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Soldiers’ Killing: It’s Illegal To Declare Suspects Wanted, Falana Faults Military

Weeks ago, military personnel were killed while on a peacekeeping mission in the Okuama community of Delta State.


FILE: Femi Falana

 

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has faulted the military for declaring suspects wanted over the killings of soldiers in the Okuama community in the Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

Falana in a statement released hours after the Defence headquarters declared the eight persons wanted in connection with the killing of the soldiers, said it is illegal for the military to declare civilians wanted without obtaining a court order.

He wants the government to direct the Defence Headquarters to hand over the investigation of the suspects involved in the gruesome murder of the 17 officers and soldiers.

The senior lawyer argued that murder is not a military offence to warrant investigation by the Defence Headquarters.

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“The decision of the Defence Headquarters to declare the murder suspects wanted is completely illegal. Let the federal government direct the Defence Headquarters to hand over the investigation of the suspects involved in the gruesome murder of the 17 officers and soldiers,” Falana said.

“It ought to be pointed out that murder is not a military offence to warrant investigation by the Defence Headquarters. If the Federal Government fails to call the Defence Headquarters to order, the case concerning the tragic murder of the soldiers will be completely bungled.”

On March 14, 17 military personnel comprising a lieutenant ​colonel, two majors, one captain, and 13 soldiers were killed while on a peacekeeping mission” in the Okuama community of Delta State.

See the full statement below:

THE MILITARY SHOULD NOT BUNGLE THE CASE OF THE SLAIN SOLDIERS

The authorities of the armed forces should be made to realise that the military can not arrest, detain, investigate and charge civilian suspects with any offence whatsoever. In Dr Issa Perry Brimah v Nigerian Army, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu held that “It must be stated here without equivocation that the defendant [Nigerian Army] has no right to declare the plaintiff wanted without following the appropriate procedure.

The Judge further said that the defendant can not arrest the plaintiff 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.

In Miss Grace Anita Paul v. The Chief of Army Staff, the Army, Inspector General of Police & the Nigerian Police Force the Federal High Court where held that the Nigerian Army lacks the power to arrest, investigate and hold in custody, anyone who is not subject to the Armed Forces Act or any other military law. Justice Taiwo Taiwo, on Wednesday, warned the military not to usurp the powers of the Nigerian Police under Sections 4 and 84 of the Police Act which empowers the police to detect and investigate crime.

We have also read the 8 people alleged to be involved in the cruel murder of the soldiers have been declared wanted by the Defence Headquarters it is trite law that the police and security agencies lack the power to declare any suspect wanted without a court order. In Benedit Peters v Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, a high court in Abuja ruled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission lacks (EFCC) the powers to declare anyone wanted without obtaining a court order or charging the suspect with an offence.

The presiding judge, Justice Othman Musa ruled that though the EFCC could declare as wanted persons who fail to honour its invitation for investigation, it could only do so if it obtains a court order for that purpose. So, the decision of the defence headquarters to declare the murder suspects wanted is completely illegal.

Let the federal government direct the defence headquarters to hand over the investigation of the suspects involved in the gruesome murder of the 17 officers and soldiers. It ought to be pointed out that murder is not a military offence to warrant investigation by the defence headquarters. If the federal government fails to call the defence headquarters to order, the case concerning the tragic murder of the soldiers will be completely bungled.

 

Femi Falana SAN