Court Rules Against Use Of Military For Elections
A Justice of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba, held that “It is unconstitutional for the Federal Government to deploy military for the supervision of election purposes without the approval of the National Assembly.”
He noted that the practice of deploying troops from the Nigerian Armed Forces in the conduct of elections when there is no conflict is “anti-democratic” and unconstitutional.
“The armed forces have no role in elections.
“The time has come for us to establish the culture of democratic rule in the country and to start to do the right thing particularly when it has to do with dealing with the electoral process which is one of the pillars of democracy.
“In spite of the behaviour of the political class, we should by all means try to keep armed personnel and military from being a part and parcel of the electoral process.
“The state is obligated to confine the military to their very demanding assignment, especially in this time of insurgencies by keeping them out of elections. The state is also obligated to ensure that citizens exercise their franchise freely and unmolested,” he said.
The House of Representatives Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had filed the suit challenging the legality of soldiers’ deployment during the general election.
Defendants in the suit were President Jonathan, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Mr Femi Gbajabiamila’s lawyer, Seni Adio, told the court that the deployment of soldiers during previous elections held in Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun were contrary to the Nigerian Constitution.
A Court of Appeal in Abuja had previously ruled against the use of soldiers in the conduct of elections, stating that it was a violation of Section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution and Section 1 of the Armed Forces Act.
Buba, during his ruling, said that he was bound by the appellate court’s decision.
The Judge added that a careful research into all the Nigerian laws, as interpreted by the appellate court, would reveal that there was nowhere where it was stated that the President could deploy military for elections.
“I am bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal and equally persuaded by the decision of Federal High Court, Sokoto, which also persuaded the Court of Appeal.
“It is in this regard that the court will say that its duty in interpreting the constitution has been simplified and made easy by the decisions I have referred to extensively.”