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Military maintains Banex siege despite outcry

Six days after a violent clash between traders and military personnel, soldiers have continued to lay siege to Banex Plaza in the Wuse 2 area…

Six days after a violent clash between traders and military personnel, soldiers have continued to lay siege to Banex Plaza in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja.

Daily Trust’s correspondent who visited the market on Friday evening found soldiers across the plaza.

Trouble started when thugs beat up some soldiers who had a disagreement with a trader in the plaza.

The trader had reportedly sold a bad phone to someone who invited soldiers. Rather than resolve the issue amicably, the trader reportedly invited thugs who assaulted the uniform men.

They descended on at least two soldiers and another man in mufti. The thugs who broke into groups slapped, kicked and beat up the soldiers.

Although the police stepped in to resolve the situation, soldiers later stormed the plaza, forcing traders to shut down immediately.

In a statement on Tuesday, Major General Onyema Nwachukwu, Army spokesman, said the plaza was shut so as to take time to fish out the hoodlums behind Saturday’s incident.

“In response to this unfortunate incident, a meeting was convened with the management of Banex Plaza to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of this heinous act by temporarily shutting down activities in the plaza to ensure that the hoodlums who have been using the Banex neighborhood as a sanctuary to pose a security threat to the Federal Capital Territory were apprehended.”

“This, is in furtherance of the need for extensive investigation to be conducted at the scene to determine both the immediate and underlying causes of this mayhem. This investigation ultimately aims at ensuring the security of the Federal Capital Territory and to prevent such unwarranted attacks on own personnel and other security operatives, as has been observed in other areas, such as the unfortunate attack in Okuama. The Nigerian Army will equally ensure that it diligently investigates the circumstances surrounding the presence of the personnel at the plaza and the attack that ensued,” he had said.

But human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), kicked against military action and called on the Nigerian Army to stop the continuing occupation of the popular electronics market.

In a statement on Tuesday, Falana said instead of calling the soldiers who closed the market to order the military authorities justified the resort to self-help.

“Neither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act authorises the Nigerian Army to investigate criminal offences involving citizens who are not subject to service law.”

“It is high time that the armed forces were made to realise that in a country where the rule of law operates, institutions and individuals are not permitted to take the law into their hands. Therefore, the Chief of Army Staff, General Lagbaja, should ensure that the Banex Plaza is reopened without any further delay.

“The soldiers who were beaten up in the market should be advised to press charges against their assailants.”

However, a former Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor (rtd), defended the military action.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS, Irabor said: “The Banex incident is a very sad one. Sad one in the sense that when you see a soldier in uniform whether armed or not….This applies to any uniformed person for as long as he is an agent of the state. An attack on him is an attack on the state, so any Nigerian of goodwill must condemn such an act.

“For me, I join to support the closure of Banex Plaza for as long as it takes to have anyone responsible for that dastardly act brought to justice. This is because if we fail to do so, we will be calling for anarchy.”

The presidency and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ministry have maintained silence on the issue.

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