Friday, July 15, 2011

Declare emergency rule in Borno

14 July 2011

By Punch Editorial Board   

THE Boko Haram campaign of terror has gone too far and compels a state of emergency in Borno State. Despite the dispatch of additional troops to the state by the Federal Government, the murderous sect has spread death, bombings and violent attacks on police, soldiers, churches, prisons, homes, relaxation spots and innocent residents. On Sunday, sect members separately threw bombs into two churches in Suleja, Niger State, killing four persons and injuring many others. A day earlier, members brazenly attacked troops of the Joint Military Task Force in Maiduguri, resulting in a gun battle in which 11 militants and 30 bystanders were killed. In London Ciki, a suburb of the besieged Borno State capital, Boko Haram gunmen opened fire indiscriminately on passersby, killing about 30 persons, including an entire family of five on their way to church.

On Tuesday, fresh bombs were detonated by the sect in Borno and Kaduna states and the orgy continued on Wednesday, with the detonation of four bombs in different locations and attacks on JTF teams with 50 persons feared dead. Maiduguri is the known operational base of the murderous Islamic sect. From there, it has struck in Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina, Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa states. And more chilling and daring, it infiltrated Abuja, the federal capital, and followed up its audacious bomb attack on the Nigeria Police headquarters last month with threats to major public buildings such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the National Assembly Complex.

In Borno State, governance is grinding to a halt, while business and normal social activities have all but collapsed. On Monday, authorities of the University of Maiduguri shut down the federal institution and sent its 25,000 students home indefinitely. Already, schools have closed in the state as a major plank of the terrorist group’s strange ideology is its opposition to western education, and non-indigenes are reported to be leaving in droves, ignoring a desperate plea by the state governor to remain. At least five states – Plateau, Anambra, Taraba, Ogun and Osun – are evacuating their indigenes from Borno while regular productive activities – farming, trading, industry and schooling – have ground to a halt.

Nigeria is in a precarious position with analysts fearing that the 2005 prediction contained in the report of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America that Nigeria may disintegrate by 2015 may prove true even earlier. Leading citizens such as Elder Statesmen, Shettima Ali Monguno, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, believe that Nigeria is facing its greatest threat since the events leading to the civil war in the 1960s.

The threat posed by this sect is underscored by its strong links to global terrorism. British Intelligence recently reaffirmed that Al-Qaeda, through its North African and Somali affiliates, had fully infiltrated Nigeria and planned to make the country its base for global terrorism. Human Rights Watch estimates that about 2,000 people have died in Boko Haram-related violence since 2009 – with panic and fear spreading to other parts of the country. Yesterday, newspapers published a list of prominent persons the extremists intend to kill that is topped by the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, Emirs, serving and former state governors.

Now is the time for the state to act decisively. The sect has not left any room for doubt that its irreducible demands are the dissolution of the Nigerian state and its replacement with its version of an Islamic theocratic state. It rejects the Nigerian Constitution and wants to run the 12 North-East and North-West states under “full Sharia” laws. Accepting these insolent, provocative demands would amount to dissolving the Nigerian union. The orgy of violence must be stopped immediately to halt the slide into a failed state.

To tackle this grave menace, the Federal Government should immediately declare a state of emergency in Borno State in line with Section 305(c) of the 1999 Constitution, which states that the President shall have power to make the declaration if “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.” This is necessary in order to minimise human casualties. In many countries terrorist activities have occurred and are occurring frequently, states were and are being forced to take emergency measures to maintain law and order. Under Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, a temporary suspension of human rights obligations is permitted if: “there is a public emergency, which threatens the life of the nation”.

Already, the Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, JTF Commander, Maj. Gen Jack Nwaogbo, and police chiefs are complaining that members of the public are not cooperating with the authorities. Apparently, this is as a result of the state’s inability to protect them from brutal Boko Haram reprisals. Effective control that can be provided under emergency conditions will encourage informants. The state of emergency must be accompanied by purposeful, efficient intelligence work.

The security forces must deny Boko Haram the leeway to continue its impunity and cut off its ability to command sympathy from the simple-minded and the fearful. The very objective of this initiative is to protect democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law from being undermined by a violent, lawless group.

President Goodluck Jonathan need only recall that the situation in Plateau State (2004) and Ekiti State (2006) where emergency rule was imposed was nowhere near the boiling point that the Boko Haram challenge to Nigeria’s sovereignty represents. In both cases, internal strife was restricted within only one state while Boko Haram has laid low virtually the entire North-East and North-West and threatened Abuja from its Maiduguri base. It has vowed to bomb NNPC, railway lines, bridges, churches, palaces, military and police barracks to mark the second anniversary of the killing of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf. The security threat has reached a turning point. The President should act now to save the nation.

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