Emergency Rule: Jonathan’s Last Option


After being pushed to the wall, President Goodluck Jonathan declares a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states to deal with the Boko Haram insurgence, while still pursuing an amnesty deal

By Olu Ojewale  |  May 27, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS somehow anticipated. Three days before President Goodluck Jonathan announced the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states on Tuesday, May 14, opposition parties had warned him against such in some of the states in the northern part of the country. They had argued that such a move would put the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, at an advantage over them ahead of 2015 elections. The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, even went a bit further saying, “If the imposition of an emergency rule on the most affected states is the only viable option left for President Jonathan to tackle the crisis, then he should step down.”

But in declaring a state of emergency in the three states, the president said in a national broadcast that the move became necessary considering the breakdown of law and order in the affected states, parts of which the insurgents had taken over. “Following recent developments in the affected states, it has become necessary for Government to take extraordinary measures to restore normalcy. After wide consultations, and in exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of Section 305, sub-section 1 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, I hereby declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states,” Jonathan said. According to the president, the incessant killings by the sect “amount to a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten her territorial integrity… As a responsible government, we will not tolerate this,” he said.

Lai Muhammed

Since the declaration of the state of emergency in the three states, the ACN has remained staunchly opposed to it. The party described the emergency rule as lacking in original thinking, and therefore asked the National Assembly to reject it. In a statement issued by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the party, in Abuja on Wednesday, May 15, the ACN argued that if the use of force was capable of ending the Boko Haram crisis, it would have ended a long time ago.

“If the medicine given to a patient has not cured his or her illness, is it not futile to prescribe more of the same medicine for the patient? If the declaration of a state of emergency in 15 local government areas in four states in 2011 has not curbed the activities of the insurgents, why extend such measure to other areas? If the use of force in the affected states has failed to curtail the activities of the insurgents, why send in more troops?” the party said.

It, therefore, said declaring the state of emergency in the three states was ill-advised and that the president should disband the committee he recently inaugurated and given the mandate to reach out to the insurgents. “Because by opting to flood the states with more troops under an ill-advised emergency rule, he has succeeded in pulling the carpet from under the Committee’s feet. Who negotiates genuinely with a gun to his head? The committee’s job is over, the members can as well pack up and go home,” ACN said further.

Besides, the ACN also sees a political gain for the President’s ruling party in the move. According to the party, with the three states militarised, there would be neither an electioneering campaign nor voting there. It also asked what would happen if the declaration of an emergency rule fails to stop the violence. In summation, the party called “on the National Assembly to also reject it and not allow itself to be used to rubber stamp a declaration that is largely cosmetic.”

Also opposed to the state of emergency declaration is the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, a socio-cultural group for the northern states. Anthony Sani, spokesman of the ACF, in a statement, doubted its workability and reiterated the body’s earlier stance that a state of emergency would not solve the problem of insurgency in the region.

“We had earlier expressed our doubt about the workability of a state of emergency in bringing to an end the security challenges,” he said. According to Sani, the issue of granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect would be the best option in the current situation.

But the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and ally of the ACN in the merger plan to form a mega party, expressed its support for the president’s action. Rotimi Fashakin, spokesman for the CPC, in a press interview, said it was gratifying to note that the president did not remove any of the political office holders in the affected states. “We need to rally round the President in this trying period. We pray that with this action, peace will eventually return to the states,” Fashakin said. He also commended Jonathan for keeping the political structures intact in the state.

Military in action
Military in action

Sunny Olibe, public relations officer of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, said though belated, the president’s action was a right step in the right direction. “The declaration of emergency rule by Mr. President did not come as a surprise considering the degree of hostilities by the Boko Haram Islamic sect. No wise President will watch part of his country being taken over by lawless criminals without acting. It is the right step, though belated considering the number of lives lost,” Olibe said.

In a similar fashion, the PDP, in a statement, also welcomed the president’s action. A statement by Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the party, said the PDP would support every action taken by the president to restore peace to any part of the country. “The PDP supports the President on all actions that will restore stability, peace and progress in the body polity,” Metuh said.

By condemning the state of emergency move of the president, some Nigerians are bewildered because the opposition groups have not come up with any laudable solution to the security crisis in the north except to accuse Jonathan of not doing anything about it. “What else do they want,” a contributor asked in a radio interview.

Some analysts say that the way Jonathan conducted himself during the national broadcast showed that he had really taken charge and done the right thing for the country. “I don’t see why the president will fold his arms and allow things to go the way it was going,” said an analyst. It is also being suspected that the opposition was looking for something to use to campaign against the president. That appears to be impossible now.

President Jonathan was also hailed for allowing the state governors to remain in office while the six months state of emergency lasts. Festus Keyamo, a human rights lawyer, in a radio interview, said section 305 of the 1999 constitution, which gives the president power to declare a state of emergency, does not give him power to remove any governor from office as was done in 2004 and 2007 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he declared a state of emergency in Plateau and Ekiti states respectively.

According to the constitution, during the emergency situation, the state governors are no longer in charge of the security of their respective states and the armed forces deployed in their states do not consult them for whatever decision they take in carrying out their operations. They can restrict the movements of any politician in the state including that of the governor. The security personnel can also detain anyone suspected to have carried out any act of terrorism or killing in the affected states beyond the stipulated 24 hours without trial.

Throwing more light on the constitutional provisions, Itse Sagay, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and professor of law, as well as Femi Falana, SAN, said the president had acted within the constitutional provisions. Citing Section 11 (4 and 5) of the constitution, both Sagay and Falana said that even with its endorsement of the declaration by the president, the National Assembly, cannot go ahead to remove the governors of the affected states.

Itse Sagay

Sagay said Obasanjo had hidden under the emergency rule to violate the law. “A state of emergency does not affect the sitting governor or the state house of assembly at all. If you look at Section 11 (4 and 5) of the Constitution, you will see that a state of emergency does not affect the tenure of the governor or the House of Assembly. The president has kept to the Constitution. If he had declared any other thing, it would have been illegal.”

In his contribution, Falana had commended Jonathan by not following “the dangerous precedent of ex-President Obasanjo, who hid under the state of emergency provision to remove elected governors.” Emergency rule is not new in Nigeria. The first emergency rule was in 1962, when Moses Majekodunmi was appointed the sole administrator of the defunct Western Region as a way of resolving the crisis in the ruling Action Group government in the region. The crisis was precipitated with the removal of Samuel Ladoke Akintola as premier and head of government of the region and replaced with Dauda Adegbenro. The Western House of Assembly had convened to pass a vote of confidence on Adegbenro’s government, when Akintola’s supporters in the House allegedly created an uproar forcing the police to disperse members with tear gas. As a result of the crisis, the federal parliament, in exercising of its powers under the 1960 Constitution, declared a state of emergency in the then Western Nigeria and approved the appointment of Majekodunmi as the administrator of the region.

It was the turn of Obasanjo to exercise such an emergency power on Tuesday, May 18, 2004, following a sectarian conflict that claimed hundreds of lives and left many homeless in Plateau State. Addressing the nation on the matter, the former president said the decision to impose a state of emergency in Plateau State was based on the collective desire to strengthen the country’s democratic practice, institutions and values. “This decision would, without doubt, enhance security as well as protect the stability and corporate existence of our nation for which many have died. It is my hope and prayer that this six-month period will be used by the administrator and all peace-loving people in and outside the state to bring peace and join hands to promote democratic values and enshrine the values of transparency, accountability, social justice, love, good neighborliness and good governance,” Obasanjo said.

He thus, removed Joshua Dariye, the elected governor for six months and appointed Chris Alli, retired major general, to take over the affairs of the state for the period with a mandate to end the strife and restore order.

It was the turn of Ekiti State on Thursday, October 19, 2006, when Obasanjo, in an address to the nation, said he was declaring a state of emergency in the state in order to “ensure that peace and orderliness return to the state.” He removed Ayo Fayose, the elected governor, from office and appointed Tunji Olurin, also a retired major general, as the state administrator for six months. He also suspended the state House of Assembly for the same period.

As it stands, the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states poses a big question for the Jonathan administration: will the option work or fuel the crisis? The next few weeks or months seem to be very crucial for the administration.

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