By Ohia Israel
Last week President Goodluck Jonathan requested the National Assembly to extend the emergency rule in the three northern states. It will be recalled that the Senate President, David Mark, also confirmed the receipt of the Letter just as the National Defence Council had on the week approved the extension and urged the president to request the approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives as required by the constitution.
If approved by the lawmakers, the emergency rule will be in its fourth phase following two previous extensions. Under the constitution, each phase of emergency rule runs for six months. The third round of emergency rule expired last Thursday.
“The council reviewed the issue of the state of emergency and the government will be requesting the National Assembly to extend the emergency rule. It will go in immediately,” Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, told reporters.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, it is becoming a serious issue as for two days the Nigeria’s Senate failed to reach an agreement on the request by President Goodluck Jonathan for an extension of the State of Emergency in three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
The states have been under intense Boko Haram insurgency, leading to the declaration of emergency rule which has been extended twice now.
After failing to reach an agreement last week Tuesday, the senate deferred its decision to the next day, but after another session the next day the opposition to the demand for extension of the state of emergency still remained unbending in the senate.
However, the issue of politics aside, some security analysts posit that the military high Command, particularly the Chief of Defense Staff and the Chief of Army Staff, if they are already not, should be made uncomfortable by this embarrassing development except there is something they know that the ordinary citizens don’t.
According to an analyst; “If hunters and members of the civilian JTF from these areas- Mubi and parts of Borno, could gallantly engage and, out-rightly, defeat Boko Haram fighters without the sophisticated equipment and training our soldiers had, then obviously there is something wrong and somebody should be held responsible for this national embarrassment of our soldiers fleeing everyday from tag-ragged terrorists.
“These hunters and the civilian JTF don’t have the hundreds of billions of naira given to our military every year and don’t have armoured vehicles and other sophisticated military hardware. They are armed barely with their hunters’ guns.
“How do you reconcile that? The late General Murtala Mohammed and Benjamin Adekunle had a history of shooting cowards on the spot during Nigeria’s tragic civil war. General George Smith Patton, the American World War II hero, also had a record of publicly disgracing cowards under his command.”
According to him; “Even our own Colonel Achuzia was notorious during the Nigerian civil war because he cannot tolerate the least iota of cowardice from any of the “boys” under his command. So it is surprising to read/hear some Nigerians making excuses for soldiers and commanders who run away from the battlefield and abandon their weapons or equipment to the terrorists.
“A soldier’s loyalty should be first to Nigeria. The day a soldier feels his loyalty belongs to conflicting interests, is the day the army lose cohesion, sense of purpose, unity and the will to confront a common enemy. The greater danger is to allow politics infiltrate the armed forces, a tendency too dangerous for the ability of our armed forces to respond robustly to a common enemy- in this case the fanatics and insurgents.”
The analysts asked; “Are there enemies of Nigeria within the hierarchy of our military system? A whole Nigerian army reduced to cowardice in the hands of a bunch of tag-ragged insurgents! This is unacceptable because it glaringly shows that something is very wrong. Was it not this same Nigerian army that performed admirably when deployed to the war-torn Liberia in 1990, armed with just AK-47 rifles?”
For instance a few days ago, the Boko Haram terrorists reportedly claimed to have seized more than 20 armoured vehicles from Nigerian soldiers, he said then this claim, if true, weakens the arguments of those who blame lack of equipment for the soldiers’ reluctance to valiantly engage the terrorists.
“If Boko Haram could seize more than 20 armoured vehicles from the Nigerian army as claimed by Shekau, then what becomes of the arguments of those who say our soldiers have no equipment to fight terrorism? Could terrorists have taken more than 20 armoured vehicles from an army that has no equipment to fight? When cowards run away from the battlefield and abandon their weapons to terrorists, they always blame the military authorities for not giving them the equipment to fight,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Senator Umaru Dahiru, Chairman of Northern senators on Tuesday opposed the extension of emergency rule in the Northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, arguing that activities of Boko Haram insurgents have heightened in the states despite military presence in the areas and the emergency rule rather confers advantages on the sect’s fighters over the military’s protection of civilians.
Reacting to President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for the extension of the emergency rule in the affected states read on the floor of the Senate by the Senate President David Mark, they expressed the view that emergency rule shuts in civilians giving advantage to the insurgents at the expense of the military which can operate without further emergency rule extension.
The senators vowed not to endorse the request because emergency rule forces unarmed civilians indoors by 6:00pm and leaves them as sitting ducks for insurgents to invade villages and towns unopposed, killing fleeing civilians as target practice with impunity.
The president had in the letter dated, November 17, said the extension is necessary following the continued insurgency in the affected states.
The letter reads: “It is important to state that despite concerted efforts by this administration to stem the tide of terrorism and insurgency in the affected states, the security challenges that necessitated the proclamation are yet to abate. Consequently, it has become imperative to request the approval of the Senate for extension of the period for the state of emergency for a further period of six months.”
The request is the third extension the Presidency will be seeking. The proclamation of emergency rule in the three states was approved on May 13, 2013. Its first extension was in November, and the second last May against stiff resistance by the Northern Senators Forum.
Senator Umaru Dahiru, Chairman of Northern Senators Forum (NSF), had argued that continuing the emergency rule was no more the best way to combat the raging insurgency which has paralysed economic and social activities in the three states.
As such, senators from the 19 Northern states in NSF were opposed to further extension of emergency rule imposed on the three states by Jonathan and will vote against it.
“The leadership of the affected states and our Forum here are saying, ‘No to emergency rule!’ Dahiru had said.
At the plenary on Tuesday, the Senate Leader moved for an executive session to discuss Jonathan’s request after reading the extension request letter on the floor.
Two hours later, the Senate President announced they “had a very extensive debate on it and will continue with the debate (Wednesday)”, before announcing adjournment of plenary to today.
Speaking after the plenary, Sen. Ali Ndume (Borno South) said the emergency rule imposed on the three states failed to yield any progress in the fight against insurgency as more areas had been captured by Boko Haram sect and more violence reported since then.
“Approving another six months will be like bringing more trouble to ourselves. Before the approval in May, most of the villages were not captured by the insurgents. Emergency rule has given the insurgents an edge over the civilians. By 6 pm, you will not see anybody on the streets and the insurgents will be using the opportunity to attack people and capture territories.
“If there is no emergency, people will be more alert. The people I represent are against the extension of the emergency rule. Election is not the issue right now, according to the Constitution, the principal duty of government is the protection of lives and properties of its citizens and not elections”, he stated.
Similarly, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) also rejected the request. He said, “Although, we will continue deliberations on the issue, I can assure you that we will not approve the emergency rule extension because the President can deploy the military to any part of the country without declaring state of emergency.
Lawan said: “We have a very strong military in Nigeria and nobody can doubt their capacity to handle this insurgency unless the government is telling us that so many things are fundamentally wrong.
“Discussions on it will definitely continue tomorrow, but I want to tell you that I am totally opposed to it. I believe that after 18 months of the state of emergency, we should look at other avenues.”
Meanwhile Yobe Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, in his statement concerning the emergency said; “Two days ago, news filtered that the National Security Council has approved yet another extension of Emergency Rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.
“Over the past 12 months when the Emergency Rule declared by Mr President was renewed twice, after the first one, His Excellency Governor Ibrahim Gaidam had approached the renewal with caution, always emphasising the need for an all-hands-on-deck approach where the military troops on the ground are sufficiently kitted by the federal government and people across the affected States pitched in to do their part through vigilance, community surveillance and helping the security forces in every way possible to defeat the criminals and insurgents who are wreaking havoc to this day.
“However, ongoing Emergency Rule has, so far, failed to roll back and contain the disaster that is Boko Haram. Only ten days ago, our very young students full of hope for the future at Government Science Technical College (GSTC)Potiskum were killed in a very evil and grotesque manner. And there were many others before them in four schools across our State and in communities across the affected States.
“His Excellency Governor Gaidam believes that the presence of military troops on the ground is absolutely necessary but not sufficient to take the war to the insurgents and to defeat them. There are other vital ingredients which must feature now if the current extension is to enjoy any success at all.
“One of these, Governor Gaidam believes and has voiced out on many occasions before, is the absolute need to provide every weaponry and military gear that the hard working troops on the ground need. From Afghanistan to Somalia, terrorists and insurgents are defeated or forced into hiding only through the use of advanced weaponry.
“His Excellency the Governor has said before – and it bears repeating now – that the federal government also needs to adopt or build on an approach that addresses ongoing security challenges from the bottom up. That means actively partnering with local communities and community leaders to get them to enrol more actively in the fight to restore peace and security.
“His Excellency Governor Gaidam believes that the federal government can do this by providing more support to affected and distraught communities than is currently the case. With more support to people who have been displaced or who have lost limps, livelihoods or loved ones to the criminal activities of the insurgents, it’s more likely that people will participate more actively going forward.
“And this, by the way, is a measure that the Yobe State government itself has taken as His Excellency the Governor pushes on with mobilisation effort to get people throughout the State to continue to pray for Almighty Allah (SWT)’s direct intervention and to stay vigilant and help the security forces with useful information.
“Governor Gaidam believes also that the federal government should invest more in education and infrastructure in the Northeast as a special measure to help people recover. There is no question that the affected states are doing their best in so many ways under very difficult circumstances but the federal government can help accelerate the process by intervening in road construction, rebuilding and re-equipping of schools, and by setting up regional skills hubs where young people and women would get the training they need to support themselves and their families.
“Given the overwhelming presence of insurgents in border areas, Governor Gaidam also believes that the federal government should take multilateral relationship with the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon to a new level by getting them to more actively support our fight for peace and security.
“The governor is of the opinion that when pursued with more energy, these and other measures have the potential to help us defeat all the criminals and insurgents out there who are bent on destroying us all”.