State of Emergency Declaration: Its Impact on Nigeria’s Democracy by Akinnimi Stephen Ayodeji
In a broadcast to the nation on 14th of May, the President Jonathan slammed emergency rule on Adamawa, Borno and Yola States, all in the predominantly Muslim North, and ordered the deployment of more troops to the affected states and the use of tougher tactics against the Islamic insurgent groups.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2011), a state of emergency is a governmental declaration which usually suspends a few normal functions of the executive, Legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviors, or order government agencies to implement prepared plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending nights and freedoms, even those guaranteed under the constitution. Such declarations usually come during times of natural or man made disaster, duriing periods of civil unrest following a declaration of war or situation of international or internal armed conflict.
In some countries, the state of emergency and its effects on human rights and freedoms and governmental procedure are regulated by the constitution and/or a law that limits the powers that may be involved. Rights and freedoms may be suspended during an emergency rule, for instance freedom of movement, but not non-denotable rights.
In many countries, it is illegal to modify the emergency law or the constitution during the period of the emergency rule enforcement.
President Goodluck Jonathan in his broad cast explained that he was doing this as a response to the incessant terrorist attacks and other security challenges that have recently plagued Nigeria.
The declaration according to him is in accordance with the provisions of section 305 (3) (c) (d) (f) constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as cemented, which state that the president shall have power to issue a state of emergency only when “there is a actual breakdown of public order and public safety, there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and safety in the federation or any party that requires extraordinary measure to restore peace and security or to avert such danger’ and there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the federation and democracy.
He argued amongst other issues that the terrorists have established control over several parts of the nation, destroyed state properties and hoisted strange flags suggesting the exercise of alternative sovereignty in some parts of the country. No one can treasonably challenge the voracity of this position. The proclamation has been transmitted to the national assembly.
According to the Nigerian 1999 constitution, section 305 (2) and 6 (b):
“The president shall transmit such copies of the gazette with details to the president of the senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, each of whom shall forthwith convene a sitting to consider the situation and decide whether or not to pass a resolution approving the proclamation”.
What is proposed with the state of emergency is only to send in more troops into the affected state and equip them with sweeping powers of arrest, detention, search etc. The utility of this remains doubtful especially within the context of the recent Baga debacle where over 200 citizens were allegedly murdered by security agents and thousands of houses were burnt and destroyed. The anti-community approach of security agencies has been consistently criticized by community leaders and elders such as the Borno Elders’ forum who have postulated that the path to resolution of the crisis is the withdrawal of security agencies from the state.
Consequently the Baga massacre has actually led to an expansion of the ranks of Boko Haram as more foot soldiers have been enlisted.
In addition, mixed reactions trail the emergency rule declaration in three northern states. Though there seems to be widespread support for the declaration of a state of emergency in three Nigerian states worst hit by the Boko Haram crisis, not everyone is in support of the president’s decision. Perhaps the bicameral legislature supported this action though still under ratification, also the Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) is behind the president on this decision.
Amidst various responses on the emergency rule declaration, Ahmed Tinubu the former Governor of Lagos State pointed out that the infamous declaration was a pointer to the 2015 calculation by the ruling people’s democratic party (PDP), which he say was meant to fail right from the beginning.
Akinnimi (2011), in his write-up titled “The Boko harassment nature in Nigeria” described the activities of the religious sect as unholy and inhuman. I believe that GEJ’S declaration of an emergency rule in those Northern states will have a positive impact on the nation’s democratic setting because it will help uphold the country’s national security which has been rubbished in the international community. We all know that the insurgent religious groups have their roots from those three states, moreso; the president’s decision will help forestall security of lives and properties in the northern region and Nigerian nation as a whole.
However, I agree with Femi Falana (SAN) on his position that 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. The president 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. Having complied with the constitution with respect to the state of emergency in three states, President Jonathan should henceforth demonstrate to Nigerians that the days of presidential impunity are gone for ever in the country and that democratic decisions will thrive.
Akinnimi Steve Ayodeji writes from Steve.firstname.lastname@example.org
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