Less than two days to the general elections, a civil society group, Nigerians United for Democracy (NUD) has expressed concern over the deployment of soldiers for the elections saying the Lagos High Court judgment that soldiers have no role to play and should not be deployed for elections ought to be upheld.
Led by the Chairman of the Partners for Electoral Reform, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, the group based their apprehension on the last bye-election in Ekiti State.
The NUD stated that soldiers were allegedly used to intimidate voters and the opposition in the Ekiti State election, noting that the Police should be in charge during elections and not soldiers.
Citing Lagos and Rivers States as points of concern, the group urged the Inspector-General of Police to be impartial and professional with the deployment of the Police, highlighting the fears that the deployment could be hijacked by partisan interests.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had ruled against the use of military for the forthcoming general elections without the approval of the National Assembly.
The Presiding Judge of the High Court, Justice Ibrahim Buba, held on Monday, 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.