In a resounding caution, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged President Bola Tinubu to exercise prudence in committing the Nigerian Army to military actions without proper legislative concurrence in line with the constitution. The association emphasized the need to uphold constitutional checks and balances to preserve democratic integrity and national security.
Addressing concerns about potential deployments of the Nigerian Army to foreign military operations in the neighbouring Niger Republic with the aim of restoring democratic order in that Country, as contemplated by President Tinubu’s leadership who incidentally heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), HURIWA underscored the gravity of adhering to constitutional safeguards, calling on the National Assembly to ensure that President Tinubu follows legal protocols in matters of national security, and to fully comprehend relevant constitutional provisions and international agreements.
In a press statement issued Sunday by HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the foremost Rights Group asserted that President Tinubu’s engagement of Nigerian troops in warfare or conflict without the National Assembly’s requisite approval constitutes a breach of constitutional trust and could potentially trigger impeachment. The Association stressed the paramount significance of maintaining the foundational principle of checks and balances to safeguard democratic governance.
Amidst concerns that President Tinubu may seek authorization from the ECOWAS Parliament for military involvement in the Niger Republic, HURIWA clarified the limited recognition of the ECOWAS Parliament within the Nigerian Constitution. The Association highlighted that decisions involving military commitments require explicit consent from the National Assembly, the legitimate representative of the Nigerian people.
HURIWA pointed to Section 5 (4) of the Nigerian Constitution, which grants extensive executive powers to the President. “However, these powers are counterbalanced by constitutional safeguards, as exemplified by Subsections 5 (4) (a) and (b). These subsections stipulate that the President cannot declare a state of war between the Federation and another country without the National Assembly’s sanction and that the deployment of armed forces outside Nigeria requires prior approval from the Senate.
“Subsection 5 (4) (a) explicitly states that the President cannot declare a state of war between the Federation and another country without the sanction of a resolution from both Houses of the National Assembly, sitting in a joint session. This requirement underscored the principle of checks and balances, ensuring that decisions of such magnitude are subject to democratic scrutiny and debate.
Further, subsection 5 (4) (b) imposes the requirement for prior approval from the Senate before deploying any member of the armed forces of the Federation on combat duty outside Nigeria. This provision serves as an additional layer of oversight, reflecting the Constitution’s emphasis on collective decision-making in matters that impact national security”.
Additionally, HURIWA referred to Article 5, Section 80, of the Nigerian Constitution, which mandates legislative authorization for the withdrawal of funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for expenditures. The association argues that such authorization is equally essential for deploying the Nigerian Army to foreign military operations.
“Article 5, Section 80 of the Nigerian Constitution stipulates that no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those funds has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly. Such legislative authorization is equally crucial for the deployment of the Nigerian Army to foreign military operations”.
Likewise, HURIWA challenged President Tinubu’s reliance on the ECOWAS Parliament’s authorization for military action. The association asserted that the Nigerian Constitution does not grant the ECOWAS Parliament the constitutional authority to sanction the deployment of Nigerian troops in foreign territories. HURIWA further observed that even the so-called ECOWAS Parliament has refused to permit the use of military force to unseat the coupists who seized power by the barrels of the guns in Niger Republic.
“Adopted in 1999 and ratified by all 15 ECOWAS Member States in 2001, the ECOWAS Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Security outlines the mechanisms for ECOWAS’ intervention in member states’ conflicts under specified circumstances. This protocol establishes a framework for regional cooperation in maintaining peace and security while also safeguarding the principles of sovereignty and non-interference”.
While underscoring the legal dimensions of the issue, HURIWA also, highlighted other crucial considerations, including constitutional integrity, preservation of legitimacy, national security implications, operational aspects, and national interests. The association emphasized that adherence to constitutional safeguards is essential for upholding democratic principles and the rule of law.
However, HURIWA acknowledged the complexities President Tinubu faces as both the President of Nigeria and the Chairman of ECOWAS. Hence, the association underscored the necessity for expert advice across legal, diplomatic, and operational/military domains to ensure decisions are in Nigeria’s best interests.
Ultimately, HURIWA called on President Tinubu to prioritize the rule of law, democratic norms, and the constitutional balance of power. Simultaneously, the Association urged the National Assembly to assert its constitutional responsibility, safeguarding the nation’s interests and ensuring military engagements follow lawful procedures. “Failure to do so could risk the National Assembly’s legitimacy being relegated to a perception of usurpation rather than representation. Moreover, HURIWA kicks against any deployment of the military in Niger Republic when in Nigeria, we are buffeted and enveloped by armed insurgency of diverse dimensions, terrorism, armed banditry and incessant attacks of farmers by armed Fulani terrorists. The Rights group maintains that the President of Nigeria had better focused on putting to an end our internal contradictions and the ceaseless bloodshed by armed terrorists rather than dissipate energy and fritter scarce resources fighting another people’s war.”