Police (IGP) or Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) or State Security Service (SSS) to act swiftly.

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria Section 217 provides. (1) There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an army, a navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.

(2) The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of –

(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;

(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea, or air;

(c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and

(d) performance such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) is one of the several law enforcement agencies of the military empowered under Section 40 Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 to prevent acts of terrorism and investigate as well. Others include the NSCDC, NIS, NCS, NAPTIP, among others. The Nigerian Army is part of the DIA and have full powers to investigate and prevent terrorism under the TPA 2011. That was why Major General Davies was appointed as acting head of DIA before President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Saliu Usman in July this year as substantive head. According to the Armed Forces Act, the position of Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), which is the apex in the intelligence community, is rotational among the services.

The DIA was tasked with military-related intelligence outside and inside Nigeria, with its pioneer head coming from the Nigerian Army, in the person of Brigadier General A.G. Mohammed (January 1985 – August 1985).

Nigeria’s Defence Intelligence Agency was created when, in 1986, fulfilling one of the promises made in his first national address as president, General Ibrahim Babangida issued Decree Number 19, dissolving the National Security Organisation (NSO) and restructuring the country’s security services into three separate entities under the Office of the Co-ordinator of National Security. The Defence Intelligence Agency works as a secret government agent and are responsible for intelligence gathering. The DIA’s operations are more military styled, unlike the NIA. The agency may also be involved in intelligence sharing with the CIA and MI6, and most of their operations are classified and not publicly published. They operate almost like ‘ghosts’ and they are well respected.

It is submitted that the Nigerian Army has full powers to summon any person and also declare same wanted where it deems fit in pursuance of its mandate both under the Nigerian Constitution and TPA 2011. The powers of the Nigerian Army to declare civilians wanted is unshakeable, recognised by law and unwavering. Any person who thinks other wise should have a re-think and amend his or her ways to respect constituted authorities who seek information from them that will aid the fight against terrorism.

 

  • Ugochukwu, a human rights lawyer, is based in Abuja.