Police, Abuja administration not consulted before Army shut down Banex Plaza

The Nigerian Army shut down a popular shopping complex in Abuja without consulting civil authorities, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
This newspaper reported how the army on Tuesday announced the shutdown of Banex Plaza in the Wuse area of Abuja. The army said it shut down the plaza after discussions with the plaza’s management following the assault on two soldiers on the premises on Saturday.
Army spokesperson Onyema Nwachukwu said the shutdown was to allow for an investigation of the assault.

Concerns have been raised about the legality of the army’s actions and the announcement in a democratic society with a human rights lawyer describing it as a violation of “the rule of law.”

PREMIUM TIMES can now confirm that the army shut down the shopping plaza without consulting the police and Abuja administration.

“I am unaware (of the shutdown of Banex), so I can’t comment on it,” Anthony Ogunleye, the spokesperson of the Federal Capital Territory Administration told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday night.
Also, Josephine Adeh, the spokesperson of the FCT Police Command, said the police were not involved in the shutdown of the plaza patronised by thousands of people weekly for the purchase of items like mobile phones and other electronics.

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“With all due respect, you know very well that Police are not involved why all this. Channel all your complaints to the military pls,” Ms Adeh responded in a WhatsApp message to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry.
Military action undemocratic
A human rights lawyer, Mojirayo Ogunlana, said the military’s action in a democratic setting is a total breach of the rule of law and constitution and an encroachment on police duties.
“Nigeria is not under military rule. You cannot in an attempt to address one issue shut others out of their legitimate businesses,” Ms Ogunlana told this newspaper.

“The idea that the innocent must suffer with the guilty is clearly autocratic. If you must shut any shop it should be the one from which the infraction took place. Not the entire plaza now. Come on! This doesn’t make any sense. The measure taken to address the ‘legitimate’ aim is clearly and profoundly disproportionate.”
“So the question in my mind is this, is there a military junta in place? No. So why is the military encroaching on the power of the police, you have just started here that the police are not aware of any of such.
“Because the military cannot, on its own, by itself, decide to shut down a market. Because some of your personnel were involved in an infraction does not give you that power. It has not even put it upon them.”
The lawyer explained that the military should have taken their complaints to the police who can approach the court to secure an order to seal the plaza.
“There is due process in place. Even if there is a problem, go straight to the court to do the required thing, to ask for the required warrants or order to seal off maybe a portion of the market for the purpose of investigation. This is the police (duty) and not the military, so this is arbitrary.”
“This is uncalled for, this is against the rule of law, and that is unfortunate because the rule of law has been terribly abused since the democratic dispensation. The military has to know that it is not their place to take action by themselves. You have to submit to the authority on ground. And the authority on ground says that it is a democratic society.”
“Meaning that if you have any complaints you go straight to the police, you complain to the police and then you give the police the opportunity to do what they are empowered to do. And in this case, they are the ones to go to the court and file the necessary document, ask for the necessary order before the honourable court and then if the court believes that there is a genuine, cogent reason for such an application to seal off an economy, we should not forget, to seal off an entire economy”

READ ALSO: Nigerian Army controversially announces closure of Abujas popular Banex Plaza

She described the shutdown of the plaza which houses dozens of shops and businesses as a shutdown of an economy.
“That place is an economy. Nigerians are going through unbearable times at this time in history. The military feels that somebody has offended some of them and then you went to shut down the market. It is wrong morally, it is wrong legally, it is unlawful, it is unconstitutional and should not be allowed in a democratic setting.”
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