Nigerian army not a court, can't close down Banex Plaza

Thu, May 23, 2024
By editor
6 MIN READ

Defence

…or it will soon blockade Presidential Villa – HURIWA

THE Human Rights Association of Nigeria,  HURIWA, has said there is no provision(s) of the constitution which created the Armed Forces of Nigeria that permits the armed forces to act in place of a competent court of law by blockading, cordoning off or shutting down a business premises like the Army have done since four days running. 

HURIWA said the shutting down of the Banex plaza over a fight some three soldiers had with some persons inside the Banex plaza is not the justification for the Army to resort to self help thereby spreading poverty because legitimate traders are being deprived of their means of livelihood. 

“Will the chief of Army Staff provide food reliefs and palliative for the families of the traders who are now being deprived of their means of livelihood? This egregious breach of the law by the Army should be rejected and absolutely deprecated as unlawful, unconstitutional and reprehensible. Why didn’t the police be allowed to fish out the culprits whilst other innocent traders are not deprived of their legitimate entitlement to conduct their lawful businesses?”

HURIWA has cautioned politicians in the National Assembly and the President to wake up and smell the coffee and not let lawlessness overwhelm the operations of the Army or else if the Army argues that they have the power to arbitrarily close down a legitimate trading and business premises without a binding order of the Court of competent jurisdiction and then the Army gets away with the impunity, then the Army can as well wake up one morning and cordon off the presidential Palace or AsoRock Presidential villa if some army operatives fight with some persons working inside the office of the President. 

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should chase after a black goat now that it is still daytime because it is better to act cautiously and compel the military to be subjected to civil rule and constitutionalism,  than become laid back, lackadaisical, over-indulgent and let the Army continues to illegally do whatsoever pleases their whims and caprices. 

The Army just did some unthinkable abominable acts of alleged extra legal killings in Okuama community in Delta state after some brutes illegally killed some military officers in Okuoma and the National Assembly is not in any way investigating these alleged unlawful killings of civilians by soldiers and here again, soldiers have stopped over 5,000 legitimate traders in Banex plaza from going about their businesses only because three of their operatives were beating up by hoodlums. This is unacceptable. 

HURIWA said it is not true that an attack on a uniformed military man is an attack on the state because constitutionally, all citizens enjoy equality of rights and so no citizens should be treated as first class citizen because he wears a military uniform that taxpayers bought for them and then we equate a fight between a uniform wearing soldier and some hoodlums as an attack against the state: nothing can be more farther from the truth. If we treat the uniform wearing citizens as first class then we are breaching section 42(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which absolutely prohibits discrimination. 

In a media statement, the Rights group through its National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko,  faulted the Nigerian Army, which on Tuesday, broke silence on a recent unrest involving soldiers and some civilians at Banex Plaza in the Wuse of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja by claiming that the Army has the power to shut down business premises.

HURIWA recalled that Army spokesman, Major General Onyema Nwachukwu, said the plaza was shut after the incident on Saturday, May 18, 2024 to probe the “cruel treatment” meted out to “unarmed soldiers” by some persons at the trade plaza.

He said the attack on the soldiers was “entirely unwarranted and unjustifiable”.

The Army said a “meeting was convened with the management of Banex Plaza to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of the heinous act by temporarily shutting down activities in the plaza to ensure that the hoodlums who have been using the Banex neighborhood as a sanctuary to pose a security threat to the Federal Capital Territory were apprehended”.

“This, is in furtherance of the need for extensive investigation to be conducted at the scene to determine both the immediate and underlying causes of this mayhem.

“This investigation ultimately aims at ensuring the security of the Federal Capital Territory and to prevent such unwarranted attacks on own personnel and other security operatives, as has been observed in other areas, such as the unfortunate attack in Okuama,” the statement added.

The Army condemned attack on its personnel and enjoined members of the public to exercise caution and restraint in dealing with military personnel and other security operatives, urging Nigerians to explore official channels to report grievances or misconduct by its personnel.

Soldiers and policemen had over the weekend taken over the popular plaza after a scuffle involving traders and soldiers.

A sourced explained that the fight ensued at the area after three soldiers met a trader over a phone issue.

The involved parties appeared to have disagreed over the phone matter, further escalating the situation.

The trader, whose shop was located at the complex, alleged that the phone dealers ganged up and overpowered the unidentified soldiers and a civilian.

According to the police account, one Suleiman Ahmed got a phone from one Suleiman Ibrahim, a shop owner at the Banex Plaza. The buyer later went with four soldiers to persuade the seller for replacement upon discovery that the phone is faulty, which met the resistance of the shop owner.

HURIWA, however, faults the Army and asserted that the police has the constitutional function of being the primary law enforcement agency and therefore could have been in the best position to go after the alleged hoodlums just as the Rights group said the Army has no legal right whatsoever to shut down a business premises. 

This illegality must be absolutely condemned just the same way that the violence meted out allegedly on the three soldiers is absolutely detested.

F.A

May 23, 2024

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