By CHIEF MIKE OZEKHOME, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D.
The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai has just stirred the hornest ‘s nest when he declared that the Northwest Governors and neighboring Niger Republic may be forced to consider inviting mercenaries to help fight insecurity in their areas.
The engagement of external mercenaries is akin to deployment of the military to repel and contain external aggression.
It has to do with the command and operational use of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, whether in peace times, war,or under a state of emergency. All of these are solely and wholly vested in the president, with some moderational effect by the NASS.See sections 217,218, 219 and 305 of the 1999 Constitution. These are federal matters. Only the president of Nigeria who doubles as the Commander -in-Chief has the constitutional powers to carry thses out. Even the Police is,by virtue of sections 214 and 215 of the 1999 Constitution, squarely under the purview of the Federal government.
No state government under our constitutional democracy and legal regime can unilaterally act to invite mercenaries to Nigeria. It is ultra vires their powers. Their only resort is a collaborative rapprochement with the Federal government. However, they can tackle their state security matters within the permissible limits of our constitutional organogram.
By the way, I thought these are the same Governors that opposed their Southern counterparts when they decided to make anti-grazing laws last year, to protect their territories? They had kicked against such a pre-emptive security measure that was perfectly within the constitutional competence of such states.They always forget that there is always a tomorrow.
I wrote tons of articles and made several television advocacy appearances, denouncing this clueless and unpatriotic stance of these Governors. I had encouraged the Southern states Governors last year to go ahead and promulgate such state laws that are not in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution. Such Governors are constitutionally permitted to set up local vigilante groups to defend their individual enclaves.
But, no state is ever permitted to extend direct invitations to mercenaries to invade Nigeria under the thin disguise of enforcing security. Were some of these same Northern states Governors who had invited and brought in these rampaging bandits and mercenaries from neighboring countries to help vote for them into their various offices during the 2019 elections? Why are they now moaning,mourning and weeping ?
I commend to them the immortal poetic words of a confessional prose of Martin Niemoller ( 1892-1892), a German theologian and Lutheran Pastor who had opposed the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler and spent the last 7 years of Nazi rule in concentration camps during the holocaust. He said famously:
“first they came for the Communists ,I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews,and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me”. Whenever you throw a stone into the market, you may never know who will be the target. When you point one finger at others, the remaining four are pointing at you. When you bring an ants-infested piece of firewood into the house, you should never complain about an invasion of lizards. Let us all be careful. Today is the tomorrow we discussed yesterday. Happy Sunday, Lent and Ramadan seasons to all Nigerians.