Human rights activist and Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has described as illegal and ultra vires, President Goodluck Jonathan’s deployment of members of the Armed Forces for election duties.
In a statement yesterday in Lagos, titled, ‘Illegal Involvement of Soldiers in Election Duties’, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria cited Sections 215 and 217 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the power of the President to deploy Armed Forces for internal security is limited to the suppression of insurrection, including insurgency and aiding the police to restore order when it has broken down.
Falana argued that rather than deploy soldiers for election duties, the President should strengthen the police to ensure internal security while the Armed Forces should be restricted to defend the nation’s territorial integrity.
He stressed that under the current constitution, the President lacks the power to involve soldiers in maintaining law and order during elections.
Falana said: “Even in the Northeast, a state of emergency had to be declared by the President to justify the deployment of the Armed Forces as part of the extraordinary measures he was required to take to restore law and order pursuant to Section 305 of the Constitution. Even then, the President had to seek and obtain the approval of the National Assembly for the deployment for a specific period of time”.
He also described as “misleading, apologia for the militarisation of the recent governorship election in Ekiti State” an article by a former presidential spokesman in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Bashorun Akin Osuntokun on the “militarisation and other fallacies” published in his weekly column in ThisDay of July 11.
According to Falana, Osuntokun, in hailing the soldiers for displaying professionalism, “was curiously silent on the infringement of the fundamental right of Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s freedom of movement, which occurred at Iju-Itagbolu in Ondo State, contrary to Section 41 of the Constitution”.
He added: “The governor, who was billed to attend a political rally at Ado-Ekiti on June 19, 2014, was crudely turned back by the soldiers who claimed that they were acting on ‘orders from above’.
“Mr. Osuntokun was equally silent on the illegal curfew imposed on Ekiti State by the army. Or, was any curfew declared by the relevant authorities that was not announced? A client, Mr. Bayo Fajimi, who was going home from Akure, Ondo State (his place of residence), was disenfranchised as he was prevented by the soldiers from entering Ekiti State at 6.30pm on June 20 because of the illegal curfew! Is the Bashorun not aware that the soldiers subjected every hotel in Ado-Ekiti to a search without warrant between 10pm and 2am for the sole purpose of ejecting all those who could not give ‘satisfactory’ explanation of their business in Ekiti State?
“Yet, while all ‘illegal aliens’, like Governor Amaechi and others suspected to be All Progressives Congress (APC) members were harassed and expelled from the state by the army, some non-indigenes, who are chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), including two serving ministers and an influential thug from Anambra State, were allowed to ‘monitor’ the election. Indeed, they were fully protected by the armed Gendarmes.
“Even though the Bashorun admitted that he was ‘struck and inconvenienced by the rigour and saturation of the security blanket’ on account of repeated security check points, he dismissed the complaints of the militarisation of the election. As far as he is concerned, the United States Embassy had endorsed the militarisation by issuing a statement to the effect that ‘the security forces collaborated effectively and provided a safe and secure environment free of major incidents’…”
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