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A pro-democracy and Non-Governmental Organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has cautioned the military hierarchy to desist from administering vaccination on school children as that falls outside their constitutional mandate.

HURIWA said her attention has been drawn to a fast spreading stories in the social and online media that the military currently carrying out internal military operation code named operation python dance in the South East of Nigeria were allegedly administering vaccines on school children in public and private schools as part of their corporate social responsibility.

But the Rights group stated that there are widespread perception that the outbreak of monkey pox whose immediate origin has not been sufficiently and satisfactorily uncovered by relevant authorities has fed the rumour mills with the misperception that the free vaccination exercise by the military in the South/South may have caused the outbreak of the deadly ailments thereby spreading apprehension around the South East of Nigeria. 

In a media release signed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA maintained that in as much as there is no scientifically established nexus between the free vaccination/medical  exercise/outreach by the Nigeria Army and the outbreak of the pandemic of Monkey Pox, it is still necessary that the military is stopped from performing the medical exercise since that is not the statutory mandate of the military in line with the constitutional provisions as enshrined in section 217 and 218 of the extant grundnorm governing the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

For the avoidance of doubts, the constitution in sections 217 and 218 provides thus: “217.-(1) There shall be an armed forces for the Federation which shall consist of an Army, a Navy, an Air Force and such other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly. (2)   The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of ;- (a)    Defending Nigeria from external aggression;(b)   Maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air;(c)    suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the president, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and(d)   Performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. (3)   The composition of the officer corps and other ranks of the armed forces of the Federation shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria.

Also HURIWA cited section 218.(1) as stating that:   "The powers of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation shall include power to determine the operational use of the armed forces of the Federation.(2)   The powers conferred on the President by subsection (1) of this section shall include power to appoint the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff and heads of any other branches of the armed forces of the Federation as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.(3)   The President may, by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as he may think fit, delegate to any member of the armed forces of the Federation his powers relating to the operational use of the Armed Forces of the Federation.(4)   The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the regulation of :-(a)    The powers exercisable by the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation; and(b)   The appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of members of the armed forces of the Federation”.

HURIWA therefore asked the military to restrict their functions and operations to the specific roles assigned to them by all the relevant laws since the military is a creation of the Constitution and not a government onto itself.

“The Nigeria Army must stick to her statutory role of protecting the territorial integrity of Nigeria. If in any case the Nigeria Army has a plan to provide free medical services, the military institution must do so in active partnership with the Federal and State Ministries of health to avoid this kind of pedestrian speculation on the real intention of the exercise”.

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