The deployment of soldiers in the southeast is unconstitutional, contends Sonnie Ekwowusi

The ongoing militarisation of Anambra State and the rest of Igbo land under the guise of combating insecurity is illegal and unconstitutional. Capitalizing on the messy political violence and a few political assassinations in Anambra which claimed the life of Dr. Chike Akunyili and other precious lives, the Federal Attorney-General and Justice of Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) had announced last week that the federal government might declare a state of emergency in Anambra State. Not unexpectedly, prominent Nigerians and institutions have been blasting Malami for harbouring and uttering such a wicked statement. Notably among them is the Anambra State governor Chief Willie Obiano. Chief Obiano has said that he had reached President Buhari on the matter who told him to ignore Malami as the federal government does not intend to declare an emergency rule in Anambra.

Why is the Federal Attorney-General pressuring the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Anambra when a state of emergency had not been declared in different parts of North East and North West battling deadly terrorism and armed struggle resulting day after day in monumental human casualties and sacking of communities? When a people’s dignity, honour, pride, reputation, and existential values are constantly eroded in nauseating fatalistic Fulanization and Jihadization, there is a cause for concern. Being a senior lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria for that matter, Malami ought to have known that neither he nor President Buhari nor any other political office holder can wake up one morning and unilaterally declare a state of emergency in Anambra. Even though our democracy has been seriously corrupted and abused at recent times, government actions are still governed by the rule of law, especially the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the supreme law of the land. By virtue of section 305 (1)(2) (3a-g)(4)(5)(6) of the Constitution, President Buhari may through an instrument published in the Official Gazette issue a Proclamation for a State of emergency in Anambra. Thereafter President Buhari shall immediately, after the said publication, transmit copies of the Official Gazette of the Government of the federation containing the Proclamation to the National Assembly which will decide whether or not to pass a resolution approving the proclamation. Note that President Buhari shall not issue a proclamation for a state of emergency in Anambra unless there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety or there is a clear and present danger of a breakdown of public order and public safety in Anambra. In a nutshell, President Buhari cannot declare a state of emergency in Anambra without an instrument published in the official gazette, and, without issuing a proclamation to that effect, and, without the concurrence of the National Assembly.

Apart from Malami’s state of emergency threat, the federal government, under the guise of protecting lives and protecting in Anambra and the South East, has deployed soldiers to invade Anambra State and the rest of the South-East in what has been tagged as “Operation Golden Dawn” ( reminiscent of George Wallace’s Operation Golden Dawn). The latest military offence, which is no different from Operation Python Dance 1 & 11 of 2016-2017, is actually targeted at dislodging IPOB and ESN as well as create the enabling environment for the federal-assisted Anambra politicians to steal the Anambra Gubernatorial election come November 6. Considering the atrocities committed in Igbo land by soldiers deployed to invade Igbo land under “Operation Python Dance” 1 & 11, it beats the imagination that the government has again deployed soldiers to invade the same Igbo land. You will recall that during the so-called “Operation Python Dance” 1 & 11, several innocent Igbo civilians were either murdered or badly injured or publicly flogged or harassed or hounded by soldiers. The disturbing video clips of the aforesaid invasions are still available for all to watch.

The latest deployment of soldiers to invade Anambra State and the rest of the South-East under “Operation Golden Dawn” is illegal and unconstitutional. Section 217(2)(a) (b)(c)(d) of the 1999 Constitution has in no unmistakable terms spelt out the circumstances and conditions under which President Buhari can deploy soldiers to any state of the federation. There are: (i) for the defence of Nigeria from external aggression. (ii) for the maintenance of the territorial integrity and securing the borders of Nigeria from violation on land, sea and air, (iii) for suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President; subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. In other words, whilst President Buhari can freely deploy our military to defend our country against aggression and to maintain our territorial integrity, he cannot dispatch the Nigerian soldiers (acting under “Operation Golden Dawn”) to invade Anambra State and the rest of the South-East in order to combat insurrection and/or other internal armed conflicts in those place without “such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of National Assembly, and “performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly” as stipulated by section 217(2)(c)(d) of the 1999 Constitution. It is clear that the aforesaid constitutional provisions were violated when President Buhari deployed the Nigeria soldiers under “Operation Golden Dawn” to invade Anambra and the rest of the South East.

Even a plea of the doctrine of necessity by President Buhari cannot avail him or justify “Operation Golden Dawn”. The doctrine of necessity can only be pleaded upon certain conditions such as; (a) there must exist an imperative necessity arising from danger affecting Anambra State; (b) the action must be proportionate to the necessity (c) action taken to meet the exigency and must be the only available action (d) there must be incapacitation of the state security apparatus which normally maintains security. During the prosecution of “Operation Python Dance 1 & 11 in Igbo land from 2016-2017, the Nigerian soldiers did not comply with the Rules of Engagements (ROE). The soldiers went berserk intimidating, harassing innocent passengers and motorists and unlawfully incarcerating innocent citizens in Igbo land. They also went about killing suspected Biafra agitators and IPOB members and dumping their corpses in nearby bushes. Now, recent reports reaching us attest that the soldiers operating under “Operation Golden Dawn” are committing the aforesaid crimes which they committed in Igbo land under “Operation Python Dance 1 & 11. For example, for adorning an outfit depicting the Biafran rising sun, prominent actor Chiwetalu Agu was last week publicly molested and humiliated by some soldiers. Other innocent citizens in Igbo land are presently experiencing similar molestation or humiliation.

This is unacceptable. How can soldiers who are supposed to be combating crimes turn round to start committing their own crimes? No matter the situation, committing jungle justice in Igbo land cannot be rationalized. Two wrongs cannot make a right. Soldiers cannot do wrong in order to right another wrong. The end does not justify the means. Soldiers cannot employ illegal means to achieve a lawful end in Anambra and the rest of the South East. There should be no repeat of the atrocities of soldiers under the previous Operation Python Dance 1 & 11 in the South-East.

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