The Presidency is already considering full deployment of soldiers to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states if his request for an extension of the emergency rule in the three states ravaged by Boko Haram is turned down by the National Assembly.
A highly competent government official made this known to The PUNCH in Abuja on Wednesday shortly after the Senate suspended debate on the President’s letter seeking the extension of the emergency rule.
A security expert, who did not want his name in print, defined full military deployment as complete declaration of war.
“Like in a war situation, there will not be consideration for the civilian populace,” he said.
Senators had on Tuesday disagreed sharply on Jonathan’s request, a development that made their President, David Mark, to abruptly adjourn sitting till Wednesday.
At the resumed plenary on Wednesday, Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved a motion for the continuation of the debate on the issue in a closed session.
At the end of the session which lasted about two hours, Mark explained that his colleagues had an extensive, frank and exhaustive debate but had to postpone further discussions till Thursday (today).
The PUNCH however learnt from the competent government official that all that was required in the alternative option was for the President to write another letter to the National Assembly that he was ordering full military deployment in the three troubled states to protect the sovereignty of the country.
The official, who pleaded anonymity, explained that Jonathan, would in the letter state the terms and rules of engagement of the soldiers .
He said that in doing that, the President could invoke Section 217(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The section reads, “The Federation shall, subject to an Act of the National Assembly made in that behalf, equip and maintain the armed forces as may be considered adequate and effective for the purpose of:
(a) defending Nigeria from external aggression;
(b) maintaining its territorial integrity and securing its borders from violation on land, sea or air;
(c) suppressing insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore order when called upon to do so by the President, but subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly; and
(d) performing such other functions as may be prescribed by an act of the National Assembly.”
The official however expressed the hope that the lawmakers would not allow the situation to degenerate to the level of full military engagement.
He said there was no point playing politics with the extension of the emergency rule since the Senators swore to an oath to protect the sovereignty of the country.
He added, “What you should be asking is the next option open to us in case the lawmakers refuse to approve the request for the extension.
“The option is that the President order full deployment of soldiers in the affected states and then send the terms and rules of engagement of the soldiers to the lawmakers.
“Will they say the President should not deploy soldiers in trouble spots? Will they say he should leave the country and allow insurgents to overrun it?
“Did they not swear to an oath to protect the sovereignty of the country?
“It is however our hope that the lawmakers would stop playing politics with insurgency.”
In the Senate where members for the second day running disagreed on the consideration of Jonathan’s request for the extension of the emergency rule, Mark said they had “resolved to invite the service chiefs to be part of our discussion” on the issue on Thursday(today).
The service chiefs will however appear at an executive session of the Senate.
Speaking with journalists after plenary, Senators Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) and Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), said they maintained their opposition to the extension of the emergency rule because they were not convinced that it would achieve the intended objective.
Gaya noted that the last time the extension was granted , none of the local government areas in the North-East was under the control of Boko Haram.
He said, “The state of emergency did not work there in that second case. We have problem in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; we lost two or three local governments in Yobe State and almost five local governments in Adamawa State.
“So the whole thing is retrospective; it’s going backward; it’s reducing. The problem is escalating, Borno State camp has the highest number of refugees in Africa. I believe and we have over 25,000 to 30,000 people being paid daily to take their three square meals.
“So, we believe there are a lot of questions to be answered by the service chiefs. We can’t just simply grant the state of emergency just like that without inviting them to tell us what really happened, because we gave eight conditions before we granted the last request and no condition has been met.
“That is one of the problems. When you see an army officer hiding under a bed in your dormitory, and by the sound of Boko Haram’s gun, he runs out of that place, what would you do.
“The Nigerian Army had high respect before; we fought the Liberian war and in many other places and we succeeded and now, a lot of weapons and armoury of the military are in the hands of Boko Haram.
“So, I believe that we have to wait until we hear from the service chiefs, if they are able to answer our questions, then we can take the next step.”
Lawan said, “We have granted two requests for extension in the past but for 18 months, the state of emergency did not work and we believe that there is no point going through the same process again.”
He insisted that the military did not need an emergency rule before it could successfully deal with the insurgency because there was no such proclamation in the Niger Delta before the militants were flushed out of the place.
On allegations of financial inducement to senators by the Presidency to ensure the approval of the emergency rule, Lawan said none of his colleagues would collect money to approve Jonathan’s request.
He said, “Senators here are people of distinguished and disciplined backgrounds and therefore, no senator would take money for anything. We believe in our people, we believe that we have responsibility to our people as we work here.
“No senator will take money to work for emergency extension because someone wants him to do that. I believe those who are in support of it are doing so out of principle just like I am opposed to it out of principle. I don’t know but I believe that no senator will take money.”
Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, disagreed with Gaya and Lawan, insisting that the state of emergency should continue in the interest of peace in the country.
He said, “Whether rightly or wrongly, there is an alleged genocide. So, people must be properly protected, including the President, senators and other citizens as well. What is the alternative for now, especially that the thing is expiring tomorrow(today)?
“Can anybody come out to say that the celebrated hunters in the North-East can take charge of the situation? Even if anybody can come out to say yes, will the law be on the side of such people? That is the question we must ponder on and take a reasonable decision.”
Senate spokesperson, Eyinnaya Abaribe, described the closed – door session as “very frank, robust and sometimes, very acrimonious.”
He said, “We agreed, as a Senate that the discussion will continue tomorrow(today). And also for the purposes of having further information, invite the service chiefs to be available tomorrow(today) to also brief us on the efforts that have been ongoing in the past six months when the emergency was declared.
“We have adjourned to tomorrow(today) and we will consider the information that we will also get from the service chiefs and the further information that will be available to us from the governors of the states that are going to be contacted by the Senate President.
“We hope we will take a decision tomorrow (today) in the interest of this country. Some senators felt that it will be necessary for us to hear from the service chiefs and we all agreed that they should come and tell us themselves under condition that it is an executive session what the real situation is.”
Abaribe added that Mark was mandated to meet with the governors of the three states with a view to knowing their constraints and challenges.