Murder of 17 Soldiers: army defends declaration of eight suspects wanted

The Chief of Defence Staff, Christopher Musa, said contrary to criticisms by lawyers and activists,the military’s declaration was not illegal.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that suspected residents of Okuama Community in Delta State, on 14 March, ambushed and murdered the Commanding Officer of 181 Army Amphibious Battalion, two majors, one captain and 13 soldiers.

The troops were attacked while responding to a distress call arising from a clash between Okuama and Okoloba communities in the southern Nigerian state, the military said.

In response, the Defence Headquarters, on Thursday, declared eight suspects wanted over the murder of the army personnel.

Some Nigerian lawyers faulted the declaration and noted that the police, not the army, ought to have made the declaration.

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The lawyers added that even the police have no right to declare anyone wanted without obtaining such power from the court, pointing out that “Marshall Law only applies to those in the military,” not civilians.

But reacting, Mr Musa, an army general, argued that the declaration and prosecution of the suspects were legal because the action is being jointly carried out by combined security agencies, including the police and the military.

The chief of defence staff spoke on Wednesday when he appeared as a guest on Arise TV’s The Morning Show.

“What we have is a Joint Task Force. Joint Task Force involves members of the armed forces. That’s the army, the navy, the air force, the police, the SSS, the National Intelligence Agency and every other security agency.

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“So when we have arrests, we have a joint investigation team. So it is not like the army is taking laws into their hands. So we have a police component (in the joint task force). So even when they (the slain soldiers) were with us, the police were still there doing their own job,” Mr Musa added.

He did not say if the joint task force obtained a court order before declaring the eight suspects wanted.

Credit: premiumtimesng.com

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