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FG seeks quashing of verdict against deployment of soldiers for polls


armyTHE Federal Government has filed a notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal, Lagos, challenging the decision that President Goodluck Jonathan lacks the powers to deploy members of the armed forces for security reasons during elections by a Federal High Court, Lagos.

Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos in his judgment had said that there are no constitutional provisions to support the deployment of military officers to any part of the country for security reasons during elections.

He referred to section 1, 2 and 3 of the Armed Forces Act and said the sections do not give a role to the military during elections. The judge also maintained that Section 217 of the same Act can only be applicable when there is a disruption, insurrection, or insurgence.

The suit was instituted by a member of the opposition in the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila. Joined as respondents with President Jonathan were the Attorney General of the Federation, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, and the Chief of Air Staff.

The President, through his counsel, Dele Adesina (SAN), according to Gavel International, filed the appeal before the Court of Appeal, Lagos on six grounds. The appellants are urging the court to dismiss the judgement of the lower court and the entire suit for lack of merit.

Adesina insisted that the decision of the judge did not represent the state of the law, “particularly his lordship’s decision regarding the validity of the originating process.” Adesina went further to say the judge’s reliance on the election petition appeal relating to the issue of the deployment of troops will have to be tested on appeal.

The first ground stated that the trial judge erred by “dismissing the objection filed by the 1st and 6th defendants and assumed jurisdiction when he held that the plaintiff sought and obtained leave to issue and serve the originating summons outside Lagos State when indeed the grounds of the objection was noncompliance with the provisions of Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act.”

He stated that by virtue of the provisions of Section 97 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, every writ of summons for service out of the state in which it was issued shall, in addition to any other endorsement or notice required by the law of such state, have endorsed thereon a notice indicating that the originating process is to be served out of the state and in which state it is to be served. “It is settled law that compliance with the provision of Section 97 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act is mandatory,” he said.

The second ground of the appeal sates that the trial judge erred in law when he assumed jurisdiction and proceeded to determine the matter to judgment when indeed, he lacks the jurisdiction to do so.

The appellants stated that the originating process, having failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act, was not issued according to due process and therefore incompetent and liable to be struck out.

“A competent court cannot sit on an incompetent suit. The law is settled that where a court lacks jurisdiction, its proceedings no matter how well conducted, and its judgment or orders are a nullity,” the appelants stated.

They also contend that another ground on which the trial judge erred was when he held that the plaintiff had the requisite locus standi to institute this action and that it was a matter of public litigation. “The Plaintiff is the minority leader in the House of Representatives who had canvassed this same arguments and reliefs on the floor of the House of Representatives and lost to the majority. The members of the House of Representatives are elected by the citizens to represent their interest, and having lost to the majority decision in the House, he has removed this matter from the purview of public interest litigation. The facts of the case are reinfoced by the Supreme Court decision in Abraham Adesanya Vs. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the appellants argued.

The appeal further states that by virtue of Section 8(1) and Section 8(3) of the Armed Forces Act, while Section 8(1) gives the President Powers to determine the operational use of the Armed Forces, Section 8(3) defines operational use of the Armed Forces to include maintaining and securing public safety and public order. “The Armed Forces Act of the Federation is an existing Act pursuant to Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and therefore was deemed enacted pursuant to Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The appeal therefore seeks an order setting aside the judgement of the lower court, or in the alternative, an order dismissing the entire suit for lack of merit.

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