The Senate on Tuesday abruptly adjourned plenary till Wednesday following a sharp disagreement by its members over President Goodluck Jonathan’s fresh request to extend emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
Plenary had commenced smoothly with Senate President David Mark reading a letter from Jonathan amid murmuring by some of his colleagues, especially those from the affected states.
Sensing that the letter titled, “Extension of the period for the proclamation of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states” might generate tension, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved a motion for the Senate to dissolve into a closed – door session to consider the request.
When the senators reconvened after a two-and-half hour extensive brainstorming, Mark announced that further discussion on the issue would hold on Wednesday(today).
He said, “The Senate in a closed session met and discussed the letter from Mr. President on the extension of a state of emergency.
“We had a very extensive debate on it. And we will continue with the debate tomorrow (today).
The letter by Jonathan read in part, “May I respectfully draw your attention to the state of emergency proclamation 2013 in respect of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states which was approved by the National Assembly and extended for a further period of six months as conveyed by the Clerk of the National Assembly dated May 21, 2014.
“By virtue of the provisions of Sections 305, (6) c of the 1999 Constitution as amended, the proclamation aforementioned will elapse after a period of six months from the date of approval of the National Assembly except the period is extended by the National Assembly.
“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.
“In view of the foregoing, I most respectfully request distinguished senators to consider and approve by resolution the extension of the proclamation of the state of emergency by a further period of six months from the date of expiration of the current period.
“I look forward distinguished Senate President to the usual kind expeditious consideration of the above request by the Senate.”
The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Bello Tukur, who briefed journalists after the adjournment , did not give details of what transpired at the closed-door session.
Tukur merely said, “The Senate met behind closed – doors to consider the letter from Mr. President but we did not conclude deliberations on it.
“I want you to reserve whatever questions you have on the issue till tomorrow (today) when we would have concluded discussions on it.”
However, senators, especially those from the Northern part of the country, who spoke on what transpired at the meeting, said they opposed the extension of the emergency rule.
Their objection was based on the fact that the declaration of the state of emergency in the affected states had not achieved the desired objectives since it was proclaimed in May 2013.
Three of the senators, who spoke were Ali Ndume (Bornu South), Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), and Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central).
Ndume stated that he was totally opposed to the request by Jonathan because it would further worsen the security situation in the three states which are ravaged by Boko Haram insurgency.
He said, “The state of emergency since it was declared in the three states had taken us from bad to worse.
“Our fear now is that if we extend it again, we are inviting more problems to ourselves because the insurgents would capture more territories during the period.
“As the representative of my people, my entire constituents are totally opposed to the extension of the emergency rule because it restricts movements of the civilian populace while the insurgents move freely and have a field day.
“When people are sleeping in the night, the insurgents are freely moving around. By 6pm, the whole towns are closed but the insurgents are busy taking control of everywhere.’’
Ndume doubted the sincerity of the Federal Government to the fight against insurgents and urged the relevant military authorities to adopt fresh strategies to confront them.
Lawan, who boasted that the President’s request would not be granted, advised that “after 18 months of the state of emergency, we should look at other avenue.”
He said, “Although we will continue deliberations on the issue tomorrow (today), but 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 a state of emergency.
“We have a very strong military in Nigeria and nobody can doubt their capacity to handle this insurgency except if the government is telling us that so many things are fundamentally wrong.
“Discussions on it will definitely continue tomorrow (today) but I want to tell you that I am totally opposed to it.
“So many options are being advanced which would be concluded tomorrow.
What we need at the moment is the massive deployment of troops to quickly
launch serious attacks because we have lost so many territories already.
“The request for the extension of the state of emergency is only a waste of time because we had it for 18 months which ended in total failure.”
Marafa said, “The emergency rule extension is unnecessary because previous ones had failed. Even if you are a student and you fail three times then something is either wrong with the student or the teacher. We need a different strategy now.”
Mark leads Senate leadership to Jonathan
Hours after adjourning sitting, Mark led his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu; Ndoma-Egba; the Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi; the Minority Leader, George Akume, among others to the Presidential Villa for a closed-door meeting with Jonathan.
All the senators arrived and left the villa in a convoy without talking to State House correspondents.
A Presidency source however said the meeting was a troubleshooting effort by the President to ensure that his request to extend the emergency rule scales through at the National Assembly.
House to hold special session Thursday
The House of Representatives will reconvene on Thursday (tomorrow) to hold a special session on the extension of emergency rule in the troubled Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
A meeting of the House leadership presided over by the Speaker, Aminnu Tambuwal, on Tuesday (yesterday) endorsed the special session.
Tambuwal confirmed the reconvening in a statement he signed on Tuesday evening.
Part of the statement reads, “On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, I received a communication from the President, requesting the extension of the existing state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by the House of Representatives.
“Pursuant to the powers conferred on me by Section 305 ( 2 ) of the 1999 Constitution, which requires me to ‘forthwith convene or arrange a meeting of the House’ and in order to treat the extension before the expiration of the current state of emergency in accordance with Section 305 (6) (c) of the constitution, I hereby reconvene the House which is currently on recess.”
The statement added that the session would hold on Thursday by 11am.
The Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Albert Sam-Tsokwa, told reporters that a decision on the special session had been taken.
“Now, they (leadership) have resolved that the House should reconvene on Thursday to consider the extension of emergency rule”, he said.
The spokesman for the House, Zakari Mohammed, said, “There is going to be special session on the emergency rule on Thursday. The speaker’s office will convey a statement on the reconvening shortly.”
The House has been on break since October 28 to resume on December 3. However, the urgency attached to the emergency rule extension reportedly forced the leadership to approve the special session.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Peoples Democratic Party, Friday Itulah had said it would be proper for the House to reconvene since the issue at hand (Jonathan’s request) required some urgency.
Itulah claimed that the emergency rule had yielded “positive results so far”, adding that the extension was necessary to strengthen the war against terrorists in the affected states.
He said, “I think the extension is worth it as long as the reason for it has not been realised. So, there is a need to extend the emergency rule. Some aspects of it also need to be revisited to make it more effective.
The House is supposed to reconvene on December 3, but since this is a national emergency, let us see how it goes.”
An All Progressives Congress lawmaker, Pally Iriase, also backed the extension of the rule.
He said, “We have been moving back and front; one step forward and 10 steps backward, but that notwithstanding, we still believe the requisite environment be created to enable the Armed Forces to do their work.”
However, investigations by The PUNCH showed that many lawmakers in the House were against the extension.
One of them said, “Let us face the truth. Has emergency rule worked? More lives and property have been lost in those states with emergency rule in place.
“Where are the abducted Chibok girls? If anything, Boko Haram has become more daring, taking control of more towns and hoisting flags under the emergency rule than when there was no emergency rule.
“The facts are there for all to see. Why continue to deceive ourselves with this emergency rule?”
Shettima, Ngillari back emergency rule extension
Although Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima and his Adamawa State counterpart, Bala Ngillari, backed Jonathan’s bid to extend the emergency rule, they called for the evaluation of the gains or otherwise of the previous proclamations.
Shettima, through his Media aide, Isa Gusau, said, “I do not have doubts about the sincerity of Mr. President in seeking an extension to make it easier for our security agencies to continue their services to our fatherland and I think an extension is reasonable in the circumstance we have found ourselves much as it is also reasonable to take stock of what previous declarations have achieved.
“No democratic government would wish to have military men roaming its streets with armoured vehicles. However, we are very much aware that in most guerrilla warfare, insurgents sometimes dictate the pace because they can disguise and pretend to be friends whereas the security agencies are by their systems, known so they can be identified by citizens.
“I have strong hope that Borno will get out of this situation just I have for the Nigerian state. The problem is however how long it takes and those who suffer while it lasts. This is why we must make common sense sacrifices as leaders, political party members and those in positions of influence to help our military and security agencies to remain focused and not to make the slightest attempts of diverting their attention for whatever reason we seek to achieve.
“We must at the end never fail to remember that no matter how long, we would be required to give accounts of how best we managed our influences, whether we blindly limited our thoughts to our individual and group goals or we used our influences for our people who entrusted us with rights to decide their fates. We owe them the right to live.”
Also, Ngillari,who spoke through his Director of Press and Public Affairs, P. Elisha, said the President had absolute powers to seek extension of emergency rule in the affected states.
The governor however warned against rumours on the situation in the affected states, saying they were capable of making nonsense of the efforts to flush out Boko Haram fighters from the North-East.