Osun Election: APC members ask court to stop Jonathan from deploying soldiers

Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State

The Nigerian President and the Attorney-General of the Federation are defendants in the suit.

Some members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Osun State have approached a Federal High Court, Lagos, for an injunction restraining President Goodluck Jonathan from deploying military personnel during the forthcoming election in the state.

The Osun State gubernatorial election will take place on August 9 with the APC’s incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola, and Iyiola Omisore of the Peoples Democratic Party as major candidates.

The Nigerian President and the Attorney-General of the Federation are defendants in the suit.

Among the reliefs sought by the plaintiff include a declaration that, by the Provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, it is ultra vires for the President to deploy members of the armed forces to Osun State for the purpose of the election.

At the just concluded governorship election in Ekiti State, the federal government deployed about 12,000 officers comprising of the Nigerian military, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, State Security Service, and police officers.

In a 15-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons at the federal high court sworn to by Michael Olufemi, a member of the APC, the party argued that Section 217(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stated the function of the armed forces.

According to Section 217(2) of the Constitution, the purpose of the Nigerian armed forces include: ‘Defending Nigeria from external aggression; maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air.

‘Suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such condition as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.’

The summons said that the purposes did not include the president deploying the armed forces to Osun State for electoral duties.

“I also know that the operational use of the armed forces does not encompass deployment of members of the armed forces to States for the purpose of the conduct of election,” it added.

The originating summons, taken out by Muiz Banire’s M.A Banire and Associates, the party’s counsel, further noted that the president’s deployment of the military to the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Anambra States was beyond his powers.

“I know that unless restrained by this honourable court, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, has resolved to and is in the process of deploying members of the armed forces to Osun State for the purpose of the conduct of the gubernatorial election scheduled for August 9, 2014.

“Being an officer of the plaintiff, I know that the purpose for which members of the armed forces have been deployed in the past was to intimidate members of the plaintiff from participating in relevant elections and voting for their preferred candidates,” the summons said.

In his written address to support his originating summons, Mr. Banire acknowledged the provision of Section 218(1) of the Constitution but argued that the operational use of the armed forces must be within the scope of the purpose of establishing it as enumerated in Section 217.

According to Section 218(1) of the Constitution, ‘The powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.’

Mr. Banire argued that if those who drafted the 1999 had intended the President’s power to determine the operational use of the armed forces as unbridled, they would not have listed the purpose of its establishment in Section 217.

According to Mr. Banire, since the power of the president to determine the operational use of the armed forces is not unbridled, then he does not have the power to deploy them to perform civic duty of monitoring elections.

“We further submit that the drafters of the 1999 Constitution intended this to be so in order to avoid a situation where the President would use the members of the armed forces to achieve ulterior goals,” Mr. Banire said.

“Despite having the power to determine the operational use of the armed forces, the objects and purpose of the Constitution as regards the armed forces are secured by the limiting provision of Section 217(2) of the Constitution,” he added.


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