On May 13, 2014, the Senate and House of Representatives in their separate sittings read the request letter of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, seeking approval of the National Assembly to further extend the extant state of emergence in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The emergency rule was first declared in May 2013 by the President as part of government’s effort to quell the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect in the affected states situated in the northeastern part of the country. It was extended by another six months upon its expiration in November last year.
In the letter addressed to Senate President, David Mark, President Jonathan said: “May I respectfully draw your attention to the State of Emergency Proclamation 2013, in respect of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, which was approved by the National Assembly.
“By virtue of the provisions of Section 305(6)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the proclamation aforementioned would have elapsed after six months from the date of approval of the National Assembly.
“However, after due consideration of the representations made to the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the effect that, while substantial progress had been made to contain the situation and restore normalcy in the affected states, the security situation that necessitated the proclamation of a state of emergency was yet to abate.
“It would be recalled that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had upon consideration of the realities of the security situation in the affected states that had been placed before it, graciously approved by resolution, the extension of the state of emergency for a further term of six months from the date of expiration of the subsisting period.
“Distinguished senators, the security situation in the three states remains daunting, albeit to varying degrees, in the face of persistent attacks by members of the Boko Haram sect on civilian and military targets with alarming casualty rates.
“In view of the foregoing, I most respectfully request distinguished senators to consider and approve by resolution, the extension of the proclamation of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States by a further term of six months from the date of expiration of the current term.
“I look forward, distinguished Senate President, to the usual kind expeditious consideration of this request by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Jonathan’s request for the extension of the emergency rule in the three states appears to have generated divergent reactions from Nigerians. While some feel there was no need for the extension, others argued that for the singular fact that the security situation has continued unabated as noted in the President’s letter, his request should be granted by the National Assembly.
Stiff opposition against further elongation of the emergency rule is coming from the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), northern Senators and governors of the affected states. The governors, Alhaji Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Alhaji Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) in a joint statement rejected the President’s request and urged members of the National Assembly to discard it.
The governors said: “On the issue of extension of state of emergency, it is our considered view that there is absolutely no reason to even contemplate an extension of the state of emergency in any of the three states. “It must be noted that a counter insurgency strategy that lasted one year without achieving the desired result requires a redefinition rather than extension.
“The Federal Government should always remember that it has the obligation of protecting the lives and property of all Nigerians in all parts of the country without necessarily putting them under any special condition. “It has the option of putting a security structure in place that can continue and intensify ongoing counter insurgency operations without an extension of emergency rule.”
However, some prominent lawyers in the country threw their weight behind the request, noting that the military should be given another opportunity to deal with the situation, having failed to do so in the subsisting term of state of emergency.
A constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said Nigerians should give the military the last chance to redeem their battered image in the affected states by backing the emergency rule extension. Sagay, who though see the abduction of about 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State by members of the Boko Haram sect as a great indictment on the military, notwithstanding, he implored the National Assembly to grant Jonathan’s request.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, “Neither the military nor the federal government has really made productive use of the extra powers and authority they were given under the emergency regime. They have not really made good use of it. So, in a way they have failed and our military has been a do-nothing military as far as this crisis of Boko Haram is concerned despite all the powers they have.”
Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Mr. Yinka Farounbi, called for a combined effort in tackling the security challenges facing the country, particularly in the northeastern states. For him, “The state of emergency should be extended but the Federal Government must work hand-in-hand with the various state governments to make sure the campaign against Boko Haram is sustained.
As a start, the Federal Government should provide military protection for all schools, markets and other public infrastructure in those areas.”
Commenting on the issue, the immediate past Chairman of Abuja chapter of NBA, and an aspirant for the position of the General Secretary in the 2014 NBA election holding in July, Barr. Mazi Afam Osigwe, said: “My take is that though it may appear that the existing emergency rule have not achieved any meaningful result from what we have on ground, I will not say that the request for an extension is totally unnecessary.
There is need for it to still be in place. What we need to do now is to adopt new strategy; ensure that we put in more soldiers; work on improving our intelligence gathering capacity and ensure better surveillance. There should be proper coordination among the various security bodies. In fact, the security agencies should have a kind of clearing house where they will be able to work together to ensure an effective exchange of information that will assist them in curbing this very ugly incident of Boko Haram insurgency.”
Meanwhile, members of House of Representatives on Thursday approved the request of Mr. President via a resolution reached after a close-door session with the country’s security chiefs that lasted a period of two hours. On the same day, Senate on its part deferred consideration of Jonathan’s plea after a five-hour close-door meeting with national security chiefs to give room for more consultations.
I commend the members of the Green Chamber for their prompt consideration and endorsement of the request, not minding the opposition against it in some quarters which in a way seems to have some sort of political undertone. Our Senators should as a matter of urgency, concur with the resolution of House of Representative so that we can move on in the struggle to checkmate the heinous act of terrorism by the Boko Haram sect.
The time has come for us to put aside our political, ethnic and religious differences and rally round the government in fighting this deadly group that has caused the death of over 2,000 people in the last one year and made about 6,000 Nigerians to become refugees in neighboring countries while currently holding about 300 schoolgirls hostage.
Now that we are getting the necessary support and assistance from the international community, we must stop the blame game and be seen to be united as a people to squarely face the battle to rescue the innocent girls in the hands of these monsters and stamp out terrorism from our dear country, Nigeria. It is my hope that we shall certainly get out of this quagmire that we find ourselves, provided we do not continue to politicize it and we stop the unnecessary apportionment of blame.
Michael Jegede, a journalist and public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters