Reactions have continued to trail the arrest of Chiwetalu Agu by the Nigerian soldiers for wearing Biafra flag outfit. The veteran Nollywood actor was arrested at Upper Iweka area of Onitsha on Thursday while sharing food to the less privileged. Some persons condemned the arrest and immediately called for his release, and some asked if the military has the right to arrest a civilian for wearing a particular outfit.
Photo credit: Instagram.
This made me to make research to find out if the military has the constitutional right to arrest Chiwetalu Agu, and in this article, I am going to share my findings.
Some people have said that Chiwetalu Agu did not commit any offence, and that his arrest was unwarranted. They said that even if the Biafra flag regalia amounts to "incitement", just as the Nigerian Army claimed, then it is the Nigeria Police Force that has the right to make such arrest, and not the military. They said that the Nigerian Army does not have the right to arrest civilians, except in special circumstances like during state of emergency, war, or riot.
Photo credit: Facebook.
That makes sense when you look at Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution, which says that the role of the Armed Forces is to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and act in aid of civil authorities. So did the Nigerian Army go overboard by arresting the 65-year-old actor?
Photo credit: Guardian.
It is also important for us to look at Section 217 sub-section 2(c) of the Constitution, which states that the Armed Forces may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
It should also be noted that the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) is one of the law enforcement agencies of the military under Section 40 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 that has been equipped with the right to prevent acts of terrorism and also carry out investigations. The Nigerian Army is part of the DIA, so it has the right to summon any person and also investigate, according to the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011.
As we already know, IPOB is a proscribed group. The group was proscribed by President Muhammadu Buhari's administration in 2017, and labelled as a terrorist group. So in its duty of suppressing insurrection in the country, the Nigerian Army has the right to summon anyone that is perceived to be a threat to Nigeria's territorial integrity.
In its statement which was released after the arrest, the Nigerian Army said that Chiwetalu Agu was arrested while inciting members of the public and soliciting support for the proscribed IPOB group, and that he was taken in for questioning.
Photo credit: BBC News Pidgin.
Photo credit: Vanguard and Facebook.
So while some people are arguing that the Nigerian Army does not have the right to arrest civilians, it should also be noted that in cases where the sovereignty of the country is threatened, the Army can summon anyone for investigations.
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