Barely 24 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, the military Wednesday announced the “massive” deployment of troops to the three states where Islamist insurgents have seized territory.
A separate military source speaking on condition of anonymity also told AFP that fighter jets would be deployed to the north-east, raising the possibility that federal government may carry out air strikes within its own territory.
Jonathan issued the emergency decree in a broadcast late Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time that Boko Haram Islamists had “taken over” parts of Borno State, the insurgents’ stronghold.
According to the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), the increased presence of troops in the states will enable the military quickly secure the borders of the affected states to ensure effective policing, cordon-off and search operations.
A report Wednesday by Reuters said army trucks, carrying soldiers, have entered Yola, the Adamawa State capital, and Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to reinforce the troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF) that have been in the states in the last few years to fight the Boko Haram terrorists.
Giving further insight into the deployment of troops, a top official of the Ministry of Defence said more troops had been sent to all the northern flanks of Nigeria’s borders in a bid to rout out the terrorists.
Despite the acclamation that the president’s action has attracted, including from the South-south Governors’ Forum and Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) sang a different tune just as it urged the National Assembly to reject the president’s declaration of emergency rule in the three states.
The party’s national leader and former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Bola Tinubu, also warned that the declaration portends danger to Nigeria’s budding democracy, as it is “a deliberate ploy to subvert constitutional democracy.”
However, in a quick riposte to the ACN criticisms, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which lauded the presidential initiative, accused the ACN of suffering from either a diseased or a confused state of mind for urging the National Assembly to reject the state of emergency.
The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) also waxed discordant tunes over the declaration of emergency rule as the party Wednesday recanted its support for the proclamation.
Ahead of the formal consideration of the president’s decision, members of the National Assembly Wednesday started barring their minds on the imposition of emergency rule on the three states with the lawmakers expressing divergent views on the issue.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described the proclamation of emergency rule in the three states as a good move towards ending the protracted crises in the area while lawmakers in the House of Representatives expressed divergent views on the matter.
Confirming the deployment of more troops to the beleaguered states Wednesday, Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, said a large number of troops had been sent to the border territories for effective enforcement of the emergency rule as declared by the president.
Kolade explained that in furtherance of the president’s directive, the Nigerian Armed Forces, Nigeria Police and other security agencies had commenced operations to rid the nation’s borders of terrorist bases and activities.
The defence spokesman, who refused to disclose the number of troops being deployed, added that the military operation would focus on tracking down criminal elements within the vicinity of border communities prone to terrorist activities.
He further explained that the operation, which will involve massive deployment of men and resources, is aimed at asserting the nation’s territorial integrity and enhancing the security of constituted governmental structures in all territories within Nigeria’s borders.
He said: “The operational plans have also briefed participating troops appropriately on arrests, cordon and search, especially directed at apprehending those who have been violating the sovereignty of Nigeria through terrorist training for insurgency and related activities.
“The Defence Headquarters assures law-abiding citizens that every effort has been put in place to ensure the safety of civilians and non-combatants while the operation lasts.
“All citizens are enjoined to cooperate with troops and supply necessary information on criminal and terrorist activities or movement in their locality as the operation is intended to safeguard the nation’s interests and citizens in all parts of the federation.”
Notwithstanding Kolade’s refusal to disclose the number of troops deployed to the states, Reuters reported six trucks carrying soldiers as they entered Yola.
In Maiduguri, the biggest city in the area and birthplace of the insurgency, residents also reported an influx of troops.
The mood was tense in the city as shops were mostly shut and there were few people on the streets. Schools were also closed.
“What I saw this morning scared me,” said a resident in Maiduguri, Ahmed Mari. “I have never seen soldiers on the move quite like this before.”
Another resident, Kabir Laoye, expressed fear that civilians could be caught up in the conflict: “There is a lot of apprehension about the state of emergency,” he said.
Although a formal debate on the presidential declaration of emergency rule on the three states has not begun at the National Assembly, some of the lawmakers have started reacting to the matter.
The deputy senate president, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, said the move would not only help arrest the escalating insecurity in the affected states, but also correct the misgivings about emergency rule arising from previous unconstitutional approaches to its implementation.
Ekweremadu said: “I commend the president for taking the bold and necessary step towards arresting the rising insurgency in the affected states.
“Importantly, I commend the president for abiding strictly with constitutional provisions on declaration of a state of emergency by taking only the requisite extraordinary measures to contain the insurgency and insecurity in the states without dismantling the elected democratic structures.”
He appealed to the governments and people of the affected states to cooperate with the federal government and security agencies with a view to restoring lasting order and security in the areas.
Hon. Bitrus Kaze, representing Jos South/East Federal Constituency of Plateau State, commended also the president for the proclamation, stressing that emergency rule has become imperative in those states where the territorial integrity of Nigeria had been compromised by terrorists.
He however advised Jonathan to disband the Kabiru Turaki-led Committee on Boko Haram Amnesty as its continued existence was incongruent with the declaration of emergency rule.
Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife (APGA/Anambra), said the declaration of state of emergency in the states was long overdue and commended the president for not sacking the elected governors and the entire democratic structures in the states.
But Hon Badamosi Ayuba (ANPP/Kano) did not believe emergency rule would resolve terrorism in the affected states.
Ayuba, who represents Damabatta/Makoda Federal Constituency of Kano State, said there was nothing new in the declaration as some local governments in the affected states had been under emergency rule in the past and nothing had changed.
Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (ANPP/Borno) also expressed concern that the declaration of emergency rule would affect the people in those states.
Similarly, Hon. Ibrahim Bawa Kamba (PDP/Kebbi) expressed dissatisfaction with the whole arrangement and accused Jonathan of not following due process before making the declaration.
According to him, Jonathan was expected to have notified the House but he did not do so.
He also called for the disbandment of the amnesty committee, which he said should be replaced with a new committee to be exclusively composed of Islamic religious leaders in the affected states.
The Borno State governor defended the president’s action in a state broadcast Wednesday in which he rallied support for the troops.
According to him, the imposition of emergency rule on the state as well as Adamawa and Yobe, was necessary as no responsible leader will do anything less.
He called on the military to stick by the instructions of the president by preserving the lives and property of the innocent Nigerians living in Borno.
“It is the constitutional responsibility of the president to take such measures. It is also the duty of any responsible state government to support lawful efforts that would guarantee the security of lives and property.
“It can never be the wish of any guarded democratic government to have the military directly involved in the affairs of any federating unit except for unfortunate and painful causes.
“As the military leaders have said in discussions, the armoury of the Nigerian soldiers is not meant to fight fellow Nigerians, the armoury is meant to protect fellow Nigerians.
“A period of state of emergency is that which comes with rules that are different from those that guide our day-to-day lives. We must therefore, take personal steps as citizens to avoid being caught by the strange rules,” he said.
Also, Leader of the South-south Governors’ Forum and Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, declared support for the president’s action.
Imoke, who was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to invite the president to visit his state to inaugurate some projects, said the president’s move was appropriate and deserved commendation just as he debunked speculations that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) was opposed to the move.
However, faulting the president on the emergency rule imposed on the three states, the ACN urged the National Assembly to reject the presidential initiative, describing it as counterproductive.
It said while the president was right in expressing outrage over the mindless killings and wanton destruction by the insurgents, he was wrong in proposing more of the same measures that had failed to yield results.
In a statement Wednesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said if the use of force was capable of ending the Boko Haram crisis, it would have ended a long time ago.
The party said there was nothing new in the president's action, other than the deployment of more troops in the affected states and the use of tougher, scorched-earth tactics against the insurgents.
It said the step-up in the militarisation of the states amounted to an asymmetric use of force in an environment where the insurgents operate within a civilian population.
The party expressed concern that the move would ultimately be counterproductive as the death toll will continue to mount while the civilian population who will be caught in the crossfire will be alienated.
“In view of the reasons stated above, we hereby reject the declaration of emergency rule in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, and we call on the National Assembly to also reject it and not allow itself to be used to rubber stamp a declaration that is largely cosmetic,” ACN said.
The party said while the short-term solution to the Boko Haram crisis should be a combination of dialogue and a minimal use of force, the long term measure to deny Boko Haram of willing recruits and make the sect unattractive to anyone should ensure that the state can adequately meet the yearnings and aspirations of its citizens by enthroning good governance.
The party wondered what would happen to the amnesty committee and expressed concern that emergency rule in the three states could be part of a bigger agenda by Jonathan and the PDP to perpetuate themselves in power in 2015.
“With the three states militarised, there can neither be electioneering campaign nor voting there. We had warned earlier that as 2015 approaches, the Jonathan administration would increasingly take measures that will make it impossible to hold election in many states.
“The over-militarisation of some states in the north, the plan to destabilise the South-west using slush funds from the so-called oil pipeline protection contract and the infantile threats from some Niger Delta militants seem to be part of this plan,” the party claimed.
The ACN national leader spoke in a similar vein, warning that the imposition of emergency rule was a threat to democracy.
Tinubu, in a statement Wednesday by his Special Adviser, Mr. Sunday Dare, said with the president’s action, Nigeria was “witnessing a dangerous trend in the art of governance and a deliberate ploy to subvert constitutional democracy.”
According to him, “The body language of the Jonathan administration leads any keen watcher of events with unmistakable conclusion of the existence of a surreptitious but barely disguised intention to muzzle the elected governments of these states for what is clearly a display of unpardonable mediocrity and diabolic partisanship geared towards 2015.
“Borno and Yobe States have been literally under armies of occupation with the attendant excruciating hardship experienced daily by the indigenes and residents of these areas.
“This government now wants to use the excuse of the security challenges faced by the governors to remove them from the states considered hostile to the 2015 PDP/Jonathan project.”
He warned that the Jonathan administration would be setting in motion a chain of events, the end of which nobody could predict.
Replying to the broadsides of the ACN, the PDP, which described the president’s decision as democratically right, criticised the opposition party for calling on the National Assembly to reject the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, disagreed with the position of the ACN, saying that the emergency rule would not conflict with the assignment of the presidential committee on amnesty.
“Yesterday, the ACN, the sole repository of Solomon’s wisdom, which was against amnesty for insurgents, which indeed described the federal government in unprintable words, has today turned a proselyte of amnesty and dialogue.
“Few things are possible. It is either that the ACN and its cohorts in the opposition are behind the insurgents and therefore must subvert every measure taken by government to tackle escalating insurgency.
“The other is that the opposition sees the escalating terror as a short cut to power. Recall also that the statements of the leaders of the opposition on the eve of the 2011 presidential election gave birth to violence, which has snowballed today into terrorism.
“We therefore call on the leaders of the opposition to remove the mask on their faces and publicly declare their stand,” the party said.
"What is new in what the president has done if we must again tell the ACN, is that President Jonathan is a core democrat, who appreciates the core values of democracy and who believes firmly that democracy must be practised in Nigeria in its undiluted form.
“What is new is that the president by offering amnesty has opened the window for insurgents with genuine agitations to access redress while stopping intransigent criminality from consuming the nation,” the PDP added.
The CPC, which through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, had backed the president’s action on Tuesday, made a U-turn Wednesday as its National Publicity Secretary Mr. Buba Galadima, accused Jonathan of politically victimising Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
Galadima alleged that the affected states were opposed to the style of leadership by Jonathan because they did not support his 2011 election ambition.
Galadima said: “The states that the president imposed a state of emergency on are the states that did not support him in his 2011 elections.
“It is our hope that the president is not using this state of emergency in some of these states that are not in support of his policies to settle political scores.
“We are also hopeful that the security agencies will not go out of their way to use this state of emergency as a licence to maim, kill and wipe out communities that the president himself feels are opposed to his political ambition.”
In his reaction, former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, in a tweet, queried the essence of the declaration in the three states if the governors remained in place.
“I have never heard of a state of emergency where the governor remains in office. As far as I am concerned, it is too little too late,” he tweeted.
But in an apparent response to concerns about the fate of the presidential amnesty committee, the presidency Wednesday assured the nation that the declaration of emergency rule in the three states would not affect the assignment of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, chaired by Minister of Special Duties, Mr. Kabiru Turaki (SAN).
Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, told the anchor of “Facts File”, a programme on a private radio station, Raypower 100.5FM, that the committee would continue its work despite the proclamation.
THISDAY sighted the committee members meeting at the Banquet Hall of the State House Wednesday, thus lending credence to Abati’s statement.
”The state of emergency won't affect the committee, which you call amnesty committee and which we call committee on dialogue and peaceful resolution of security challenges.
“The work will continue. They will present preliminary and final reports. President Jonathan met with them to review the situation with them and keep them abreast of the step government was going to take.
“The objective of the emergency rule is to ensure peace in that part of the country and indeed in all parts of Nigeria,” Abati said.
President, Christian Association Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, also backed the president’s decision.
He said the declaration of a state of emergency in three north-eastern states was a justified action and a vindication of CAN’s position that negotiations with terrorists would always end up a futile exercise.
“We are being vindicated that no reasonable agreement can be reached with terrorists,” he said in a statement signed by his Special Assistant, Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Kenny Ashaka.
In its reaction to the imposition of emergency rule in the three northern states, the United States of America said Nigerian security forces must protect civilians in any security response in a way that respects human rights and the rule of law.
Fielding questions from reporters at the State Department Wednesday, acting Deputy spokesperson, Mr. Patrick Ventrell, also said, the US was "deeply concerned about increasing insecurity in northern Nigeria and the potential threat it poses to stability in both Nigeria and the region."
Noting that the declaration of the state of emergency in the three states "reflects the worsening cycle of violence in northern Nigeria", the senior US official said: "We have made it clear to the Nigerian government that its heavy-handed response to insecurity in northern Nigeria and the failure to address human rights violations will potentially affect our ability to provide security assistance going forward.
"So we’ve made that message clear to the Nigerians. We’re looking at this state of emergency that was declared given this violence, and so that’s really our bottom line in terms of our response to the Nigerians."