Keyamo writes Jonathan, Mark, Tambuwal over illegality of Nigeria’s military chiefs

Festus Keyamo

The activist lawyer demanded compliance with court judgment on the appointment of service chiefs or risk further legal action.

A Lagos-based lawyer and activist, Festus Keyamo, has threatened to return to the court to force President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly to comply with an earlier judgment in respect of the appointment of service chiefs, if the federal legislature failed to do so within 14 days.

The Federal High Court presided over by Justice A. Bello had, in July last year, declared the appointments of the service chiefs null and void because they did not conform to Section 18 (1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20, Laws of the Federation.

The judgment followed a suit instituted by Mr. Keyamo in which he contended that the affected officers, namely Azubuike  Ihejirika, Chief of Army Staff; Alex Badeh, Chief of the Air Staff; and Dele Ezeoba, Chief of Naval Staff; were appointed without the confirmation of the National Assembly.

In a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Mr. Keyamo, noted that since the judgment was delivered, no appealed against it was filed; neither did the National Assembly take any step to confirm the appointments of the service chiefs.

He reminded the trio in the letter, which he copied the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, that the real intent of Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act was to subject the Armed Forces to civil authority, insisting that neither the president nor the service chiefs was constitutionally superior to the National Assembly.

The lawyer stressed that the appointments of service chiefs, which are political appointments, could not be different from other political appointments that require the confirmation of the National Assembly such as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC; ministers, and so on.

Mr. Keyamo contended that all official actions taken by the service chiefs since last July were null, void and of no effect in the eyes of the law.

He said “It only needs someone who is affected by their official actions to challenge their authority in a court of law.”

“In the circumstance, and the spirit of compliance with court judgments, obedience to and respect for the rule of law, I would humbly require that you direct, advice and enforce compliance with the judgment of the Federal High Court given on the 1st of July, 2013,” he said.

“If within fourteen days of the receipt of this letter you all fail to act, I, as a patriot and free citizen of this country, will have no option but to head back to the court to compel compliance. The ball is in your court.”

Mr. Keyamo lamented that by its action, the National Assembly had embarrassingly portrayed the military as being above the law.

“The most embarrassing of this scenario is that the custodians of the power of confirmation, that is the National Assembly, despite folding its arms whilst my humble self (a private citizen) proceeded to court to give life to its constitutional powers, has even refused to do anything to comply with the judgment when a court of law has clearly given life to that power. It is sad for our democracy,” he said.

Read Mr. Keyamo’s letter below:

TO:

1. The President and Commander-In-Chief

of the Armed Forces,

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Aso Rock Villa,

Abuja.

 

2. The Senate President,

Federal Republic of Nigeria,

National Assembly Complex,

Three-Arms Zone,

Abuja.

 

3. The Honourable Speaker,

Federal House of Representatives,

National Assembly Complex,

Three-Arms Zone,

Abuja.

 

Your Excellencies, Honourable Speaker,

 

REFUSAL TO OBEY AND COMPLY WITH JUDGMENT IN RESPECT OF APPOINTMENTS OF SERVICE CHIEFS

Kindly recall that on the 1st day of July, 2013, I obtained a court judgment in the case of FESTUS KEYAMO V. PRESIDENT & 4 ORS, delivered by the Honourable Justice A. Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja wherein he declared that the appointments of Service Chiefs (The Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff) without the approval of both the Senate and the House of Representatives is null and void in line with Section 18(1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. For the avoidance of doubt, I enclose herewith a copy of the Judgment.

Up till now, no appeal has been filed against that judgment. It goes without saying that all the present Service Chiefs namely: Lt-General Azubuike Ihejirika (Chief of Army Staff), Air Vice Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh (Chief of the Air Staff) and Rear Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba (Chief of Naval Staff), were all appointed without the confirmation of the National Assembly. Their appointments are therefore null and void ab initio.

Your Excellencies, and Honourable Speaker may I, most respectfully remind you that ours is a constitutional democracy founded on the rule of law and not the rule of force.

In fact, that is why the real intent of Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act is to subject the Armed Forces to civil authority. It is also pertinent to observe that neither the President nor the Service Chiefs are constitutionally superior to the National Assembly. As a result, the appointments of Service Chiefs, which are political appointments, cannot be different from other political appointments that require the confirmation of the National Assembly, e.g the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ministers of the Federation and Ambassadors. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE NIGERIANS THE IMPRESSION THAT THE MILITARY IS STILL ABOVE THE LAW.

The most embarrassing of this scenario is that the custodians of the power of confirmation, that is the National Assembly, despite folding its arms whilst my humble self (a private citizen) proceeded to court to give life to its constitutional powers, has even refused to do anything to comply with the judgment when a court of law has clearly given life to that power. It is sad for our democracy.

As it is today, all official actions taken by the Service Chiefs since the 1st of July, 2013, when Judgment was delivered are null, void and of no effect in the eyes of the law. It only needs someone who is affected by their official actions to challenge their authority in a court of law.

In the circumstance, and the spirit of compliance with court judgments, obedience to and respect for the rule of law, I would humbly require that you direct, advice and enforce compliance with the judgment of the Federal High Court given on the 1st of July, 2013.

If within FOURTEEN DAYS of the receipt of this letter you all fail to act I, as a patriot and free citizen of this country, will have no option but to head back to the court to compel compliance.

The ball is in your court.

I remain yours most trusted,

FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.

CC:

Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation

and Minister of Justice,

Abuja.


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