LEGAL NUGGETS (47): The Concept of National Security And national Interest.By Adedotun Habeeb Adetunji LL.M (M.IoD), FCAI.


"The concept of national security and national interest should always be interpreted and operated in the context of service to the people and the protection of their legitimate interests and aspirations."

ISSUE: PUBLIC POWER-Powers of the State Security Service/agents and how same should be exercised

"Appellants appear to be grandstanding and showing vehemence in the assertion of their claim to duties;apparently abhorring or resisting being faulted, once they have decided on what constitutes their line of duties. I do not think Appellants can, in the name of maintaining national security or protection of national facilities, be allowed to ride rough shod on the same public they are meant to protect, and to stampede, harass, intimidate, assault and batter the Respondents, disrupting their legitimate gathering/assembly, without any just cause. It is common knowledge that an NYSC camp in Nigeria, in recent times, is a highly regimented, regulated and secured arena, manned by military personnel and other security agencies, and so it is difficult to imagine how the Respondents would invade such a secured place and carry out their activities of youth orientation, without the authority, permission or support of the NYSC! Appellants did not disclose who lodged complaint against the Respondents, that they invaded the NYSC Camp. If the NYSC Coordinator or Commandant at the camp did not complain against the presence of the Respondents and/or lodge complaint against their activities, and invited Appellants to act against the Respondents, Appellants have no basis to kick and cannot explain or justify their overzealousness and meddlesomeness in the legitimate activities of the Respondents at the Camp, and the disruption of the lawful association/assembly of the Respondents, especially as there is/was an existing Court judgments in FHC/ABJ/CS/613/07 and FHC/ABJ/CS/231/2010, etc, upholding the legitimacy of the 1st Applicant, as against the hostility of Appellants herein. (See pages 55 - 65 of the Records of Appeal).
The 1st Appellant and its leadership (including 2nd and 3rd Appellants) are established and regulated by law and must act within the confines of the law in the exercise of their discretion; they cannot be arbitrary, excessive or overzealous in service, to undermine the constitutional and fundamental rights of the members of the public they are enjoined to protect, defend and serve. The concept of national security and national interest should always be interpreted and operated in the context of service to the people and the protection of their legitimate interests and aspirations. Some words of caution and counseling were employed in the case of Elephant Group Plc Vs. National Security Adviser & Anor. (2018) LPELR - 45528 CA, on the exercise of the responsibilities of the National Security, when this Court, per Georgewill, JCA, said: "... thus the powers of the National Security Adviser, particularly, in the light of the increased use IED by the insurgents, appear to be and indeed is enormous in issues of national security, though the use of such enormous powers by the NSA, I must state, must be within the confines of the rule of law. However, in such times of resultant threats to public peace, lives and property, it appears, but regrettably so, in my view, that the rights of the individual takes the back seat in preference for public good! See Asari Dokubo Vs. FRN (2009) Vol. 37 NSCOQ 1146 at 1184. See also Chief of Defence Staff & Anor. Vs. Modu Alhaji Tijah (Makama) (2016) LPELR - 40818 CA... in the exercise of his enormous powers, the National Security Adviser, as I have stated earlier, must do so within the confines and dictates of the rule of law, thus, notwithstanding the enormous powers of the National Security Adviser and the undeniable fact that National Security is of utmost importance to both the Government and the citizens, for without it there can be no safety of lives and properties of the citizens, yet the Court would not remain silent where there is proved brazen breach of the right of the citizen..."
Of course, the scenario painted in this case, at hand, is far less than the one in Elephant Group Plc Vs. National Security Adviser & Anor. (supra), which related to the situation in the North East, where insurgency by Boko Haram, and the use of IED by insurgents have created a state of emergency. Even then, the NSA was still expected to act within the confines of the rule of law.
Much more compliance with the rule of law, I think, would be expected of the Appellants in this case, at hand, where the Respondents were doing their legitimate business in the NYSC camp, having been permitted to be there, as a recognized youth oriented organization, for training of their new members. See page 230 of the Records of Appeal, which shows that the Respondents had the permission of the NYSC and the government to train the youths." Per MBABA, JCA.(Pp.19-23,Paras.F-E)

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