A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has again called on President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw soldiers from enforcing the COVID-19 lockdown.
President Buhari had last Sunday ordered for the lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.
Falana had immediately warned Buhari against the deployment of soldiers for the enforcement of the order.
Despite his warning, soldiers were deployed in the affected states and FCT to enforce the lockdown order.
But following alleged abuses being unleashed on innocent members of the public for supposedly breaching the COVID-19 regulations, Falana said in a fresh statement that:
“In the March 29, 2020, national broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari and the COVID-19 Quarantine Regulations issued thereafter to curtail the spread of coronavirus pandemic the members of the armed forces were not authorised to enforce the Regulations.
“But out of sheer impunity, the Defence Headquarters announced the plans of the armed forces to implement the presidential order on the restriction of the movement of the Nigerian people.
“In my reaction to the illegal plan of the Defence Headquarters to involve armed troops in the enforcement of the Regulations, I issued a public statement wherein I said that while the nation’s armed forces should be commended for making their medical facilities available to members of the public in the fight against the highly dangerous virus, the plan to dispatch armed soldiers to the streets to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines should be shelved because it is illegal.
“For the umpteenth time, I am compelled to draw the attention of the military authorities to the case of Yussuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt ) where Salami JCA (as he then was) held that ‘It is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized.’ This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999.
“Conscious steps should be taken to civilianise the polity and thereby ensure the survival of and sustenance of democracy.”
He noted that his position was also backed by the judgement in the case of All Progressive Congress v Peoples Democratic Party (2015) LPELR 24349 where Aboki JCA held that the President lacked the power to call on the Armed Forces to restore law and order in any part of the federation without the approval of the National Assembly as provided in sections 217(2) and 218(4) of the Constitution as amended.
He further said it was the obligation of the Federal Government to confine the military to their demanding assignments especially in these trying times of insurgencies and encroachment into the country’s territory.
“However, in utter violation of the aforesaid injunctions of the Court of Appeal, the platoons of armed troops deployed by the military authorities have unleashed mayhem on innocent members of the public for allegedly breaching the COVID-19 Regulations,” he added.