Following the Christmas day bombing at St Theresa’s Catholic Church Madalla, Niger State, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 15 local councils in the north – perceived hotbeds of anti-state insurrection. LEADERSHIP SUNDAY’s SHUAIB SHUAIB and CHIBUNMA UKWU appraise the political nuances behind the move.
After one whole year of terror attacks, the government on December 31, 2011 declared a state of emergency in some 15 local governments across the North East and North Central parts of the country. With President Goodluck Jonathan himself addressing the country, he narrowed the insecurity in the country to Boko Haram and traced all their activities to the North East. Jonathan in his address said, “Fellow Nigerians, it has become necessary to address you on recent events in some parts of the country that have threatened our collective security and shaken the foundations of our corporate existence as a nation.
“You are all aware of the security challenges which the activities of the Boko Haram sect have foisted on the country. What began as sectarian crises in the North Eastern parts of the country have gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security.”
The president also came out to suggest that his presidency has not stood by idle while events unfolded but has been instead making one effort after another to end the crisis.
He said, “Government in an effort to find a lasting solution to the security threats occasioned by the activities of the Boko Haram sect, constituted a Presidential Committee under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the crises. While efforts are being made to implement the recommendations of the Committee, the crises have assumed a terrorist dimension with vital institutions of government including the United Nations Building and places of worship becoming targets of terrorist attacks.”
The affected local governments are Maidugiri Metropolitan, Gamboru Ngala, Banki Bama, Biu and Jere all in Borno State. In Yobe State there is Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujba and Gasua-Bade In Plateau State the local governments are Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom and the fifteenth local government is Suleja in Niger State. A number of issues have been raised by the president’s address in which he declared the emergency before seeking the endorsement of the National Assembly. The president also further chose to close the country’s border’s in the affected areas, which gives the impression that the crisis is not restricted to the country alone and may have an international dimension and also why the president did not declare the emergency in the entire states affected but rather chose local governments in the states.
The president said, “While the search for lasting solutions is on-going, it has become imperative to take some decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country especially within the affected communities. Consequently, I have in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of section 305(1) of the Constitution, declared a state of emergency in the following parts of the federation.
“The details of this proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly as soon as they reconvene from their current recess, for their necessary action. The Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police have been directed to put appropriate measures in place to ensure the protection of lives and properties of residents in the affected parts of the country. I therefore urge the political leadership in the affected states and Local Government Areas to give maximum cooperation to the law enforcement agencies deployed to their respective communities to ensure that the situation is brought under control within the shortest possible time.
“The Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with other Service Chiefs, has also been directed to set up a special force unit within the Armed Forces, with dedicated counter terrorism responsibilities. As part of the overall strategy to overcome the current security challenges, I have directed the closure of the land borders contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross boarder terrorist activities as terrorists have taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of our law enforcement personnel.”
In an attempt assuage fears neighbouring countries could, Jonathan said, “Let me assure our neighbours, especially within the ECOWAS sub-region, of Nigeria’s commitment to its international obligations as provided by the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be reviewed as soon as normalcy is restored.”
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ahamba believes that state of emergency did not necessarily have to cover an entire state. He said, “It could be declared in any part thereof, I believe it covers the LGs. Anyone can administer over these LGAS. It is anyone who is placed there by the president that will run the administration. It could be a military man or a civilian like me. It does not necessarily mean it will be a soldier; the point is that the person will exercise emergency powers as authorized by the president.” On the powers of the president to declare the state of emergency without first going to the National Assembly, Ahamba said, “I believe he can do that if the situation calls for that. Section 305, 1 & 2, of the constitution states that he can proclaim state of emergency in Nigeria or part thereof or immediately thereafter, transmit the proclamation to the president and the senate of the federal house of representatives. So he acted within his powers.”
Other than the legal issues that Ahamba has addressed, questions have however been asked about how comfortable the governors of the affected state will be with any future arrangement in the administration of these state, particularly in the management of local government funds and the implications they could have in years to come. But the governors in the affected states have made public show of support for the emergency declared. While Governor Muazu Aliyu of Niger State has said he will work with the federal government and its security agencies to peace back to the one affected local government, a statement from the Yobe State government also gave public support for the emergency project.
“The statement said, “Governor Ibrahim Gaidam believes that the security challenges the nation faces require bold and collaborative effort to address. Long before the state of emergency declaration, the Yobe State government had worked closely with security agencies, including the Nigeria Army, the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Security Service (SSS) to ensure peace and security and the protection of life and property. The state government will continue this partnership and provide whatever assistance necessary to ensure a secure and peaceful state. The public should note that the state of emergency declaration is a security initiative. It does not affect the structure of political governance in the state.”
But former Commissioner of Police Abubakar Tsav believes that there is bound a slight conflict of interest between the federal and state government when they are both administering over these affected LGs. Tsav said, “It is very strange because if the president declared state of emergency in parts of the state, it means that the state will be administered by two different people, the governor and the one steering in the LGs who will be answerable to the president.” Tsav also believes that the government should concentrate on wiping out terrorism within Nigeria instead ascribing to ideas that Boko Haram has international links.
Importantly, the former Police Commissioner in Lagos believes one of the biggest problems in solving the Boko Haram riddle is that certain people appear to be above the law. He said, “Government should compel security agencies to do their jobs very well. Those behind Boko Haram are Nigerians that live and interact with us. They are Nigerians so why can they not be fished out? All we need is proper investigation. To me, the two problems of Nigeria are Corruption and Injustice. It has been hard to get to those behind Boko Haram because there are some people who are above the law.”
Osita Okechukwu, the national publicity secretary of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties believes that there is still a lot of politics hindering a peaceful resolution to the crisis but thinks the state of emergency declared by the president was the right thing to do. He said, “It is in a sense, its one of those issues have been there and you must start from somewhere to let those who are in charge know that there is a security problem. It had long been expected that state of emergency would have been declared in Borno and Plateau states.
“But in this case, I believe that state of emergency would have been declared in the entire states not only in the LGs. We had also thought that that Ali Modu Sheriff who ruled Borno for 8 years would have been arrested long ago because you cannot fight security without raising the stick. The position of the civilians caught in the middle in these places is however pathetic but they should cooperate by giving information to the security agencies. This is because Boko Haram boys come from people’s homes, they hold their meetings in people’s homes too. Thus, citizens should work with the security agencies to get the Boko Haram boys.
It is quite known that the objective of the Boko Haram group is to undermine their state government but it could be corrected through democratic process, not violence. When you throw stones in the market, you do not know who would be hit.” Okechukwu also has no doubt that poverty is the root cause of the crisis. He said, “It is the fact but poverty cannot be eradicated through violence. It will be solved through democratic a process, that is why we call on the northerners that they should join the southerners to vote out the PDP government at the center so things can be the way they should be, the youths should be sent to schools and the political leaders should provide services to the people.”