A federal high court in Abuja has ruled that the Nigerian army has no powers to declare any citizen wanted.
Ijeoma Ojukwu, the judge, delivered the ruling in a case marked FHC/ABJ/CS/267/2019 between one Issa Perry Brimah, a Nigerian activist in diaspora and the Nigerian Army.
In January 2019, the army declared Brimah wanted for reportedly raising funds for troops and vigilantes fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east.
Brimah had launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to provide food for the soldiers in that part of the country.
But the army described his actions as “fraudulent” and said he embarked on the venture “ostensibly to defraud unsuspecting members of the public, especially the international community to fund subversive activities and personal lifestyle”.
Following the declaration, Brimah filed a suit against the army for alleged defamation.
Brimah said he was suing “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 willfully declaring citizens wanted and making arrests within the democratic space in the stead of the police, the formal law enforcers”.
Delivering the ruling, Ojukwu held that the 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,” she said.
“However, it must be stated here without equivocation that the defendant has no right to declare the plaintiff wanted without following the appropriate procedure.
“The defendant cannot 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.”