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Service Chiefs Appointment did Not Follow Due Process- Court

CHIEF STAFF - FLOWING PICIn what appears as a landmark ruling, Justice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, declared as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void, the appointment of all Service Chiefs in the country, saying their appointment was done contrary to the constitution.

The judge based his ruling on the fact that the President did not secure the approval of the Senate in the appointment of the Service Chiefs as he also restrained the President from further appointing them without the approval of the Senate.

Delivering judgment in the case which was instituted in 2008 by Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, Justice Bello issued a restraining order against the President from further appointing service chiefs without first seeking and obtaining the concurrence of the Senate.

Listed as defendants in the suit are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation and all the Service Chiefs.

The plaintiff had contended that the practice of side-stepping the constitutional requirement of National Assembly, in the appointment of Service Chiefs, which began under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was an affront on the 1999 Constitution.

When Obasanjo left power, both the Umar Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan’s administration continued the practice.

In the Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2008, Keyamo had sought a determination of the following questions:

1. Whether by the combined interpretation of the provisions of Section 218 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Section 18 of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the 1st Defendant can appoint the Service Chiefs of the Federation, namely,

(a) The Chief of Air Staff

(b) The Chief of Army Staff and

(c) The Chief of Naval Staff, (that is, the 3rd, 4th & 5th

Defendants who were appointed as such) without the confirmation of the National Assembly first sought and obtained.

2. Whether Section 18 (1) & (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap.

A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 is not in conformity with the provision of the 1999 Constitution so as to fall within the category of existing laws under Section 315 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, that the President, may, by Order, modify its text, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

The court answered both questions in favour of Keyamo and granted the following orders:

(1) A declaration that the appointment of Service Chiefs for the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the President, without the confirmation of the National Assembly is illegal, unconstitutional and void.

(2) A declaration that Section 18 (1) & (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 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, that the President, may, by order, modify its text, to bring it into conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

(3) An order restraining the President from further appointing Service Chiefs for the federation without first obtaining the confirmation of the National Assembly.

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