State Of Emergency: How Subtle Threat, Others Made Northern Senators Do A U-turn
The unanimous approval of the extension of emergency rule without a single dissenting voice in the Senate last week was not expected.
Given the level of threat by Northern senators under the aegis of Northern Senators’ Forum (NSF) to stop Jonathan’s extension plan, none had expected that it would go without resistance even though there were hopes that it would eventually sail through despite the threat.
But as it is characteristic of the Senate to settle members’ differences indoors only to announce victory in the open, two different executive sessions consecutively convened by Senate President David Mark pulled the trigger and put paid to the wild threat by the Northern senators penultimate Wednesday.
A subtle threat was all that was needed to swing some of the hard-line northern senators to support the extension of the state of emergency in the three north-east states.
It was learnt that the northern senators, had to succumb to a superior argument marshalled out by the president of the Senate, David Mark, in his office before the plenary session.
A source among the northern senators disclosed that, despite the division in their ranks, other factors ranging from the demand of the foreign interventionist troops helped to whip everybody into line.
The source revealed that Senator Mark, who on resumption after a duty tour of China summoned the northern senators to his office ahead of the day’s plenary session, parleyed with them on the need for the extension of the state of emergency for six more months.
Mark, the source further revealed, told the senators that it would not even be in the interest of the three states and their civil administrations to dismiss what the service chiefs had told the senators behind closed door penultimate week.
The service chiefs, it was learnt, had told the lawmakers that the three states could be overrun within three months without the emergency in place.
“With this glaring fact, we also reasoned that there could be an emergence of fifth columnists if only to blackmail us afterwards. At this point, it became obvious that we had limited choice left other than to embrace the emergency extension,” said the source.
It was also gathered that the northern senators were told of the insistence of the American government on the need for the emergency to allow it an unfettered political environment to operate.
“With the combination of other political pressures, it dawned on the northern senators that there was little they could do, hence they caved in,” the source further said.
Therefore, the senators opted to adopt a win-win approach to arrive at a consensus. It was this approach that prompted the resolution at the meeting which mandated Senator Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna North) to draft the eight conditions upon which the extension must run. The conditions placated the agenda’s opponents especially with the agreement that if at any time the Senate considers the emergency rule to be unnecessary, it would wield the big stick by accordingly revoking it. The conditions are:
• That the Federal Government should expand military cooperation and collaboration with the international community on the rescue of the over 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok, Borno State;
• That the government should not only provide adequate welfare for the troops deployed to arrest insurgency in parts of the country, they should be properly kitted and armed;
• That full military operation be undertaken on sustained basis to defeat the insurgents;
• That there should be special recruitments into armed forces of screened youths, particularly those in the civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) to beef up the number of troops in the troubled states and win the hearts of the local people;
• That the Federal Government, in conjunction with state governments, should come out with an Economic Marshal Plan to revive the economy of the economically and educationally-backward parts of the country;
• That the government should seek and secure multi-lateral support for the marshal plan.
• That the ministers of defence and police affairs; the National Security Adviser; and the Director-General, Department of State Services should report to the Senate on a monthly basis, progress made in combating the insurgents.
• That President Goodluck Jonathan should prepare and submit to the National Assembly, supplementary budget to meet any financial requirements for combating the insurgents; and
• That Mr. President should immediately approve intervention funds for the affected states for development.
After reaching a consensus, the doors of the chamber were open to journalists and concerned Nigerians who had hung around to watch how the plenary would go. These categories of people who had expected a heated debate on the extension move were shocked when Mark reported the resolution at the meeting.
He said: “At the executive session, the Senate resolved to extend emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Is this a true reflection of what happened at the meeting?” And the senators chorused “yes.” Thereafter, Mark asked Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, to merely fulfil the righteousness by presenting the already decided motion.
The motion by Ndoma-Egba was seconded by Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume and in an unusual manner, it was not subjected to any debate before it was unanimously passed through a voice vote.
Jonathan first proclaimed state of emergency in the three states on May 14, 2013, citing Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which he said conferred on him the power to make such declaration in any part of the country where there is danger which threatens the peace of the federation.
According to him, persistent insecurity in the affected areas orchestrated by the activities of Boko Haram threatened the existence of the federation.
While the declaration was approved by the National Assembly, the president requested for further extension in November 2013 after its expiration six months after and was accordingly approved by the National Assembly. The last request for extension was sent to the National Assembly on May 13 and approved on May 20 almost a week after its approval by the House of Representatives.
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