As lawyers condemn parliament, support use of force
From Molly Kilete, Abuja, Lukman Olabiyi and Romanus Okoye
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), yesterday, said it has deployed a contingent of 200 men and air assets, to Dakar, from where it is expected operate into The Gambia.
Other platforms deployed to Dakar, as part of Nigerian contingent of Economic Community of West African States Military Intervention in Gambia (ECOMIG), include fighter jets, transport aircraft, Light Utility Helicopter as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft.
The Director of Public Relations and Information, Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, who made this known, said the NAF contingent, led by Air Commodore Tajudeen Yusuf, was airlifted yesterday morning from the 117 Air Combat Training Group, Kainji.
He listed other countries that have deployed troops to Gambia, to forestall hostilities or breakdown of law and order that may result from the current political impasse there, to include Senegal, Ghana and countries within the sub-region.
Famuyiwa, in a statement, said the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar, while addressing members of the contingent shortly before their departure, urged them to be disciplined and professional in their conduct. Abubakar warned that no act of indiscipline by the contingent would be tolerated and charged them to be good ambassadors of Nigeria.
The NAF spokesman, in the statement, said “The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has deployed to Senegal, as part of Nigerian contingent of Economic Community of West African States Military Intervention in The Gambia (ECOMIG) – a standby force tasked by ECOWAS Heads of State to enforce the December 1, 2016 election mandate in the The Gambia.
“NAF, today, moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, Light Utility Helicopter as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar from where it is expected to operate into Gambia.
“The deployment is also to forestall hostilities or breakdown of law and order that may result from the current political impasse in The Gambia.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian lawyers, yesterday, were unanimous in condemning the three months extension of the tenure of the Gambia President, Yahya Jammeh, by the parliament, describing it as illegal, unjust and patently unconstitutional.
The lawyers expressed their support for the use of force to evict Jammeh from office, if the need arises.
The chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Dele Oloke, while reacting to the development, said: “Although, I have not seen the constitution of the country, I want to say that it would be ultra vires of the power of The Gambia’s parliament to arbitrarily extend the constitutionally fixed tenure of the president.
“I want to believe that The Gambia as a member of African Union (AU) practicing constitutional democracy, could not have allowed such obnoxious provisions in their constitution.
“There is no basis for such an unlawful extension. The election has been conducted, and a winner emerged and the president conceded defeat. So, such purported extension would be patently illegal and most unreasonable.”
Dele Oloke also supported the possible use of force to evict Jammeh from office.
“We have more than enough Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) to contend with in the region. We can’t afford to increase the number of IDP camps. Everything necessary, including the use of force must be used to nib it in the bud. An injury to one is an injury to all,” Oloke said.
Rights activist and legal practitioner, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa said the action of the National Assembly of the Gambia was totally at variance with the tenets of democracy.
“At this point in time, it is morally and legally wrong for them to extend the tenure of their president after conducting an election, which did not favour him. Their action is not in the interest of the masses; it shows how dubious they are.
“Election was conducted, and there was a winner and nobody faulted the process in which the winner emerged. The action of the Gambia’s National Assembly at this point amounts to annulling the election, denying the citizens of their free mandate given to the president elect,” he said.
On the use force by ECOWAS to evict Jammeh, the rights activist said he did not see anything wrong with that, but did not consider it legally and constitutionally right because “it is an internal crises of the country. The Gambia is a
sovereign state, and there should be a way to settle their internal crises without external interference.”
Also Chairman, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachy Ugwummadu said the action of The Gambia’s National Assembly was evidence that the legislative arm of government in that country was not independent.
He said amending the constitution of the country to favour the current president was an abuse of power.
“What has been going on in the country is one-man-show; the legislators could not give a tangible reason why the constitution was amended overnight; all they did was for their selfish interests. With this, it is very clear there were no checks and balances within the arms of government,” Ugwummadu aded.
According to a law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Wahab Shittu, “The extension of tenure by The Gambia National Assembly is unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void and illegal. It is a subversion of democracy. Jammeh lost an election and should vacate the office. His holding on to power outside the statutory provisions is a threat to the regional peace; and ECOWAS, as a regional body under the principle of being your brother’s keeper, has a duty to intervene in the interest of peace.”
The Publicity Secretary of NBA, Lagos, Emeka Nwadioke, said: “Yahya Jammeh is the architect of his own misfortune after he arbitrarily dismissed two Supreme Court justices for commuting a death sentence. This created a constitutional and judicial crisis, such that there is no competent court to hear his election petition. His efforts to stall the inauguration of the president-elect have been cut down by The Gambia’s Supreme Court.”