WADOO!!NEWS: Court bars soldiers from polling stations
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 purposes.
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, in response, 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.
Soldiers on Lagos streets
Meanwhile, stern-looking and combat-ready soldiers were noticed yesterday along the Boundary Market-Mobil Road, in Ajegunle, controlling traffic on the axis.
One of the soldiers seen controlling traffic on the road, who refused to disclose his name, said: “We are here to maintain peace and orderliness before, during and after the election. Given the fact that Ajegunle is a flashpoint for violence in Lagos, we are now on the roads to ensure there is no breakdown of law and order by criminal elements on Saturday and subsequently, if the army authorities insist, we still stay around.”
Other spots in the area where the soldiers were sighted were Achakpo bus-stop, Okoya bus-stop, Itire bus-stop, Wilmer bus-stop and Tolu bus-stop. These areas were considered flash points.
Ajegunle is a ghetto community that covers the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government and Ifelodun Local Council Development Areas of Lagos State where three army barracks such as Arakan, Ashanti and Signal were located.
Residents who spoke to Vanguard said the soldiers had been deployed to the area since Saturday, even as they had a show-of-force physical exercise along the road that day.
According to them, since the soldiers arrived the area, they have taken over traffic control.
This development, Vanguard gathered, has restored normalcy in the area, against the usual chaotic traffic jam caused by indiscriminate parking by commercial buses and motorcyclists (okada riders) in the axis, especially while trying to pick and drop passengers.
A resident, Wale Oke, said: “Since Saturday that these soldiers have been here, the chaotic traffic build-up we have especially along this Boundary Market roundabout has been cleared.
“These no-nonsense soldiers have cleared off all the danfo drivers and the Okada riders who park indiscriminately along this road to pick and drop passengers. This is a nice development.”
A newspaper vendor, who pleaded anonymity, described the presence of the soldiers as welcome development, even though they (soldiers) have asked them not to barricade the roads again to sell their papers.
According to her, “this road is usually blocked during morning and evening peak periods and members of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, and the Police are not helping matters. They pretend as if they are controlling the traffic, but look the other way as they (drivers) park recklessly along the road.
Confirming the presence of soldiers, Army spokesperson for 81 Division, Colonel Mustapha Anka, said: “It is just a routine maintenance of internal security. There is no cause for alarm and Lagosians should go about their legal businesses without fear.