Lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the armed to allow the electorates to exercise their franchise without any form of intimidation.
He also urged them to maintain neutrality in the electoral contests.
He gave the advice in an address delivered at the 13th Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti Memorial Lecture held at the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Secretariat, Ikeja Lagos.
It was titled: “Foreign interference in the 2019 general elections”.
He said: “Since the involvement of military personnel in the electoral process has been declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in a number of cases, the Nigerian army should be restrained from carrying out Operation Python or any other military exercise during the 2019 general election.
“In order to ensure that national security is not compromised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police, I am compelled to urge them to maintain neutrality in the electoral contests.”
To support his position, Falana cited a case, “Attorney-General of the Federation Vs. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (2007) 30 WRN 49 at 140” in which the Supreme Court held as follows: “The office of the Inspector General of Police is a creation of the 1999 Constitution. The Nigeria Police Force is also a creation of the 1999 Constitution. See Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution. Also, by the force of the said 1999 Constitution, the Nigeria Police Force shall and is under the command of the Inspector General of Police.
“The primary duty; indeed the most fundamental duty of the Nigeria Police Force is the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order within the country. In the performance of its duty, the Nigeria Police Force must manifestly demonstrate impartiality; it must not lean to one side against the other; it must be apolitical. It must not take part in any disputation, which has political coloration. These qualities are sine qua non to the enhancement of public respectability to it.
“Also the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by its statutory existence is an independent body with constitutional powers to conduct elections in Nigeria. It must not only be an umpire, it must be seen, in the eyes of reasonable men, to be an impartial umpire in the conduct of an election…
“Neutrality must be the watchword of the body – it must always remain fair and focused.”
Falana objected to the purported statement credited to Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El Rufai that foreign election observers and monitors, who interfere in the 2019 general elections, would “return to their countries in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country”.
He said the threat to attack and kill foreign election observers in Nigeria constitutes an infraction of the Electoral Act, 2010 and the Penal Code.
He also noted that the All Progressive Congress (APC) has accused western countries of supporting the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election.
“Have both APC and PDP not engaged the services of lobby groups to convince the governments of western countries to believe in their ability and competence to fix the problems of Nigeria? Have both political parties not sought the endorsement of the governments of western countries?” he asked.
He also urged the people not to allow their children to be used as cannon fodders during the battle for the control of the country’s political power and economic resources by the ruling class.