Nigeria’s ruling party had denied that the President was to declare a State of Emergency in troubled states.
Mr. Jonathan, who made the declaration in a televised address to the nation, said the decision follows series of meetings with security chiefs in which he was briefed to the effect that what the country is “facing is not just militancy or criminality, but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity”.
Mr. Jonathan said it has become necessary for the 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,” he said.
The President had earlier on Tuesday met with the Governors of Borno and Yobe States, Kashim Shettima and Ibrahim Geidam respectively, although neither the governors nor the presidency briefed journalists on the details of the meeting.
The president also added in the address that the Chief of Defence Staff has been directed to immediately deploy more troops to the three states for more effective internal security operations.
He said the troops and other security agencies involved in these operations have orders to take all necessary action, within the ambit of their rules of engagement, to put an end to the impunity of insurgents and terrorists.
Throwing more light on the powers given to the armed forces, Mr. Jonathan said they will include “the authority to arrest and detain suspects, the taking of possession and control of any building or structure used for terrorist purposes, the lock-down of any area of terrorist operation, the conduct of searches, and the apprehension of persons in illegal possession of weapons.”
The President’s decision is coming on the heels of protests and condemnations of the declaration by various interest groups even before it was made.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, led the way on Monday when it issued a statement signed by the Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Rivers state, asking the presidency to rescind the decision.
The statement said “We call on the Federal Government to ignore the ongoing agitation for a state of emergency in some parts of the country. These requests are being made by people who do not wish our country well and who are bent on plunging the country into a deeper crisis. The Federal Government should not allow itself to be distracted from our collective goal of curbing the insurgency in some parts of our country once and for all”.
With the president’s decision not to temper with political office holders, it is not clear if the NGF, will continue with its protest over the decision.
Also, opposition parties, such as the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, also issued statements condemning the government’s plans to impose a state of emergency in some states in the north.
Politicians were not the only ones that condemned the plan, the Anglican Church also condemned it. The Church in an address by its Nigerian leader, Nicholas Okoh, on Monday said the State of Emergency would not solve the insecurity challenges in the trouble states.
“I believe that insecurity should be addressed comprehensively, the Federal Government had tried this emergency rule in other parts of the country but it didn’t work,” Mr. Okoh said.
These protests and many others prompted the spokesperson of the President, Reuben Abati, to issue a statement on Saturday, assuring Nigerians that “government is only studying the situation”.
The ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, also issued a statement through its spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, on Monday, chastising the two opposition parties, for “making too much noise”.
“The opposition parties in their usual noise making, homage to falsehood and lies, and quest to always be in the news for frivolous reasons, purported in their statements that the Presidency planned to impose emergency rule in some Northern states when no such decision has been reached,” Mr. Metuh said claiming the President had no such plans.
Political office holders remain
The president’s speech took a different dimension from the emergency rule declared by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Plateau state in 2005.
Mr. Jonathan in his address on Tuesday said the details of the proclamation will be sent to the National Assembly “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.” He added that, “But in the meantime, let me make it clear that within the purview of this Proclamation, the Governors and other political office holders in the affected states will continue to discharge their constitutional responsibilities.”
Why the state of emergency
President Jonathan said the activities of insurgents and terrorists have been reprehensible, causing fear among our Nigerians and a near-breakdown of law and order in parts of the country, especially the North.
“We have taken robust steps to unravel and address the root causes of these crises, but it would appear that there is a systematic effort by insurgents and terrorists to destabilize the Nigerian state and test our collective resolve,” he said.
According to him, “these terrorists and insurgents 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.”
He also said, “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.”
“These actions 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.”