From Punch online
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday declared as unlawful, the deployment of soldiers for maintenance of security and order during elections in the country.
The declaration was made by Justice Ibrahim Buba in a judgment delivered in a suit filed by a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Buba’s pronouncement was the third of such declaring as unconstitutional, the use of soldiers during elections.
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal had, on February 16, made a similar pronouncement while ruling on the appeal against the judgment of the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which upheld Governor Ayodele Fayose’s victory.
The appellate court had cited and relied on an earlier judgment delivered by Justice R. M. Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Sokoto on January 29, 2015 barring the use of the armed forces in the conduct of elections.
Buba on Monday reiterated that the deployment of soldiers for elections was a contravention of Section 217(2)(c) of the Constitution and section 1 of the Armed Forces Act.
Gbajabiamila, who is the Minority Whip of the House, had asked the court to determine whether the deployment of soldiers for elections in Osun, Ekiti and Anambra States was constitutional.
Joined as respondents in the suit were the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Seni Adio, had submitted that there were allegations and evidences that the soldiers inhibited free movement of the electorate, prevented free access to the polling booths and intimidated voters in Osun, Ekiti and Anambra States where they were deployed for election purposes.
Adio had contended that the Armed Forces Acts, relied upon by the respondents, was subordinate to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He consequently urged the court to declare as unlawful the deployment of soldiers for any election in the country.
In his own submission, however, counsel for the respondents, Dele Adesina (SAN), had 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.