House hesitates, while senate backs Emergency measures

The Nigerian senate says it backs
“every measure” by President Goodluck Jonathan to curtail the extremist Boko Haram sect, in an unreserved  response to the  emergency rule imposed on parts of Borno, Yobe, Niger and Plateau states by the president.

But the House of Representatives yesterday withheld an outright endorsement, or disapproval for the move announced on Saturday by the president, in a measured response that suggests the lawmakers in the lower chamber are not wholly in support of the action.

Mr. Jonathan said in a televised address that the emergency rule will affect five local government areas in each of  Borno and Yobe States – both strongholds of the violent Boko Haram sect, which has spiraled into a “cancer”, according to Mr. Jonathan, rapidly changing its targets and tactics.

Emergency rule will also be in place in four local government areas of Plateau State, and one local government area, Suleja, of Niger State, the president said, calling on Nigerians to “join hands and fight these terrorists.”
The senate said while it awaits an official communication from the president, it fully supports every response to the devastating level of insecurity the nation has witnessed recently with several lives destroyed by the extremist group.

“Senate supports every measure by the President including state of emergency to curb the spate of insecurity in Nigeria,” spokesperson, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said in statement, appealing to Nigerians to support the move and make it succeed.

However, the House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, simply told Premium Times the president acted “within his powers” in making the proclamation to a nation that has witnessed blood-letting in the past weeks, but said the House would only take a position after it is officially communicated by the president.

“The position of the Speaker is that, the president has acted within his powers, and the House will wait for his official communication in that regard when the house resumes in a few days time, and will then deliberate and consider the communication,” a spokesperson for Mr. Tambuwal, Imam Imam, said after receiving briefs from the speaker.

The cautious response may signal a challenge for Mr. Jonathan to secure crucial support from the legislature for a move that is certain to be welcomed by many, but also bound to face blistering opposition from some lawmakers, mostly from the affected region.

Under the amended 1999 constitution, while the president can exercise emergency powers on any part of the country, the decision must be communicated to the lawmakers, whose vote, though not indispensable, remains vital.
A declaration of emergency also no longer include the dissolution of elected institutions of government in the areas affected , implying the governors of the states involved, as well as the civil local government authorities  will remain in their position, but with an escalated military control of the areas.

Coming amid growing tension across the country, with many churches suspending their New Year services,  fearing attacks, the emergency rule, some say,  is capable of scaling down the attacks, but others view it insufficient.

“I think it is long overdue and I think you cannot cure cancer with panadol. Every radical problem needs a radical approach,” said former member of the House, Patrick Obahiagbon. “In as much as there is a declaration of state of emergency, but over and above that, government should equally deal with the overall sociological problems.”

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