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Court declares appointment of service chiefs illegal… Presidency reserves comments until…

By The Citizen
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An Abuja Federal High Court judge, Justice Adamu Bello, on Monday declared the appointment of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika; Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh; and Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba as unconstitutional, illegal, and null and void.

Justice Bello also restrained the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, from henceforth appointing service chiefs without the approval of the Senate.

The judge made the declaration while ruling in a case instituted in 2008 by a lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who asked the court to determine whether the President had the powers to unilaterally appoint service chiefs.

In the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2008, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation and all the service chiefs were listed as the defendants.

Keyamo had asked the court to determine whether, by the combined interpretation of the provisions of Section 218 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the President could appoint the service chiefs without first seeking and obtaining the confirmation of the National Assembly.

The court was also asked to determine whether the provisions of Section 18 (1) (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, was not in conformity with the 1999 Constitution, so as to fall within the category of existing laws under section 315 (2) of the 1999 Constitution that the President, may, by Order, modify its text, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

In his judgment in the matter, Justice Bello answered both questions in favour of the plaintiff and as a result granted all the orders sought by the suit.

He made a declaration that the appointment of service chiefs for the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the President, without the confirmation of the National Assembly was illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

In the same vein, the judge declared that section 18 (1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is in conformity with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution so as not to fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, that the President, may, by order, modify its text, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

Justice Bello also granted an order restraining the President from henceforth appointing service chiefs without first obtaining the confirmation of the National Assembly.

The Presidency on Monday, however, said it had yet to get a copy of a Federal High Court Abuja ruling that declared the appointment of service chiefs solely by the President as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said it would be wrong for the Presidency to comment on a ruling that was yet to be in its possession.

He however said upon receipt of a copy, the Ministry of Justice would study the ruling with a view to advising the President appropriately.

'No serious person will comment on a ruling he has not seen. We are yet to see a copy of the ruling. By the time we receive it, the Ministry of Justice will study it and advise the President accordingly,' the presidential spokesman said.