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Nigerian lawmakers back emergency rule, but fear it won’t change much

| May 16, 2013 More

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Nasarawa.

Federal lawmakers on Wednesday signaled their support for the emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, but made clear their fear the “extraordinary measures”, as they referred to, put in place Tuesday by President Goodluck Jonathan, would hardly bring significant change in the troubled north east region.

While welcoming the clampdown, many lawmakers said past emergency rule in Plateau State, and some local governments in Borno State, have shown the nation shouldn’t expect so much this time.

“The truth is that the President has not done anything that is not sanctioned by the constitution. In other words, I’m saying that it is constitutionally provided for him to declare that based on information available to him,” a senator, Victor Lar, said. “But with the benefit of the hindsight particularly with regards to the experiences from Plateau State, the declaration of State of emergency has not been effective.”

Mr. Lar, from Plateau State, based his concern on his state’s experience after prolonged communal clashes that killed many resulted in an emergency declared by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

While the rule dragged through six months, with the governor, Joshua Dariye, suspended and a military administrator in charge, clashes repeatedly erupted, killing even more people.

Mr. Lar said the trouble then was operational, and not strategic. Workers and government administrators were starved of funding and military logistics needed for the plan to succeed were not often available.

“I would not want to be pessimistic, but we hope that some of those pitfalls like non-payment of salary of workers of local governments, non-funding and assistance of states government with the funds for funding security operations that we experienced in Plateau State would not be replicated in the three States,” he said.

Even so, the decision this time is justified, and hopefully will help serve peace in the crisis-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, he said.

But the cautious optimism did little to buff away what appears already, a majority backing for the president’s decision.

“The president has kept faith with Nigerians with the decision. Nigerians asked for amnesty, and asked for emergency,” said a senator from neighbouring Bauchi State, Abdul Ningi.

He added with a note of relief: “I was there recently and I can report to you that the governor said that some part of the part had been taken over by these people. And they have given ultimatum to take Borno in weeks, and other nearby states in the next two months. When these people give ultimatum like this, people should take them seriously.”

Officially, both chambers of the National Assembly backed away from discussing the decision on Wednesday. Yet, ahead of receiving a formal notification of the decision from the president, legislators, across political divide, applauded the measure, and some said the president acted too late.

By Wednesday evening, the office of the presidential adviser on National Assembly matters, Joy Emodi, said the letter, which will be debated upon and, if approved, provide legal backing for Mr. Jonathan’s decision, had not arrived.

But ahead of President Jonathan’s pre-recorded address on Tuesday, the senate had indicated which direction its consideration of the matter will swing when the letter eventually gets to them.

Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, speaking after a meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party caucus, said the request will be treated on merit, but made clear the senate was concerned about the situation in Borno where some local governments had been seized by the rebels, and remained under their control.

Mr. Ndoma-Egba said the National Assembly leadership had agreed with the president that any decision on emergency will not affect the political structure of the affected states.

A touchy facet of the emergency rule, leaving the politicians including the governors at their posts, unlike past declarations, it seemed, won for the president and his team, a much-needed support from a National Assembly known for promptly polarizing itself along ethno-religious lines.

“We are not averse to it (emergency rule); but our concern was the likely dissolution of the democratic structures,” said Mohammed Tahir Monguno, a member of the House, from Borno state. “Now, we are advising that the troops should conduct themselves professionally within the rules of engagement in their assignment.”

Still, some lawmakers who totally oppose the president’s move, few though, hope to find a rallying point at any future debate on the emergency request, likely on Thursday, on the dismal human rights record in the affected states.

Amassing more troops, they say, will only worsen an already precarious situation.

“The fact is that this declaration has been done before in some local governments and nothing has changed. By this new declaration, it’s just like giving license to the soldiers to go and humiliate the citizens and to carry out human rights abuses,” said Badamasi Ayuba, a member of the House, from Kano state.

“Honestly, I don’t support it. This only confirms what people have saying that the federal government is not serious about the amnesty. Today, one hand is for amnesty, and the other hand is for state of emergency.”

Category: Bauchi State News

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