A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the appointment of all Service Chiefs by the President is unconstitutional, illegal, null and void without the approval of the Senate.
Justice Adamu Bello, rulingon a suit filed by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo challenging theappointments, on Monday,declared that the President of Nigeria cannot appoint service chiefs without the approval of the Senate.
Justice Bello then restrained the President from further appointing them except in consultationwith the National Assembly.
Untill this ruling, the President is at liberty to appoint or sack Service Chiefs.
The Service Chiefs include the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Army Staff.
When contacted for the Presidency’s reaction to the ruling, the Special Adviser to the President on Media, Dr Reuben Abati stated that “the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was still studying the ruling.”
The case was instituted in 2008 by Mr Keyamo against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation and all service chiefs asking the court to determine whether going by the interpretation of the provisions of Section 218 of the 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, if the Nigerian President can appoint the service chiefs of the Federation, namely, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff, without the confirmation of the National Assembly first sought and obtained.
He also asked the court to determine 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.
Keyamo had approached the court following the appointment of service chiefs by late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua within his first year of assuming leadership of the country after his election at the 2007 Presidential election.
The Judge agreed with the plaintiff as he ruled a mandatory order for the President to seek and obtain the approval of the National Assembly in the appointment of service chiefs failure of which the appointment becomes illegal, unconstitutional and void.
Furthermore, the court held that section 18 (1) & (2) of the Armed Forces Act, Cap. A.20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is in conformity with theprovisions 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.
The court however declined the third prayer of Mr Keyamo, which sought the court to order the service chiefs appointed by the late President to vacate their offices noting that the relief had been overtaken by event as none of them is still in service.