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.
The judge’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 soldiers 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.
He held the armed forces or the military had no role in elections.
He held that, “The time has come for us to establish the culture of democratic rule in the country and to start to do the right thing particularly when it has to do with dealing with the electoral process which is one of the pillars of democracy.
“In spite of the behaviour of the political class, we should, by all means, try to keep armed personnel and military from being a part and parcel of the electoral process.
“The state is obligated to confine the military to their very demanding assignment, especially in this time of insurgencies by keeping them out of elections. The state is also obligated to ensure that citizens exercise their franchise freely and unmolested.”
The judge further said that the Court of Appeal righytly interpreted the Constitution when it held that the combined effects of section 215 and 217 limited the power of the President to deploy soldiers for the suppression of insurrection and to aid the police to restore order when it has broken down.
“I am bound by the decision of the Court of Appeal and equally persuaded by the decision of the Federal High Court Sokoto, which also persuaded the Court of Appeal.
“It is in this regard that the court will say that its duty in interpreting the Constitution has been simplified and made easy by the decisions I have referred to extensively,” Buba held.
Gbajabiamila, who is the Minority Whip of the House, had asked the court to determine whether the deployment of soldiers for elections was constitutional, especially in view of their role in the governorship elections in Osun, Ekiti and Anambra states.