By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, condemned the invasion of Abuja and Maiduguri offices of Daily Trust Newspapers by personnel of the Nigerian Army, even as it called for immediate release of any staff of the media outfit still under detention.
The legal body, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, maintained that neither the Army nor any agency of the government was permitted to operate outside the ambit of the law.
It further queried the powers of the Nigerian Army to arrest, detain or proscute any civil offence, stressing that such powers remained within the purview of the Police.
It said: “The Nigerian Bar Association views with dismay, the reported invasion of the Maiduguri, Abuja and Lagos offices of the Daily Trust Newspapers by personnel of the Nigerian Army on Sunday, which resulted in the detention of some members of staff and disruption of business activities of the organization.
“While the NBA loathes to speculate on the motives behind the said invasion, it is instructive to state that respect for the rule of law is an integral part of any democratic culture and, therefore, all agencies and departments of government cannot be seen to be acting above the law.”
“Power of arrest, detention and prosecution for any civil offence remains within the purview of the Nigerian Police and other sister prosecutorial agencies, of which the Nigerian Army is not one of them.
“The Nigerian Bar Association enjoins the military authorities and other agencies of Government to exercise great restraints and follow due process whenever their activities affect the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“The Nigerian Bar Association therefore urges the Nigerian Army to respect the fundamental rights of the personnel of Daily Trust Newspapers who are reported to still be in their custody by releasing them or hand them over to the appropriate agency to take over the investigation and charge them to court, if any crime has been committed”.