Outrage, Wednesday, greeted the Federal Government’s threat to declare state of emergency in Anambra State ahead of the November 6 governorship election, if the security situation in the state did not improve.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, ,AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, stated this while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday.
The minister’s threat drew the ire of stakeholders in the polity, including the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Middler Belt Forum, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, who all cautioned government against such an action.
However, the minister said the government has the responsibility to sustain the democratic order and will do the needful in terms of ensuring that the election is held.
Emergency declaration possible, if… — Malami
His words: “When our national security is attacked, and the sanctity of our constitutionally-guaranteed democracy is threatened, no possibility is ruled out.
“As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure the sustenance of our democratic order. As a government, we have a responsibility to provide security to life and properties.
“So, within the context of these constitutional obligations of the government or the desire to establish democratic norms and order, there is no possibility that is ruled out.
“The government will certainly do the needful in terms of ensuring that our elections are held in Anambra in terms of ensuring necessary security is provided, and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to lives and properties.
“So, what I am saying in essence, no possibility is ruled out by government in terms of ensuring sanctity of our democratic order, in terms of ensuring that our election in Anambra holds, and you cannot rule out possibilities inclusive of the possibility of declaration of state of emergency where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order.
“So, our position as a government is this election is going to hold, necessary security in terms of democratic order must certainly prevail for the purpose of this election.”
Knocks greet threat
The Federal Government’s threat elicited criticisms from a host of eminent persons, groups and senior lawyers.
It however, got the support of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, which urged the government to do whatever is required to retrieve the South-East region from the whims and caprices of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and other similar groups in the Diaspora.
It’s unacceptable, unconstitutional – MBF
National President of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu said the Federal Government’s threat to impose a state of emergency on Anambra State ahead of the governorship election is unacceptable and unconstitutional.
His words: “My question is, the state of emergency the Federal Government is threatening to declare in the state is on what? You can declare an emergency on security or even on health if for example there is a pandemic. So the state of emergency is on what?
“If it is based on security, it is rather that they stop the election and push it forward because there cannot be a fair and free election in a state where the military or whatever is in control. That is unacceptable in a democratic process.
“So if it is because of insecurity, the right thing to do is to stop the election till the place is stabilized so that all parties will have a sense of freedom to exercise their franchise to vote for whoever they want.
“But in a situation you have a militarized environment and all the military and the police are controlled by just one organ of government, there can never be freedom for others to operate.
“So that is unacceptable, if they say the security situation is bad the election should be suspended till when the situation is normalized.
“But otherwise all other parties that are not with the Federal Government will be disadvantaged by any state of emergency if it is based on insecurity.
“As for the position of the constitution on the matter, if you recall, during the Obasanjo regime such things were done in some states where governors were put aside but the court ruled that it was undemocratic and unacceptable.
“So based on the judgement of the courts it is even not acceptable, not allowed.”
Smacks of a hidden agenda – Mbazulike Amechi
Elder statesman and First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, said there is no justification for even thinking to do that in any part of the South-East.
According to him there is more violence in the northern states of Kaduna, Kastina, Niger, even in Bauchi, Zamfara, Benue and Plateau.
He said: “The Federal Government knows that Anambra State is strategic to Ndigbo and when things like this happens or is being planned, it fuels the impression that this government is totally against Igbo people.
“What is happening in Anambra is it comparable to what happened in Jos, Plateau State last month or thereabouts, where over 30 people were killed in a village by terrorist herdsmen? Has the Federal Government arrested and prosecuted them, did they even make any strong statement condemning it?
“All because it was alleged that a particular people notable for such killings were said to be behind it.
“The Federal Government should stop doing or thinking of doing things that make Ndigbo think that the head in the present administration hates them.
“They should stop giving that impression, it is wrong and I advice the Federal Government to drop the idea, I strongly reject it and advice them to give that line of thinking a second thought.
“If it is true that they are thinking along that line, of course I do not believe they are planning that, but if they are, they should first of all declare state of emergency in Borno, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and other states where violent activities have subjected people to finding home and shelter in Internally Displaced Peoples camps. Soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army are brutally murdered and forgotten.”
SANs tackle FG, say situation not ripe for such action
Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, deplored the threat, arguing that emergency rule could worsen the security situation, not just in Anambra State, but also in the entire South-East region.
They argued that the situation in Anambra State has not got to the stage where President Muhammadu Buhari could invoke his constitutional powers to declare a state of emergency in the state, even as they urged exploration of other alternatives.
Mohammed Abeny, SAN, said: “I don’t see the situation in Anambra to be worse than what is happening in Borno, Zamfara or even Niger State. Killing is killing, except FG’s decision will be political since the government in Anambra is not the same with the party at the centre.
“Nobody is happy with what is happening in Anambra but it is the primary duty of government to stop it before talking of declaring a state of emergency.
“It is a common knowledge that about 11 LGAs in a state in the North is under Boko Haram. Governor of the state said so himself, but no state of emergency has been declared there. Then you have Borno and Zamfara.
“I agree that the President has the constitutional power but it has not reached that stage that he can exercise such power. He has not explored other alternatives. If he is to declare a state of emergency in Anambra, then he should do so in Borno, Zamfara, Niger and other states.”
In like manner, Prof. Epiphany Azinge, SAN, said: “If it has gotten to a point where in the right thinking mind of the government, the only way to restore peace is through declaration of state of emergency, I don’t think that it will be unacceptable or untoward.
“However, what people will think is a comparative study, in the sense that state of emergency has not been declared in many parts of the country where there has been high level of insecurity.
“With what Boko Haram has done in the North-East, one ought to have imagined that state of emergency would have been declared there. Many lives and properties have been lost there with regular kidnapping of students.
“In the South-East, what we have seen is IPOB ordering a sit-at-home. If it graduates to the declaration of a state of emergency, it will worsen the situation.
“I don’t think that such action will serve a purpose. For me, that will be a kind of fire brigade approach that may lead to guerilla warfare. It may lead to a clear-cut war that will not augur well for peace.
“I don’t support what is happening in Anambra. Some of us have had reasons to put off engagements there. But I don’t think the situation warrants the declaration of a state of emergency.”
To Mr. Paul Ananaba, SAN: “I do not believe that FG will declare a state of emergency in Anambra. There is no total break down of law in the state. What is going on in Anambra is not beyond what is happening in Borno.
“What is going on in Anambra is not acceptable, but we cannot in a bid to cure one illness cause more damage. I do not support declaration of state of emergency. What I think is that FG should strengthen security in the state.”
On his part, Professor Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, said: “Declaration of a state of emergency in any part of Nigeria should only be resorted to if there is a true state of emergency in the letters and spirit of the Constitution.”
FG must not politicise emergency rule —Ozekhome(SAN)
Asked if Federal Government can impose emergence rule in Anambra state, Mike Ozekhome, SAN said: “Why not, if the political actors in the state cannot behave themselves and conduct elections decently.
“Why are they turning Anambra State into a theatre of war and odeon of grisly blood? What mineral resources or humongous funds exist in the state that politicians must kill themselves and innocent people to reap?
“Is it about sheer big ego, to show who controls the levers of power? Is it about 2023? Is it about assertion of their famed republicanism? Is it a demonstration of wealth?
“Just what is going on in Anambra state that blood is being spilled on a daily basis? Why have they weaponized every book and crany of the state?
“How can the politicians convince the electorate that it is their love for them that make them kill? The situation is sickening and heart-rending.
“The Federal Government has a duty to ensure that law and order is maintained in all parts of the federation. But, it must ensure this it is not another politically-motivated “operation-python-dance”, to terrorise, over-awe and bamboozle the Igbo people for asking for self-determination, a right recognized by the UNDHR, ACHPR ,etc.”
Don’t treat South-East in isolation— Ahamba
Reacting, Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN, urged the Federal Government not to treat the South-East Zone in isolation. He argued that an emergency rule would not achieve the purpose of allowing the electorate freely participate in the election.
“Let me put it this way: As far as I am concerned, if they want to put emergency rule they have to put it in Kaduna, Zamfara and Kastina. Unless they say they are doing so because of the election in Anambra State.
“I am aware some people are threatening that there will be no election and I want to say the people of Anambra should not allow themselves to destroy their election. It will force a foreigner to come and rule them.
“But if the Federal Government does not see any problem in a situation where 4-5 year children are carted into the bush, it means they know the people who are doing it and they don’t want to do anything about it.
“Now, all they want to do is to create more problems for us in the South-East zone.”
We reject emergen-cy rule in Igboland —ADF
Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, in a reaction through its spokesman, Abia Onyike said: “We are opposed to any form of emergency rule in the South-East. If President Buhari wants to impose emergency rule, he should start from Northern Nigeria which is the most chaotic and violent region in Nigeria today.
“Then he should begin with his home state of Katsina, then Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger, Borno and Yobe.
“The South-East is by far more peaceful and secure than these war-torn states.”
Govt has started implementing it – Intersociety
On its part, Intersociety, through its board chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi said: “When INEC said that it was planning to use Imo facilities for Anambra poll, it was later found that the commission had started using the facilities roguishly long before its announcement.
“Now that government has issued a threat to declare state of emergency, it means it has concluded plans to directly declare a state of emergency or an indirect emergency rule through military siege and indiscriminate killings and property violence.
“The Government has already started movement of heavy military personnel and equipment.
“Unlike in Abia State in September 2017, Anambra is their target this time around and it does not want people to come out and vote so that they can perfect their rigging and impose its fiendly federally ruling party on the people.
“Anambra citizens must be extremely vigilant as the state will soon be laid under siege and unleashed with srate violence of unimaginable proportions.”
It doesn’t make sense — Okwesilieze Nwodo
Former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, urged the Federal Government not to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State.
Nwodo, also a former national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, said: “It doesn’t make sense to declare state of emergency in Anambra State.
“I don’t think the state is the most insecure state in the country. The Federal Government has not shown any effort in controlling the security situation there.
“I think government should put in more efforts in securing the state rather than declaring a state of emergency there.
“They should deploy more personnel of the federal security agencies to the state. The security men to be deployed should also collaborate with local security architectures to restore normalcy in the state ahead of the governorship election.
“The Igbo leaders are also holding meetings to proffer solutions to the security situation in the state,” he said.
It’s unacceptable — CAN
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, rejected the Federal Government’s mulling over the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in Anambra, saying it would be unacceptable and unfair.
CAN’s Director, National Issues and Social Welfare, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, in an exclusive chat with Vanguard, said: “To the church in Nigeria, the tension in the land is a product of the collective failure of our leaders, both past and present.
“Those we have elected to lead us have grossly mismanaged the system and also failed to adequately discharge their constitutional mandate on security.
“Therefore, for the Federal Government to consider declaring a state of emergency in any state in the country right now is unfair and unacceptable.
“It is not entirely the fault of the governor or the people of Anambra State that there are security challenges in the country.
“All the government should do is simple. Let our leaders provide adequate security for every state in Nigeria. Doing so makes more sense than seeking to declare a state of emergency in any particular state.”
FG must retrieve South-East from IPOB, others — NEF
However, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, in its reaction, said government must do whatever is required to retrieve the South-East region from the whims and caprices of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and other similar groups in the Diaspora.
NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated this in an exclusive interview with Vanguard in Abuja.
The Forum said: “All lawful initiatives needed to be taken to arrest violence in any part of Nigeria need to supported.
“The nation is being swamped by violent non-state actors. Too many groups and individuals appear to think that they can continue to exploit weaknesses of the administration in securing citizens.
“The Governorship elections in Anambra State must not be sacrificed to IPOB and related interests. Nigerians in this state must be afforded the opportunity to elect their next governor.
“In general, the Federal Government must retrieve the South-East from IPOB and diaspora irredentists. No inch of Nigeria should be yielded to organized crime.”
It’s a verdict of failure – Afenifere
The pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, described the announcement by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that the Federal Government may declare a state of emergency in Anambra State as self-indictment and a verdict of failure.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, stated: “It was in order for the Federal Government to warn that the incessant violence in the state was unacceptable and may lead to undesirable consequence, but it is a height of blame game and hypocrisy to put all the blame on the state government when it is clear that the main security apparatuses in the country are controlled exclusively by the Federal Government.
“The highest any state government in Nigeria is allowed to do in terms of security is to set up local vigilante groups who cannot carry equipment necessary to combat insecurity in this 21st security.
“The kind of weapon they could carry under the present Nigerian law is the type a person going to hunt for game in the bush can carry while those they are supposed to confront are armed with almost the most sophisticated weapons available.
“So, the Anambra state governor, like his counterparts in other states, is constitutionally and administratively encumbered from providing security in his state despite the fact that the same constitution dubs him as ‘the chief security officer’ of his state.
“Were those at the helms of affairs genuinely committed to securing Nigeria as the situation currently demands, the state governments could be administratively allowed to establish state police forces while a quick amendment is made to the relevant sections of the constitution to that effect.
“At the moment, state governments fund police commands in their states just as police commissioners in the states are members of the states’ security councils. Yet, the governor has no power to give an order to the state police commissioner as the latter only takes order from the Inspector General of Police or his lieutenants – and not the governor.
“The hypocrisy in the threat by the Attorney-General became manifest because no state of emergency has been announced to be in the offing in states where serious security challenges have been occurring for months if not years — states such as Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Niger, where even sections of local governments are under the control of bandits as announced by the state governors.”
FG has no powers toto declare emergency, says ACF
In ts reaction, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said: “People have mistaken the provisions of declaration of state of emergency because of what Obasanjo did in his time as President.
“His unilateral declaration of state of emergency and dissolution of democratic structures in Plateau and a few other states was illegal. The courts said so.
“The Federal Government has no constitutional powers to declare a state of emergency the way it is threatening. The process of declaring a state of emergency is clearly spelt out in the relevant sections of the 1999 constitution.
“If they dare declare a state of emergency without the due process of the constitution, such a declaration will be voided by the courts and government put to shame. I am not a lawyer but I can say this without any fear of contradiction.
“If the Federal Government is sure of what they are threatening in Anambra, let them try. We do not like the killings going on in Anambra. The ACF, however, stands for the rule of law and will not support any illegal action that will compound issues.
“There must be a lawful way of stopping the killings and not another unlawful expedition by the Federal Government.”
Emergency in Anambra over insecurity not necessary — PANDEF
Also reacting yesterday, National Chairman of the apex socio-cultural organiza-tion of the South South people, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, said:
“It is not necessary to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State. When you do that, you are putting fears into people and people will not go out to vote; there will be voter apathy.
‘’All the Federal Government should just do is do the needful by putting adequate security in place throughout the period of the election.
“If the electorate do not go out to vote, people will just sit down, write the results and announce. Maybe that is what they want to do. So all the Federal Government should do is to put adequate security in place, then allow INEC conduct a free, fair and credible election.
“There is rising insecurity almost everywhere. For instance in the North-East, there was serious security threat due to incessant attacks, killings by Boko Haram, yet in 2019, elections were held there without state of emergency, they still went ahead to do the election.
“Is it because it is a state in the south that they now want to declare a state of emergency? Maybe they are planning to rig the election in Anambra State.”