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Extraordinary Times, Uncommon Truce

19 May 2013

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Last week presented a pleasant surprise to democracy  in Nigeria. For the first time in a long while, the executive and legislature were on the same page on an issue as complex as a state of emergency.

When  President  Goodluck Jonathan  declared the state of  emergency on Tuesday, there was  apprehension in some quarters that the  legislators  may rise against the proclamation given past experiences.
This was more so when some pressure groups had kicked against the idea of  emergency rule even before it was proclaimed as though the plans leaked along the line.

Although, the  proclamation has not been formally transmitted to the parliament and the legislators have not deliberated on  it, there are enough indication that the motion will succeed when the time comes.  At least, in the House, it  has become clear that majority of  the legislators  are favourably disposed to the proclamation of state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

The mood in the chamber  during the week was  that of an uncommon truce between the cat and mouse. There seem to have been  an  understanding that the decision though hard,  was right. It is the magic of consultation, political considerations  and horse trading.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Afam Ogene captured this new understanding when he described the shape and colours of the declaration  as the hallmark of  collaboration between the executive and legislature.
The  House, he said, could not have been averse to the emergency rule because it  had for several months  shown  concern over  the rising wave of terrorism and  insecurity in the country. 

“One thing that has come out of this state of emergency declared is the need for cooperation by all tiers and all arms of government. It is one government and so, the more we have regular interaction the better we work towards a common goal. 

“We are aware that the President before the declaration did interface with the leadership of the National Assembly, and I can tell you that the input of the National Assembly has led to the management of the situation such that we do not have a complete state of emergency that would have swept away democratic structures in the concerned states as we had in the past.

“As the bastion of democracy, the National Assembly is always desirous of maintaining and sustaining all democratic ethos which was why the leadership of the National Assembly did suggest that while we would support a return to normalcy using the mechanism of the state of emergency, it will not be right and it will send wrong messages if democratic structures such as the governor and states Houses of Assembly were to go,” he said.

Ogene said that  going forward, there would be need for  more  cooperation between the executive and the legislature given the growing  consciousness that  government is one.
The lesson of the week  was the consensus    that terrorism being  an uncommon threat to national security, required  an extra-ordinary solution and deserved  an  uncommon understanding between the executive and legislature for Nigeria to  extinguish the flames of terror.

Section 305 of The 1999 Constitution
Jonathan had in his nationwide broadcast promised to transmit the details of the proclamation to the National Assembly for their ratification. However, as  at the end of the week, the  document was yet to reach the National Assembly.
This has led to varied interpretations of the relevant law guiding the declaration of state of emergency. Has there been a breach of the Constitution?  The answer is clearly in the negative.

Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution states  thus:
“ Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by instrument published in the Official -Gazette  of the Government of the Federation issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in the Federation or any part thereof.

(2) The President shall immediately after the publication, transmit copies of the Official -Gazette of the Government of the Federation containing the proclamation including the details of the emergency to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, each of whom shall forthwith convene or arrange for a meeting of the House of which he is President or Speaker, as the case may be, to consider the situation and decide whether or not to pass a resolution approving the Proclamation.
(3) The President shall have power to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency only when -
(a) the Federation is at war;

(b) the Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war;
(c) there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security;

(d) there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger;

(e) there is an occurrence or imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity, affecting the community or a section of the community in the Federation;

(f) there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the Federation; or
(g) the President receives a request to do so in accordance with the provisions of subsection (4) of this section

(4) The Governor of a State may, with the sanction of a resolution supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly, request the President to issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in the State when there is in existence within the State any of the situations specified in subsection (3) (c), (d) and (e) of this section and such situation does not extend beyond the boundaries of the State.

(5) The President shall not issue a Proclamation of a state of emergency in any case to which the provisions of subsection (4) of this section apply unless the Governor of the State fails within a reasonable time to make a request to the President to issue such Proclamation.

(6) A Proclamation issued by the President under this section shall cease to have effect -
(a) if it is revoked by the President by instrument published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation;
(b) if it affects the Federation or any part thereof and within two days when the National Assembly is in session, or within ten days when the National Assembly is not in session, after its publication, there is no resolution supported by two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly approving the Proclamation;
(c) after a period of six months has elapsed since it has been in force:

“Provided that the National Assembly may, before the expiration of the period of six months aforesaid, extend the period for the Proclamation of the state of emergency to remain in force from time to time for a further period of six months by resolution passed in like manner; or

(d) at any time after the approval referred to in paragraph (b) or the extension referred to in paragraph (c) of this subsection, when each House of the National Assembly revokes the Proclamation by a simple majority of all the members of each House.”

*Bombardier 700 

The House of Representatives  Joint Committee on Justice and Aviation ran into some confusion during the week as it tried to investigate the circumstances surrounding the grounding of a controversial aircraft.

The confusion arose following the conflicting claims and  denials with regards to  the ownership of the  aircraft and its operations in the country.

While  the  Rivers State Government  claimed  it leased  the  Bombardier B700 Series Global Express aircraft through Caverton Helicopters, the  helicopter firm  vehemently denied it. According to Caverton Helicopters, there was an initial contract to manage the aircraft but the deal was never consumated.

The situation was further compounded when the Ministry of Aviation and its agencies said they do not know the owners of the aircraft. They alleged  that the aircraft was operating  in breach of the country’s aviation regulations and threatened to institute criminal proceedings against its owners.  But  strangely, both the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) had on several instances  cleared  the same aircraft to fly  before the controversy of improper manifest  arose at the Akure Airport.

The investigation, to say the least,  hit  a brick wall and the panel  had no choice but to change  course if the probe must get to its destination.

Chairman House Committee on Justice, Hon Ali Ahmad  therefore ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) to produce a register of all  private jets operating in Nigeria.

The register, the panel said,  should  include all private jets whether they are owned by Nigerians or owned by foreigners and  flying the airspace on adhoc basis.

The document is expected  indicate the name of the aircraft, owner,  registration number, name of operator and expiry date of licence or permit.
The purpose of the exercise was 
to ascertain the true  ownership of these aircrafts  and their  right to fly in the country. The bottom line is to ascertain if the grounding of the plane was a matter of legal breaches or political victimisation of its owners.

Certainly, the last has not been heard about the ownership and politics of this plane. As of now, this aircraft is more or less an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) that strayed  into the Nigerian airspace. Who says our Total Radar Coverage is not working? It is working round the clock except at  intervals of eclipse  when  clouds  of  impunity and showers of dollars  jam its  signals, forcing it to run amok and unable to track a fly.  

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured

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