Insecurity, Blame Game and Emergency Rule

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By Onikepo Braithwaite Email: onikepo.braithwaite@thisdaylive.com Twitter: @TheAdvocatesTD

GLO With Pride!

I decided to start my piece today on a positive note, since this administration believes that many of us, especially the media, thrive on harping only on the negatives in Nigeria. Last week, I mentioned the fact that many foreigners except the Chinese, are divesting and leaving Nigeria. This is true, but, I failed to take cognisance of the fact that there are still Nigerians who have invested just as much as the foreigners in our dear country, and have done well in showcasing the fact that we do have successful industries and conglomerates in Nigeria. They are doing their bit to harness the resources of the nation, create employment and promote national prosperity. Telecoms giant, Globacom Limited aka GLO, founded in 2003 by Dr Mike Adenuga GCON, is one of them. GLO is a brand Ambassador for Nigeria, as it has spread its operations to other African countries like Ghana, Republic of Benin and Ivory Coast. In a country that is grappling with an alarming rate of unemployment, GLO employs thousands across Nigeria and the African sub-region.

I urge Government to facilitate an even more enabling environment for Nigerians to flourish, so that like GLO, we can contribute our own quota to the attainment of a dynamic and self-reliant economy, as Section 16(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2018)(the Constitution) mandates Government to do. And, one key element that is essential to the attainment of a burgeoning business climate, is security, which Government must provide (Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution).

Alhaji Lai Mohammed v Late General Murtala Ramat Muhammed

Last week, social media was awash with forwards questioning the mental capacity of the Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, when he ridiculously and outlandishly attempted to lay the blame for the unprecedented level of insecurity which Nigeria is experiencing today on the military regime of late General Murtala Muhammed, whom he claimed failed to continue General Yakubu Gowon’s regime’s policy of compulsory free education for those born after January 1970! Pray tell, has this administration continued the education policy, when we know that currently, Nigeria has one of the highest out-of-school children numbers in the world? When President Obasanjo stepped down from office in 2007, we had about 6.5 million out-of-school children; when President Buhari came into office in 2015, they had increased to about 10.5 million; today, UNICEF puts the number at over 13.5 million. Surely, if this administration is implementing such a good education policy, should the numbers not have decreased?

How can one sink this low, in order to pass the buck and escape responsibility and liability, making false and derogatory remarks about the dead, who even though he doesn’t need to defend himself on this, is not here with us to do so? Alhaji Mohammed being a Lawyer, must be aware of Section 36(1) of the Constitution – the right to fair hearing – ‘Audi alteram partem’. How can he blame someone who was in office for less than seven months almost 50 years ago, for the security predicament that Nigeria is facing today? As we say in Hausa, “Ina ruwan ungulu da kitso?” (what’s the business of the vulture with plaiting of hair?) – we are all aware that the vulture is bald, and consequently, has no hair to plait – in short, what does the present unprecedented level of insecurity that Nigeria is experiencing (which this administration that Alhaji Mohammed is the mouthpiece of, has failed to quell) have to do with late General Muhammed? Nothing! General Muhammed was not even in office for up to one academic year. Alhaji Mohammed’s allegation is beyond farcical, it is thoughtless and witless.

A couple of weeks ago, I did say that this blame game/buck passing, this ‘yawo’ (wandering) would not end until we reach the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914, or possibly pre-colonial times. I beg to correct myself – it may get to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ or the time of Adam and Eve! It may be because Cain killed Abel, that Nigeria is experiencing insecurity today! I only wish Alhaji Mohammed had tried to lay the blame on the living General Olusegun Obasanjo aka President Obasanjo, who took over as Head of State when General Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1976, and was in office for three years. It would certainly have been extremely interesting and entertaining. President Obasanjo has become famous for his penchant for letter writing to this administration, the contents of which the latter does not particularly care for; and I can imagine that we may have been regaled with another letter containing Lai Mohammed’s life history – the good, the bad and the ugly, if Alhaji Mohammed had attempted to lay this on General Obasanjo (as he then was)!

State of Emergency on Security

Nigerians are excellent at coining buzz words and phrases, and they become so catchy very quickly; for example, ‘change’ and ‘next level, ‘bandits’ and ‘banditry’ (a replacement for the stigmatisation saga), and most recently, people calling for a declaration of a ‘state of emergency on security or on the security sector’. A declaration of a state of emergency on the security sector, is meaningless. Or do they mean a national emergency on security? Because, it’s either that or a state of emergency simpliciter.

The Collins Dictionary defines a state of emergency as “a condition declared by a government, in which martial law applies, usually because of civil unrest or natural disaster”. A state of emergency can be limited or restricted to a particular locality or area, not necessarily a whole country. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a national emergency is “a state of national crisis; a situation demanding immediate and extra-ordinary national or federal action”; in this scenario, currently, the condition of Nigeria’s security is a national crisis, which demands immediate and extraordinary national, and even international action.

Section 305 of the Constitution which provides for state of emergency, does not provide for a state of emergency on security. It provides for a state of emergency in the Federation (Section 305 (1)); or in a State or locality, where a Governor can request the President to make a proclamation for a state of emergency therein (Section 305(4)); or the President may do so in a State or locality within a State, if the Governor fails to request for one when it is required (Section 305(5) of the Constitution). The conditions which empower the President to proclaim a state of emergency are mentioned in Section 305(3)(a-f) of the Constitution – inter alia, when the Federation is at war, or we are in imminent danger of invasion or a war; or if there exists a break down of public order and public safety or clear and present danger of it, and extraordinary measures are required to restore peace and security, either to the nation or to the State or locality where there is trouble; or if there’s a natural disaster within a State or the whole country.

To be candid, today, most of the conditions highlighted above (aside from that of natural disaster), which empower the President or Governors to declare or proclaim a state of emergency, are very much in existence in several parts of the country, if not the whole, but the jury is still very much out as to whether a nationwide state of emergency would be welcome. In our so-called democratic dispensation, the people are already disgruntled that some of our fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution are being trampled upon by Government, and it would be akin to adding fuel to the fire to declare a state of emergency, since such a declaration may have the effect of suspending the Constitution and imposing martial law – many Nigerians do not want this.

Has Insecurity Not Already Suspended Provisions of the Constitution?

What is required, is for Government to take decisive action to tackle and defeat this insecurity once and for all, bearing in mind that we have multi-faceted security challenges based on different causative factors, requiring different methods of solution. Would the declaration of a state of emergency achieve this purpose?

Two pertinent questions to ask at this juncture (maybe they may even be rhetorical questions), in response to those who are not favourably disposed to a declaration of a state of emergency because of the fear of the imposition of martial law to replace the Constitution, are whether Government, constantly observing the provisions of the Constitution in their breach with little or no regard for the rule of law, does not already amount to authoritarianism and therefore, the denial of some of our rights? And, secondly, whether some of our rights are not already in abeyance, as a result of insecurity?! In fact, Section 45(2) upholds our rights, mandating that they can only be interfered with in a state of emergency, if it is reasonably justifiable to do so.

In the case of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari v Federal Republic of Nigeria 2007 LPELR-958 (SC) per Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad JSC (now Chief Justice of Nigeria): “Once the security of this nation is in jeopardy and it survives in pieces rather than in peace, the individual’s liberty or right may not even exist”. This is spot on. Presently, even though no state of emergency has been proclaimed, this nation’s security is in serious jeopardy, and some of our fundamental rights already seem almost non-existent. For one, our right to freedom of movement as provided in Section 41(1) of the Constitution has been greatly curtailed, because of insecurity. Many can no longer go to their farms for fear of being attacked, raped, murdered or kidnapped, and consequently, have no means of livelihood contrary to Section 17(3)(a) of the Constitution. As most Nigerians cannot afford the luxury of air travel, and the roads are unsafe, people are constrained to stay put in one place – hopefully, rail travel will assist in this regard. The right to freedom of the media and that of expression provided in Sections 22 & 39(1) of the Constitution respectively, have been brought under threat with Government and the National Assembly trying to use contraptions like the National Broadcasting Commission and the Hate Speech Bill amongst others, to gag us. Our right to life guaranteed by Section 33(1) of the Constitution, is also being threatened on a daily basis, as Nigerians are being killed in their numbers. Many have been deprived of their right to liberty by reason of kidnap, contrary to Section 35(1) of the Constitution. These are just a few examples of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, that have been adversely affected by insecurity and the prevailing state of the nation. Also see the case of Attorney-General Plateau State & 3 Ors v Hon. Chief Anthony Goyol & 15 Ors 2007 LPELR-12875 (CA).

Conclusion or Questions?

My dear colleagues, what are your thoughts on the declaration of a state of emergency, even if it is restricted to only a few States? Is it required? Or is it more important for us to see some traction and action, instead of dwelling on constitutional processes? To move from this stagnation or regression, and bring in innovation and whatever else is required to empower our Armed Forces to secure our nation? Yes, I say regression because the Presidential spokespeople shouted themselves hoarse with pride (rightfully so) on the fact that when this administration assumed office in 2015, there were Boko Haram flags flying high in parts of the North East, and they ‘technically’ defeated the insurgents, chased them out and took down their flags. Today, we hear that not only are the Boko Haram flags back up in the North East, the Niger State Governor confirmed that they have been hoisted within his State in Kaure Village, Shiroro (North Central).

Senator Ali Ndume believes that a large amount of funds must be injected into the Armed Forces forthwith, to achieve better results. Is it all about the ‘Benjamins’ (funds) alone? And, must this injection of funds not be accompanied by transparency and accountability? With allegations of misappropriation of funds allocated for the purchase of weaponry etc during the time of the former service chiefs and their predecessors flying around, naturally, Nigerians have trust issues, and want to be sure that this is not yet another scam to relieve us of our extremely scarce resources.

Let me leave you today with this parting shot – I watched a videoclip of Hon. Kazaure Gudaji, member of the House of Representatives from Jigawa State, in which he stated that one time, allowances for the soldiers were being transported to them by an Army convoy. The convoy was intercepted and attacked by Boko Haram, all the money (about N100 million cash he said) was stolen. Hon. Kazaure’s conclusion (a logical one too) was that there are Boko Haram members, sympathisers or informants within the ranks of the Army and Air Force (Armed Forces). He asked how they knew the convoy was coming, and the route it would take?

Is our failure to defeat the insurgents, only due to a lack of capacity borne out of a paucity of funds and tools to fight the war, or is there an element of lack of will occasioned by a countermine on the part of some saboteurs within the Forces and Government, or a combination of both? This is certainly food for thought. The more you look, the less you see!