20 May 2013

Nigeria: Monday Discourse - Finally, the Real Terror War Begins


The state of emergency declared in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States by President Goodluck Jonathan has expectedly heightened the debate on how to tackle insecurity in the country. Olawale Olaleye, Ademola Adeyemo and Shola Oyeyipo write

Almost a week after the deployment of troops in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, following the declaration of a quasi-state of emergency by President Goodluck Jonathan last Tuesday, troops have not only settled in, they have also been able to put the Boko Haram camp in disarray following a heavy attack on their enclaves.

Jonathan, who immediately ordered the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, to deploy troops in the states in order to end the impunity of the terrorists, also directed Ibrahim to use the entire arsenal at his disposal to arrest and detain suspected terrorists, take over any suspicious building and detain persons suspected to be in possession of arms.

Exercising the powers conferred on him by Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan, who insisted that it had become necessary to take an extraordinary measure to run side-by-side the ongoing efforts at dialogue and persuasion, stated that the move had become inevitable because the terrorists have constituted themselves into threats to the sovereignty of the country and thereby declared war against it, adding that as a responsible government, he would not tolerate such actions.

He alluded to the "protracted security challenges in some parts of the country, particularly in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau and most recently Bayelsa, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa States," and specifically condemned the killing of security operatives by the Ombatse cultists in Nasarawa State," adding, "No effort or expense will be spared in identifying and bringing to justice all those who had a hand in the killing of the operatives.

"Already, some northern parts of Borno State have been taken over by groups whose allegiance is to different flags and ideologies. These terrorists 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," the president said in justifying his action.

Barely 24 hours after the ordering of troops, the military carried out the instruction and announced "massive" deployment of its men to the three states where Islamist insurgents have seized territory. Also, there were reports that fighter jets had been deployed to the north-east, raising the possibility that the federal government might carry out air strikes within its own territory.

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) had also said the increased presence of troops in the states would enable the military to secure the borders of the affected states to ensure effective policing, cordon-off and search operations. This is in addition to the fact that troops had equally been sent to all the northern flanks of Nigeria's borders in a bid to rout the terrorists.

Thus, in what many would rather the first time that Jonathan came out strongly over the increasing insecurity in the country by not just talking tough but also acting tough, the declaration of a state of emergency in the three states has stoked serious debate in the country and beyond, on the rationality of the president's action. But considering the debate, what is the Nigerian history of emergency declaration?

Emergency Rules in Nigeria

1962: The first emergency rule in Nigeria was declared in 1962 by the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government to contain the political insurgency in the defunct Western Region. A medical doctor, the late Dr. Moses Koyejo Majekodunmi, was subsequently appointed sole administrator of the region. The crisis erupted when the then Premier of the region, the late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, was removed from office by the government which appointed the late Chief Dauda Adegbenro to succeed him.

The development sparked off a violent crisis in the Western House of Assembly as Adegbenro and Akintola's supporters clashed since the two leaders had continued to lay claims to the premiership of the region. However, the federal parliament, in exercise of its powers under the 1960 Constitution, approved state of emergency in the West.

1967: In May 1967, former military head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, proclaimed a state of emergency in the defunct Eastern Region following the secession and declaration of the eastern region as an independent republic by the late Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was then the military governor of the region.

2004: Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 18, 2004, declared an emergency rule in Plateau State, following the sectarian strife that claimed hundreds of lives and property. Obasanjo explained that the decision to impose a state of emergency on the state was based on the need to protect the stability and corporate existence of Nigeria. A retired General, Chris Alli, was appointed as the sole administrator of the state for a period of six months.

2006: Ekiti State also witnessed emergency rule for six months which started from October 19, 2006, when Obasanjo, suspended Governor Ayodele Fayose, and members of the State House of Assembly following protracted political imbroglio. In place, however, the president appointed retired General Adetunji Olurin, as sole administrator. According to Obasanjo, the emergency rule was imperative in order to ensure that peace and orderliness returned to the state.

2011: On December 31, 2011, President Jonathan declared an emergency rule in 15 local government council areas, covering Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger States in an effort to curb terrorism and ethno-religious clashes unleashed on the affected areas by the Boko Haram sect and other disgruntled elements. Jonathan, while making the declaration said the measure was aimed at ending the reign of terror in those parts of the country.

The proclamation of a state of emergency in the four states came in the wake of terrorist attacks on churches in Niger, Yobe and Plateau States on Christmas day in 2011, the bloodiest celebration in Nigeria's history, in which over 50 people were reportedly killed and scores of others injured.

2013: The latest in emergency rule was last Tuesday, when history again beckoned Jonathan to act decisively and declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States. This followed increasing violent attacks on security personnel by the Boko Haram sect in the affected states. The president, while imposing emergency rule on the states, said the nation was facing a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose very serious threat to Nigeria's sovereignty.

Again, before the arguments are considered in the ensuing debate, what does the constitution say on the declaration of emergency rule?

Constitutional Guidelines

Section 305 (1-6) of the 1999 Constitution as amended says the president may by instrument published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in the Federation or any part thereof.

According to section(2), the President shall immediately after the publication, transmit copies of the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation, containing the proclamation including the details of the emergency to the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, each of which shall forthwith convene or arrange for a meeting of the House of which he is President or Speaker, as the case may be, to consider the situation and decide whether or not to pass a resolution approving the Proclamation.

However, section (3) specifically states that 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; or

(g) The president receives a request to do so in accordance with the provisions of subsection (4) of this section.

Thus, section (4) states further that the governor of a state may, with the sanction of a resolution supported by two-third majority of the House of Assembly, request the president to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in the State when there is in existence within the State any of the situations specified in subsection (3) (c), (d) and (e) of this section and such situation does not extend beyond the boundaries of the State.

Section (5) contends that the president shall not issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in any case to which the provisions of subsection (4) of this section apply unless the Governor of the State fails within a reasonable time to make a request to the president to issue such Proclamation.

But section (6) states that a proclamation issued by the president under this section shall cease to have effect:

(a) if it is revoked by the president by instrument published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation;

(b) if it affects the Federation or any part thereof and within two days when the National Assembly is in session, or within ten days when the National Assembly is not in session, after its publication, there is no resolution supported by two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly approving the Proclamation;

(c) after a period of six months has elapsed since it has been in force:

Provided that the National Assembly may, before the expiration of the period of six months aforesaid, extend the period for the Proclamation of the state of emergency to remain in force from time to time

for a further period of six months by resolution passed in like manner; or

(d) at any time after the approval referred to in paragraph (b) or the extension referred to in paragraph (c) of this subsection, when each House of the National Assembly revokes the Proclamation by a simple majority of all the members of each House.

The Row

Expectedly, the declaration of state of emergency in the three states has attracted a debate that has pitted various individuals and interest groups against each other. Some contended that going by the conditions stipulated in the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the president needed not to have gone on air and make a big deal of the proclamation since the governors and other elected representatives would remain in office.

Instead, the president, those who canvassed this position said, should have met with the elected representatives and the security chiefs to perfect the plan and quietly move in to contain the growing menace. These people believed that the debate generated by the president's action was as a result of the indiscretion on the part of the federal government in managing the crisis in the states.

Others held that the emergency declaration was necessary but the modality was flawed. Whilst some believed that the idea of suspending elected representatives was a military approach, there were those who contended that the situation in those states called for military action since the civil approach had failed to restore order.

Besides, since it is the same elected representatives that had failed to contain the terror, they argued that keeping them there was of no consequence in the resolve to whip the insurgents in line. But many more arguments were against this position because nowhere in the constitution is the president granted the powers to remove an elected official.

State of Security

Here, certain facts are basic. First, it must be understood that the police are trained principally to combat armed robbers and other related crimes in maintaining law and order. The military, however, is trained to defend the territorial integrity of the nation while only the State Security Service has some requisite training in anti-terror. Unfortunately, most of the SSS men are now security details to Very Important Personalities in the country even though there are only about 25000 of them in a country of 170 million people.

Importantly again, anti-terror training is not done overnight. And to think that Boko Haram and the likes are financed and trained by Al Qaeda (not Northern politicians, as believed by many Nigerians) makes the fight against terror a tough one.

It therefore must be noted that force, in this case as in others, cannot for certain, end terrorism since it is not a territorial war where there are physical borders and battle lines. This, of course, explains why the United States government had to quit Iraq and Afghanistan and even now negotiating with Taliban, after deploying force for about 10 years in the fight against terrorism. In those period, the US, according to records, lost over 4000 soldiers and spent trillions of dollars and yet did not win the war against terror.

It is as a result of this obvious uncertainty and huge difficulty that some observers who have fair knowledge in the terror war would rather that Nigeria continues with military operations, grant amnesty to those willing to come forward and enforce incapacitation of religious extremism through economic measures and moral suasion. But most instructively, government must be seen as addressing the economic problems through education and skill acquisition, to effectively engage the willing tools of terrorism.

Now, the Debate...

Since President Jonathan lost it in January 2012, when he removed subsidy on petrol, there was hardly anything he has done that attracted the overwhelming support of the Nigerian people, even when such a move was deemed appropriate in the estimation of every right-thinking person. It was therefore almost certain that the declaration of emergency rule in the three North-eastern states would follow same pattern.

Although, the president is still very much unpopular as confirmed by a recent NOI Polls with a further four-point drop in his rating, the expectation was ordinarily that the declaration of a state of emergency at a time when the economy of many of the northern states has become comatose would be embraced by all. Unfortunately, this has not been so as the proclamation has further widened the rift among the people.

Below are some of the arguments put forward in favour and against the declaration of a state of emergency in the three states.

National Assembly: Although, the two chambers of the National Assembly as critical stakeholders in this are yet to consider the emergency proclamation, the Senate and the House of Representatives may have however backed the president's action. Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the Senate was in full support of the state of emergency declared in the affected three states.

Abaribe told a national daily in a telephone chat that the Senate would eventually give its approval to Jonathan's declaration of emergency rule in the three states when he transmits the declaration to the Senate.

In the same vein, the House of Representatives spokesman, Hon. Zakari Mohammed said "it is a right step in the right direction" adding that the House was "fully in support of the presidency's resolution since this is in the interest of the security of the nation."

But the deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Suleiman Kawu Sumaila (ANPP, Kano), thought the declaration of a state of emergency came rather too late and would not stop the terrorist attacks in the affected states. Kawu whose state is also being attacked but not affected by the emergency rule, said the action would have been effective two years ago and not now that only a civil process can make a difference.

"This is what we have told them to do since two years ago but they refused. It appeared to us then that the executive was enjoying what was happening. Now it is too late because the crisis can only be solved through civil means and not military.

"For two years the president refused to visit those areas. Even when there was a massacre in Baga, as commander-in-chief, he again failed the people by refusing to go and see things for himself and comfort the people. The government refused to act at the appropriate time and now it's only reacting when the situation has deteriorated."

ACF: But the Arewa Consultative Forum has kicked against the state of emergency. The ACF, in a one paragraph statement by its spokesman, Anthony, said "We had earlier expressed our doubt about the workability of the state of emergency in bringing to an end the security challenges".

CPC, ACN Differ: Interestingly, while the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) supported Jonathan on the declaration of emergency because there is the need to restore peace to the troubled states, its soul mate in the so-called progressive camp, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), has its reservation.

The CPC National Publicity Secretary, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, in an interview with a national daily, said "Yes, the president has full view of things more than anyone by virtue of his privileged position. He is empowered by the Nigerian constitution to declare state of emergency in these states. The fact that the political structures have not been dismantled makes it different from what his predecessor did.

"The situation in these states is dire and behooves all of us as citizens to rally round the president and ensure that peace is restored to the region. As a party, we hope this latest action will bring the elusive peace," he said.

But the ACN said one of the reasons it was opposed to the idea was because the action would make elected officials irrelevant. ACN said a better understanding of the situation would show that democratic structures would not only be sidelined but castrated in the states affected by the martial law.

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement, therefore urged members of the National Assembly to study details of the emergency rule proclamation carefully to enable them make an informed decision on the issue "so they can see it for what it is- a sweetened bitter pill meant to hoodwink Nigerians."

The statement read further: "Members of the federal legislature, as the true representatives of the people, must decide - purely on the basis of facts rather than sentiments - whether or not the emergency rule is the best option to resolve the Boko Haram crisis. Truly understanding the proclamation will enable them to make an informed decision when the issue is brought before them."

ACN contended that the emergency rule, which is essentially a martial law, has castrated democracy in the affected states, even though the democratic structures have been left largely intact.

"In practice, it was a monumental deception. First, the democratic structures left in place are of no use in a state under martial law. Second, the proclamation did not give a time frame, meaning that the emergency rule is open-ended and can last as long as the president wishes. After all, the emergency rule imposed on 15 local councils in four states was never lifted. Third, now that the president has tested the waters and realised people could be so easily hoodwinked, what prevents him from extending the emergency rule to other states that catch his fancy?

"Truly, leaving the governors and the state legislatures in place has made it easier for Nigerians to accept the imposition. But the truth is that the state chief executives and the legislatures have no role to play under the new system in place in the states.

"Essentially, there are two governments in place in each of the affected states, the de facto one headed by the military commander and the de jure one headed by the elected governor. Real power resides in the de facto government, and the de jure government is just there in name. The Governors and the members of assembly are on holiday!

"What are the powers of the governors and the state legislature now? Who has the power to order a search, an arrest, confiscation of property and lock-up of premises? Can the governors move around freely, commission or inspect a project without the tacit approval of the military commander?

"Which is superior: the proclamation by the military commander or the law made by the state legislature? What happens if the military commanders order that the State House of Assembly be locked up for allegedly harbouring suspected Boko Haram members? These are some of the questions that should be asked before this proclamation is allowed to stand," the party said.

HURIWA: The Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has also thrown its weight behind Jonathan's declaration of partial state of emergency in the terrorism-afflicted north-eastern states.

The rights group, however, urged all democrats, including leading political opposition figures, to rally round the president in this bold attempt to tackle and confront the hydra-headed monster of violent terrorism anywhere in Nigeria.

HURIWA, in a release signed its national coordinator, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, and national media affairs director, Ms Zainab Yusuf, however asked the president to disband the presidential committee on amnesty to terrorists headed by his minister for special duties Mr. Tanimu Turaki (SAN), noting that the continuous negotiation with "mass murderers" will inevitably undermine the constitution of Nigeria and embolden law breakers and prospective terrorists and criminals to have a false sense of confidence and belief that terrorism and violence pays.

Falana: Activist lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has also backed the president over the declaration of emergency in the states, saying the president must ensure that impunity is brought to an end in the country. Falana said this in a statement issued in the wake of the declaration.

"While appealing for approval of the declaration, the National Assembly should appropriate adequate funds for upgrading the security of the nation. In the face of incessant terrorist attacks, kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes, the federal government ought to stop paying lip service to the security of life and property in the country. It is not sufficient to deploy more troops in the affected states if the terrorists and other nihilist groups have more sophisticated weapons than the Joint Task Force.

"However, President Jonathan deserves commendation for acting within the ambit of the constitution. Unlike President Olusegun Obasanjo who illegally removed elected governors under the guise of a state of emergency, President Jonathan has not dissolved democratic structures in the affected states. That is in order because an elected governor can only be removed by impeachment, resignation or on ground of infirmity of body or mind and not through a state of emergency.

Obanikoro: Former Nigeria's High Commissioner to Ghana and Chairman, Industrial Training Funds (ITF), Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, commended Jonathan for the declaration of emergency rule in some parts of the country, saying his action was right politically, morally and religiously.

The senator who said the action was long overdue noted that the president had not only acted in good faith, but had taken a patriotic step that would go a long way in the political history of the country in the quest for lasting peace in the north.

"Thank God the president has done the right thing politically, morally and religiously. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost unjustly as a result of the madness and recklessness of a few disgruntled elements. They have negatively impacted and eroded our values, our way of life and the integrity of our country," he said.

Obanikoro said the menace constituted by the activities of the Boko Haram sect and other anti-social groups have destroyed the economy of the north and by extension, brought untold hardship on the people of this country.

"They have inflicted untold hardship on all of us psychologically and physically. This is not the time for partisanship but time for patriotism. May God bless President Jonathan and the Federal Republic of Nigeria," he said.

Obanikoro however urged the government and people of the affected states to see this as a sincere intervention by the president and cooperate with the authorities in the collective search for lasting peace in the states, adding that he was optimistic that the tide of lawlessness would soon become a thing of the past.

"The cooperation of the governments and people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States is crucial at this time. It is important that they see this as a sincere and patriotic intervention on the part of the president. The madness cannot go on any further; they must appreciate the courage and the need for what the president has done in good faith and for the progress of the states."

Festus: Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Festus Keyamo, issued a strong warning to the federal government not to politicise the action, even though he agreed the action should have been taken earlier than now. "The president is left with no other option but to take the extraordinary step.

"It is constitutionally correct that the president did not attempt to suspend the governors from office as nothing in Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, gives him such a power."

According to Keyamo, what Obasanjo did in the past by suspending governors through a declaration of a state of emergency was "illegal, unconstitutional, null and void."

He also advised the military to be careful to ensure that they do not trample on the fundamental rights of innocent and law abiding citizens in these states, so that they do not become the scourge rather than solution.

Agbaje: Another Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Fred Agbaje, said the decision of the federal government to allow the governors and members of the State Houses of Assembly to continue in office, was hypocritical.

While also querying the rationale behind the federal government's foot dragging in taking decisive action by declaring state of emergency in those northern states, Agbaje said: "Considering the criminal malady going on in some northern states, is the so-called state of emergency not comestically hypocritical as they relates to PDP control states.

"The action should have been taken since the eve of the day the Boko Haram rejected the amnesty so as to stem the criminal malady going on in the north which has unpardonably led to the breakdown of law and order, irretrievably."

"Why give those affected governors and legislators retention of their offices as against outright suspension? Why set up amnesty committee with tax payers' money when amnesty had been rejected by the beneficiary?" Agbaje asked.

In the final analysis, apart from the economic and social implications arising from the presidential decision, the political consideration is also critical, coming a few months to the campaign for the next elections. Therefore, success or failure of the military occupation in the three north-eastern states is certainly a factor in the political future of the president. Not only has the decision come at an indeed a tough time, it has also come at a trying period for the president.

Analysts believed that a time-to-time review of the military operation is a must for the authorities in order to ascertain that the troops are governed by the rules of engagement and utmost professionalism.

Above all, it must be established with evidence that the recalcitrant insurgents have been flushed out to show that the initiative is not an effort in futility.

No doubt, the debate is necessary as long it is not guided by sheer politics. But the troops must be made to know that the single overriding objective of this operation is result, achieved within the defined rules of engagement.

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