A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Wednesday, described as illegal, the alleged deployment of soldiers in the family house of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, in Umuahia, Abia State.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, has described the action as brute force and a crush-them mentality.
Falana, in a statement on Wednesday, said as there was no legal basis for the involvement of soldiers in the place, President Muhammadu Buhari should direct the armed troops “to withdraw and return to their barracks forthwith.”
He said the Commissioner of Police in Abia State should be allowed to take over Kanu’s case in line with the provisions of the constitution and the Police Act.
Tracing the involvement of the military’s involvement in civil issues since successive military regimes in the country, Falana said, “regrettably, no conscious efforts have been made by the civilian government to demilitarise the country since power was transferred from former military dictators to the civilian wing of the political class in May 1999.”
He added, “Hence, armed soldiers have been allowed to continue to be involved in the maintenance of law and order in all the states of the federation.
“Up till now, state governments have allowed armed soldiers to remain members of the police anti-robbery squads.
“They have been deployed, from time to time, by the President to deal with the menace of herdsmen and kidnappers.
“They have just been authorised to deal ruthlessly with civilians who are involved in any form of agitation for self determination.
“There is no legal basis for authorising the Nigerian army to take over police duties. Even under the defunct military era in Nigeria the military dictators had to declare a state of emergency to legitimise the usurpation of police powers by the armed forces.
“But under a democratic dispensation the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces lacks the power to deploy members of the armed forces in the maintenance of internal security in any part of the country.
He said the army’s involvement in the maintenance of law and order was illegal, adding that section 215 (3) of the Constitution had conferred such responsibility exclusively on the Nigeria Police Force.
He added that unless there was an insurrection, the President of Nigeria could not exercise his power under section 217(2) of the constitution to deploy the armed forces for the “suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore law order.”
He maintained that having filed an application before the Federal High Court in Abuja for the revocation of bail granted Kanu on the grounds that the IPOB leader had breached the conditions for the bail, the resort to “self help” by deploying soldiers in Kanu’s family was unjustifiable.
Ozekhome in a statement stated, “Force is not the best approach to fight Kanu; this government is becoming very infamous for using brute force and a crush-them mentality in solving problems.
“This twin method has never been known in history to win a war; a war is better won with persuasion, intellectual argument, understanding and peaceful resolution.
“No people in the world has ever been known to be crushed to death and the Federal Government is using the kind of excessive force which it has not been able to deploy against Boko Haram and that is why Boko Haram today is still potent if not even more potent than it was two years ago.
“I cannot understand how a whole government would deploy a battalion of its military to a small village, to the house of an unarmed street protester, Nnamdi Kanu, who is asking for self-determination for his Igbo people and even asking for a referendum towards that effect,” Ozekhome said.