Underscoring his administration’s determination to confront the growing incidence of violence and insecurity in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in three northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Justifying the need for the measure, Jonathan bemoaned the breakdown of law and order in the affected states, parts of where he said insurgents had taken over.
Jonathan, who announced this in a national television broadcast, said the details of the emergency rule proclamation would be transmitted to the National Assembly.
He said, “Following recent developments in the affected states, it has become necessary for Government to take extraordinary measures to restore normalcy. After wide consultations, and in exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of Section 305, sub-section 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, I hereby declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
“Accordingly, the Chief of Defence Staff has been directed to immediately deploy more troops to these states for more effective internal security operations. The troops and other security agencies involved in these operations have orders to take all necessary actions, within the ambit of their rules of engagement, to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists.
“This will include the authority to arrest and detain suspects, the taking of possession and control of any building or structure used for terrorist purposes, the lock-down of any area of terrorist operation, the conduct of searches, and the apprehension of persons in illegal possession of weapons.
“I urge the political leadership in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to co-operate maximally with the Armed Forces and the Police to ensure that the exercise succeeds. We call on the citizenry to co-operate with our security agencies to ensure a return to normalcy within the shortest possible time.”
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Before the presidential broadcast, Jonathan had earlier in the day met with the governors of Borno and Yobe states, Kashim Shetima and Ibrahim Geidam, respectively.
Nasarawa, where members of a cult group, Omatse Militia, murdered 30 policemen late last week, however, escaped emergency rule.
Curiously, however, the President said the governors and other elected officers of the three affected states would remain in office during the emergency rule, a measure that senior lawyers, Itse Sagay and Femi Falana, hailed on Tuesday.
Sub-section 3 (a-f) of the relevant section states: The President shall have power to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency only when:
(a) The Federation is at war;
(b) The Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war;
(c) There is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security;
(d) There is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger;
(e) There is an occurrence or imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity, affecting the community or a section of the community in the Federation;
(f) There is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the Federation.
Prelude to emergency
The President said the emergency declaration became imperative because the violence in the states had defied various efforts by the government, including persuasion, dialogue and consultation.
He said from the various consultations he had with security chiefs and other stakeholders since he aborted his last foreign trip, it had become clear that the violence was no longer about mere militancy but what he called “a rebellion that poses great threat to the nation’s unity and territorial integrity.”
He said, “The activities of insurgents and terrorists have been reprehensible, causing fear among our citizens and a near-breakdown of law and order in parts of the country, especially the North. We have taken robust steps to unravel and address the root causes of these crises, but it would appear that there is a systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists to destabilise the Nigerian state and test our collective resolve.
“Since I returned to the country after cutting short my visit to South Africa and aborting a planned state visit to Namibia, I have received detailed briefings from our security agencies. These briefings indicate that what we are facing is not just militancy or criminality, but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity. Already, some northern parts of Borno State have been taken over by groups whose allegiance is to different flags and ideologies.
“These terrorists and insurgents seem determined to establish control and authority over parts of our beloved nation and to progressively overwhelm the rest of the country. In many places, they have destroyed the Nigerian flag and other symbols of state authority and in their place, hoisted strange flags suggesting the exercise of alternative sovereignty.
“They have attacked government buildings and facilities. They have murdered innocent citizens and state officials. They have set houses ablaze, and taken women and children as hostages. These actions amount to a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten her territorial integrity. As a responsible government, we will not tolerate this.
“Previously, we adopted a multi-track approach to the resolution of this problem through actions which included persuasion, dialogue and widespread consultation with the political, religious and community leaders in the affected states.
“We exercised restraint to allow for all efforts by both State Governors and well-meaning Nigerians to stop the repeated cases of mindless violence.
“Yet, the insurgents and terrorists seek to prevent government from fulfilling its constitutional obligations to the people as they pursue their fanatical agenda of mayhem, mass murder, division and separatism.”
The Senate on Tuesday said the proclamation of state of emergency in the three states was capable of stemming the tide of insecurity in the states.
Leader of the Senate, Senator Voctor Ndoma-Egba, told The PUNCH on the phone after the broadcast by the President that the formal communication was being expected as prescribed by law.
He said, “It is my hope that the state of emergency in the states will stem the tide of insecurity.
“The state of emergency did not remove the democratic institutions, but entails the increase of troops deployment to the affected areas.”
It may not work – ACF
The umbrella political body for the northern states, Arewa Consultative Forum, in a prompt reaction to the President’s proclamation on Tuesday said it doubted the workability of the emergency rule.
Spokesman for the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, in an electronic mail message to our correspondent in Kaduna, reiterated the earlier stance of the group that a state of emergency was not workable to curb insurgency in the region.
“We had earlier expressed our doubt about the workability of a state of emergency in bringing to an end the security challenges,” he said.
The northern leaders’ preferential solution to the violence in the north had been that the Federal Government should grant amnesty for the Boko Haram insurgents. Led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad, seen as the spiritual head of Muslims in the country, notable northerners had canvassed the amnesty option for peace to reign in the region though leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, had rejected any amnesty to be offered by government.
Shekau had indeed mocked the idea by saying the government should rather beg his group for amnesty.
That notwithstanding, the government had recently set up a committee to determine the propriety or otherwise of granting amnesty to Boko Haram members.
Support from , PDP, CPC, CAN
The Congress for Progressive Change and the Northern chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria on Tuesday appealed to Nigerians to rally round the President in this trying period.
They said this in separate reactions to the proclamation of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Spokesman for the CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that it was gratifying to note that the President did not remove any of the political office holders in the affected states.
Fashakin said, “We need to rally round the President in this trying period. We pray that with this action, peace will eventually return to the states.
“However, it is gratifying that the President did not behave like a former President who removed the political structures when he declared a state of emergency in some states.
“The action of President Jonathan has shown that the choice made by the people through the ballot would not be denied them. May God help our country.”
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in the two instances had imposed emergency rule on Ekiti and Plateau states during his tenure between 1999 and 2007. He removed the governors and collapsed all democratic structures in the affected states while the emergency rule lasted.
Public Relations Officer of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, Mr. Sunny Olibe, also said though belated, the President’s action was a right step in the right direction.
He said, “The declaration of emergency rule by Mr. President did not come as a surprise considering the degree of hostilities by the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
“No wise President will watch part of his country being taken over by lawless criminals without acting. It is the right step, though belated considering the number of lives lost.”
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party declared support for the President for taking the step.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the party would support every action taken by the President to restore peace to any part of the country.
“The PDP supports the President on all actions that will restore stability, peace and progress in the body polity,” Metuh said.
ANPP, ACN uncommitted
The Action Congress of Nigeria on Tuesday said it was watching the situation.
National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said, “We are still studying the situation.” The All Nigeria Peoples Party however said it was still consulting to prepare an appropriate response.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Emma Eneukwu, said, “We are still consulting to see whether we will address the press tomorrow.”
Jonathan in order – Sagay, Falana
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Itsay Sagay and Femi Falana, said Jonathan acted within constitutional provisions by not hiding under the declaration of a state of emergency to remove the governors of the affected states.Both SANs, who spoke separately with our correspondents after the the President’s address, said the constitution gave no room for the removal of a governor of a state where a state of emergency was declared.
They both came hard on Obasanjo, who according to them, indulged in “blatant illegality” and “constitutional anomaly” by removing sitting governors under the pretext of a state of emergency.
Citing Section 11 (4 and 5) of the constitution, both Sagay and Falana said that even with its endorsement of the declaration by the President , the National Assembly, cannot go ahead to remove the governors of the affected states.
Sagay said, “What Obasanjo used to do was blatantly unconstitutional and illegal. A state of emergency does not affect the sitting governor or the state house of assembly at all.
“If you look at Section 11 (4 and 5) of the Constitution, you will see that a state of emergency does not affect the tenure of the governor or the House of Assembly. The President has kept to the Constitution. If he had declared any other thing, it would have been illegal.”
Falana noted that Jonathan had not followed “the dangerous precedent of ex-President Obasanjo, who hid under the state of emergency to remove elected governors.”
He said it was still impossible for a governor to be removed even when the National Assembly took over the legislative responsibilities of the House of Assembly of a state.