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Insecurity: Lawyers push against state of emergency

Some senior lawyers have spoken out against the growing calls for a declaration of state of emergency on insecurity by President Bola Tinubu. The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue at the weekend were unanimous in rejecting the calls, saying it would only worsen the problem rather than solving it The National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Audu Amba, had recently urged President Bola Tinubu to declare a state of emergency on insecurity due to the incessant killings and kidnappings across the country. Speaking while delivering his keynote speech at the 6th Annual Solemn Assembly of the NUT in Abuja, Amba, who voiced his concerns about Nigeria’s “unprecedented” security difficulties, revealed how education is being impacted negatively by insecurity. “It is therefore my humble plea that the Federal Government should declare a state of emergency as long as the security situation does not improve. “Government at all levels should do what is necessary since security is everybody’s business. “Nothing can be achieved with insecurity in the country. So, it is imperative to move all stumbling blocks that are bedevilling the security architecture of the country. “We hope that the federal, state, local governments and all stakeholders in education would join hands to protect our schools and the education workers in Nigeria”, the NUT boss said.

NBA supports Amba’s call

Interestingly, the call by the NUT president for the declaration of state of emergency on insecurity got the nod of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, when the lawyers’ body also asked President Tinubu to declare a state of emergency on insecurity. The NBA, through its President, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), said this should be done in addition to ensuring the right investments in security in line with global trends in security without compromising Nigeria’s sovereignty. Addressing journalists on the state of the nation, the NBA boss posited that insecurity has left many Nigerians homeless and businesses destroyed, adding that citizens were losing confidence in government’s ability to deal with the insecurity plaguing the country. Maikyau said: “Some Nigerians have lost, and many more are fast losing confidence in the ability of the Federal Government to deal with the security situation in Nigeria. “At this time, when public confidence in the sincerity of government to deal with insecurity is at its lowest ebb, I strongly recommend a government/people engagement that will, at the minimum, inform the people (to the extent that security protocol may allow) about what is being done to secure the nation. Alternatively, let there be clear indicators. “I call on the President to show and demonstrable commitment to prioritize the security of lives and property of Nigerians as already committed by him. “The government, through our armed forces and other security agencies, must ensure that no square inch of the Nigeria territory is left ungoverned; no part of Nigeria should be left under the control of criminal elements by whatever name so-called. “The Federal Government must adopt a holistic approach to the issue of security, while not overlooking the peculiarities of each region and design bespoke measures to deal with them accordingly. “In this wise, the government must neither be scared nor ashamed to make the right investments in security, in line with global trends, without compromising our sovereignty. “It’s high time the Federal Government declare a state of emergency in the area of security and I urge you, Mr President, not to waste time and spare no effort in this regard.” The NBA President also expressed unhappiness over the dwindling of the nation’s economy, as well as its currency owing to the state of insecurity in the country, with a further position that insecurity has impacted negatively on food sufficiency and food security as a nation. For Maikyau, farmers could no longer go to their farms, just as he stated that “while this administration may argue that it is only seven months in office and is not the cause of present-day experience, the fact remains that it is this government that has the responsibility of stemming the negative tide.”

Past calls for declaration of state of emergency on insecurity

Before this time, a coalition of 48 civil society organizations had in January 29, 2024 charged the President to declare a state of emergency on the current security situation in the country. The coalition’s call came during a world press conference in Abuja. While the world press conference lasted, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa, who spoke on behalf of the organizations, insisted that they are deeply concerned about the rising insecurity across the country and urged the government to take urgent steps towards ending it. He said: “Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria under the auspices of the Civil Society Joint Action Group, Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities, and Nigeria Mourns, are deeply concerned by the deteriorating state of security across Nigeria and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and therefore call on the Nigerian government to take actionable steps to end the endemic insecurity, mitigate further attacks by kidnap syndicates and terrorist groups, and account for persons missing in these attacks”. Musa noted that over the past decade and a half, insecurity in Nigeria has spiralled owing to a variety of violent phenomena, including but not limited to terrorist activities in the entire northern region of the country, terror pillages otherwise known as banditry in the Northwest, farmer-herder violence in the Middle Belt, including the Benue Valley, secessionist struggles in the South-east, piracy in the southern coast of the country, intercommunal attacks, political violence, cult-gang violence and kidnapping. While noting further that these forms of insecurity have jeopardized the security and well-being of Nigerians, and have progressively deteriorated over the years, Musa said it is highly regrettable that endemic insecurity has persisted over the last three administrations, including that of President Muhammadu Buhari, who as a former military general, had gained public trust to run as President by promising to curb the then fledgling insecurity.

In his words: During Mr Buhari’s second term between 2019 and 2023, at least 24,316 Nigerians lost their lives, while about 15,597 persons were abducted. “Our tracking of the state of insecurity shows that at least 2,423 people have been killed in mass atrocities-related incidents, while about 1,872 persons have been abducted between May 2023 when President Tinubu assumed office. “This alarming trend has continued despite President Tinubu’s assurance at the beginning of his presidency in May that he would tackle insecurity. “We are particularly concerned about the upsurge in abductions. At least 230 incidents, in most of which multiple victims were involved, occurred within the first two weeks of January 2024 alone. “The government has continued to fail in its primary duty of ensuring the security and welfare of all citizens as mandated in Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, and in its obligation to enforce and fulfil the citizens’ rights to life, according to Section 33 of the document.” As a result, Musa called on President Tinubu to urgently undertake twelve measures to tackle insecurity in the country, among which are to fulfil the constitutional imperative of safeguarding the lives of Nigerians and also declare a state of emergency on kidnapping and other forms of terrorism. Even, the Chairman of Partners for Electoral Reform, Ezenwa Nwagwu, insisted that the Nigerian government has abandoned its primary purpose spelt out by the constitution, which says, “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. “The government has abandoned us, they have abandoned their constitutional right, this is not a call of one civil society organization alone. This has become a collective effort from all others, including the media “Let us look forward to a day like this where we will have all others including the security operatives in a single room and discuss the way out of this,” he said. On its part, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had on January 19, 2024 in the face of the rising kidnapping and bandits ravaging some parts of the country, called for the declaration of a state of emergency on the security situation in the country. NANS posited through the Clerk of the student’s Senate body, Oladimeji Uthman, that, “The National Association of Nigerian Students is gravely concerned about the escalating security crisis in Nigeria, particularly the surge in kidnapping and banditry that has disproportionately affected the Northern region and other zones of the country.

“Recent events, including the abduction of a 400-level student at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the tragic killing of Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, underscore the urgent need for decisive action. “In the light of these alarming developments, NANS respectfully urges the Federal Government of Nigeria to declare a state of emergency in the affected areas, with a specific focus on the North. “This call for a state of emergency is driven by the audacity and frequency of criminal activities, which pose a severe threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.” Uthman, who noted that declaring a state of emergency would help the government to address the security situation critically, suggested that the Federal Government should work on collaboration with other stakeholders for intelligence gathering. He said, “While acknowledging the government’s ongoing efforts to address security challenges, NANS believes that the gravity of the situation demands additional measures. “A state of emergency declaration would equip the government with enhanced tools to comprehensively address these security threats. “NANS proposes intensified collaboration between security agencies and local communities, increased intelligence operations, and dedicated resource allocation to empower law enforcement agencies. “Given the urgency of the matter, NANS emphasizes the need for a swift and comprehensive response to safeguard the lives and well-being of Nigerian citizens. “NANS appreciates the government’s attention to this pressing matter and trusts that all necessary steps, including the declaration of a state of emergency, will be taken to effectively address the current security challenges facing the nation. “A decisive response will not only reassure citizens but also send a clear message to criminal elements that their actions will not be tolerated.” Even on June 7, 2023, the Taraba State House of Assembly equally charged President Tinubu to declare a state of emergency on insecurity. The call was sequel to the incessant communal clashes and banditry in some local government areas in the state in the last four years. The request came in the wake of attacks and killings in Tsokundi, a community in Wukari Local Government, and some neighbouring communities in Donga LGA. The Assembly through a motion of urgent public importance jointly sponsored by Tanko Yusuf of Takum (I) Constituency, John Lamba of Takum (II) Constituency, Joshua Urenyang of Ussa Constituency, Josiah Yaro of Wukari (II) Constituency, Jethro Yakubu of Wukari (I) Constituency and Annas Shuaibu of Karim-Lamido (II), had posited that, “Just a few weeks ago in Wukari Local Government Area, these banditry attacks took place along the Wukari-Tsokundi axis resulting in the killing of nine (9) people, while Mr Mikin Danasabe and Mr Iliya Mairiga narrowly escaped death, but their valuable belongings were snatched from them. “In Karim-Lamido Local Government Area, the border communities/villages sharing boundaries with Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe States have been experiencing banditry attacks recently. They include: Bachama-Dutsen Kofa Ligiri, Garau, Kommodoro, Jab-Jab, Tela Jibu, Machigin Kiriya, Chibi, Balango, Binnari, llela, Kambari and Amar. “Following the development, the house disclosed that it has realized the fact that as a responsible government, the security, welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry are of utmost priority and hence the need to deploy all its capacities to beef up security in the affected areas in Taraba State is needed to ensure the safety of the people and their property”.

Lawyers’ reactions

Commenting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Amobi Nzelu, who expressed displeasure over the calls for the declaration of a state of emergency on insecurity posited, “I don’t understand why they are saying so; are they trying to attack the symptoms or the sickness itself. What must have led to the insecurity in this country can be described as what is happening in the food industry. The stomach is empty, the stomach is making noise, and people are angry. It is only a man that has eaten good food, that can sit down to reason. “Do you know what it means to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in Nigeria. It means every apparatus that is meant to be used would be brought down and informal measures are taken. “The fact remains that there is hunger in the land and many people are also unemployed. Government should avoid certain things that can cause uproar in the country and tell Nigerians the truth about the state of the nation”. Speaking in the same vein, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), argued that the president does not need to use emergency rule on insecurity before deploying the various security outfits to fight the deplorable state of insecurity in the country. In insisting that such a declaration will not augur well for the nation, Chief Ahamba expressed fears about a possible escalation of the menace under a state of emergency, just as he urged security operatives to be more alive to their responsibilities of protecting lives and property of citizens. In his words: “I really don’t know how a state of emergency can be declared on one aspect of the society and leave the other areas. How do you declare a state of emergency on insecurity? “That would translate to a declaration of state of emergency on the entire nation, and I am not in support of it. I will want the security operatives to do their jobs as expected rather than for the President declaring a state of emergency on insecurity.” In his comments, Dr. Adewale Kupoluyi, said: “I don’t think the president needs to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in the country. “No doubt, the level of insecurity is much, but declaring a state of emergency on the entire country is too hasty. There are serious legal implications for such actions that those making the call probably did not consider. “The state of emergency contemplated under Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution is perhaps when there is massive violence, civil unrest, and total breakdown of law and order in Nigeria, or parts of the country, which I am yet to see. “Let me add that when a state of emergency is declared, many democratic institutions would be suspended, and that could impair the smooth democratic process, rule of law, and the protection of fundamental rights. “What do we need to do? Let those in government be focused, and transparent, and tackle the problems of corruption, inflation, food scarcity, unemployment, and brain drain. “The cost of governance should also be reduced. With these, the fortunes of the nation would be better off. “The problems we are facing now did not start with this administration. He (Tinubu) only inherited them, so, it would naturally take some time before normalcy would return. “It’s just that Nigerians are very impatient, and that does not mean the current government is without its shortcomings, but we should give them more time to assess them. “One year should be enough to ascertain whether they are focused or not. Hence, the call for a state of emergency is premature”.

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