The appointment of new service chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari has been described as illegal and unconstitutional by a famous human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN).
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday relieved the Service Chiefs of their positions. The retired military top brass were Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
They were replaced with Major-General LEO Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General I. Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao, Chief of Air Staff.
However, in a statement on Wednesday, Falana said Buhari was wrong to have announced the appointment of new service chiefs without the approval of the National Assembly.
In the statement, Falana said the appointments remain inchoate as President Muhammadu Buhari has not forwarded the names of the proposed service chiefs to the National Assembly for approval in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act.
“The appointments of service chiefs without the concurrence of the National Assembly which had been the practice since 1999 was challenged in the Federal High Court sometime in 2008 by Mr. Festus Keyamo SAN in the case of Keyamo v President Goodluck Jonathan (unreported Suit No FHC/ABJ/ CS/611/2008).
“In his landmark judgment delivered on July 2, 2013, Adamu Bello J. (as he then was) held that it was illegal and unconstitutional, null and void for the President to single-handedly appoint Service Chiefs without the approval of the National Assembly having regards to the combined effect of Section 218 of the Constitution and section 18 (1) & (3) of the Armed Forces Act.”
According to Falana, the 2013 judgement, which was never challenged by the federal government, remains binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of section 287 of the constitution.
He therefore asked Buhari to forward the names of the new service chiefs to the federal lawmakers for confirmation in accordance with the law of the land.