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The incident at Banex Plaza

Since Saturday, May 18, 2024, the Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja, housing hundreds of businesses selling mostly phones and other electronics has been under total…

Since Saturday, May 18, 2024, the Banex Plaza in Wuse, Abuja, housing hundreds of businesses selling mostly phones and other electronics has been under total lockdown by the Nigerian Army. This follows a mob attack on two soldiers by hoodlums at the plaza. The thugs had slapped, kicked and beaten up the soldiers who were in military uniform.

Later in the evening, a detachment of armed soldiers descended on the plaza and carried out a reprisal attack. After the frightened traders locked their shops and fled, they took over control of the area leading to the total lockdown.

We, at Daily Trust wholeheartedly condemn this heinous act of temerity by lawless civilians. A mob of hoodlums attacking soldiers in uniform is a show of the highest form of foolhardy bravado and daredevilry. It also indicates a wanton lack of respect to constituted authority. If the people paid to protect us are not safe in a plaza in our Federal Capital Territory (FCT) what then becomes of ordinary law-abiding citizens?

Over the years, we have made repeated calls to our fellow citizens to respect constituted authority, which is a core requirement for peaceful coexistence. We have also urged for a special recognition of the dedication and valour of the men and women in uniform, who have agreed to sacrifice their lives in order to protect ours. We therefore reiterate our stand that soldiers and the entire personnel of our country’s security infrastructure deserve our gratitude, support and respect.

However, we feel that the measure taken by the Nigerian Army in closing the plaza and denying thousands of Nigerians their means of sustenance in these trying times when the economy is biting is a step too much. The shop owners are also victims of these hoodlums who had been making life difficult for them before stepping on the toes of the Army.

According to a statement by the Director Army Public Relations, Major General Onyema Nwachukwu: “It is important to note that the soldiers attacked were unarmed, did not engage in any form of aggression, and posed no threat to anyone. Therefore, the cruel treatment meted out to them was entirely unwarranted and unjustifiable.

“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”, the general added.

Major General Nwachukwu also called on the public to be circumspect in their dealings with military personnel and avail themselves of “established channels through which grievances or misconduct by personnel could be reported to the appropriate authorities. It is imperative that these channels are utilised to maintain order and respect for those who serve and protect our nation”, he added.

Nonetheless, two wrongs do not make a right. We feel that the Nigerian Army itself should be seen to be operating within the law even if it is provoked. It should have allowed the police to lead the investigation. The police might have by now apprehended some suspects and taken them to court. Also, the FCT administration or even the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) should have been allowed to announce the closure of the plaza pending the investigation.

After one week of the Banex Plaza shut down, we believe that a strong message has been sent that the Nigerian Army will not tolerate any unwarranted attacks on its personnel. We therefore call on the Nigerian Army to allow business to resume in the plaza without further ado. In addition, the Army should handover all investigations of the matter to the police and other constituted civil authorities that are better equipped to handle it.

Those who are found guilty should be punished to the maximum limit allowed by law to serve as a deterrent for other criminals who may be contemplating such actions. All attacks on uniformed personnel must come to an end in this country, and whenever such infringements occur, they should be treated within the ambit of the law rather than a knee-jerk response by the affected agency as such may end up diminishing the rule of law which they have vowed to protect.

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