Court declares soldiers at polling stations illegal

Posted by News Express | 24 March 2015 | 2,300 times

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, restrained the Federal Government from deploying soldiers for the general elections beginning on Saturday with Presidential and National Assembly polls.

The court held that there was no part of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which empowers the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces to deploy military for election purpose

Trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, also 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.”

Delivering a jugdment in a suit filed by a member of the House of Representatives and chieftain of All Progressives Congress, (APC), Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, the judge declared the deployment of military for election as unconstitutional.

Gbajabiamila, leader of opposition in the House of Representatives, had gone to court challenging the power of the President to deploy soldiers for the elections.

Defendants in the suit were President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister.

The judge added that a careful perusal and research into all Nigerian laws would reveal that there was nowhere where it was stated that the President could single-handedly deploy the military for elections.

In his argument, plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr Seni Adio had contended that there were allegations and evidences that the military inhibit free movement, free access and intimidated voters in states like Osun, Ekiti, Edo and Anambra states where they were deployed for election purposes.

He argued that it was not ideal to deploy the military for the supervision of elections in a democratic setting.

However, defendants’ lawyer, Mr Dele Adesina, SAN, argued that the President, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was empowered under the Armed Forces Act to deploy military to maintain law and order.

The deployment of troops, according to the defendants, was largely due to the peculiar nature of elections and electioneering in the country.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja had recently made a similar pronouncement on the role of the military in the conduct of elections, saying troops ought not to have been deployed during the polls.

The appellate court had held that based on the provisions of the law, the military had no role to play in electoral process, adding that whoever deployed the military during the election in Ekiti State had breached the law.

*Adapted from Vanguard. Photo shows soldiers

Source: News Express

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