Condemnations, on Wednesday, trailed the indication by the Federal Government that it was prepared to invoke a state of emergency in Anambra State in order to ensure the sanctity of the November 6 governorship election in the state.
Eminent lawyers, sociocultural groups like Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) kicked against the statement made by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
Malami had, while fielding questions from correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting at the State House, Abuja, said nothing would be ruled out in the determination to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
The minister said, “When our national security is attacked and the sanctity of our constitutionally-guaranteed democracy is threatened, no possibility is ruled out.
“As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure the sustenance of our democratic order. As a government, we have a responsibility to provide security to life and properties.
“So, within the context of these constitutional obligations of the government or the desire to establish democratic norms and order, there is no possibility that is ruled out.
“The government will certainly do the needful in terms of ensuring that elections are held in Anambra in terms of ensuring necessary security is provided and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to lives and properties.”
Anambra, like other South-East states, has been experiencing a worrying degree of bloodletting in the hands of gunmen suspected to be separatists.
Reacting, two leaders of the Bar questioned the genuineness of purpose behind the threat to declare emergency rule in Anambra, as a way of ensuring the conduct of gubernatorial election in the state.
Former first vice president of the Nigerian Bar Association and chairman of NBA Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), Dr Monday Onyekachi Ubani, wondered why Anambra and not others which had been in throes of escalating insecurity for years.
While Ubani was not categorical about the constitutionality of the planned action, he worried that states in the North, which have been in the crucible of terrorism for more than a decade, were not considered for similar treatment, despite their travails predating the Anambra crisis.
He was categorical about his objection to what he perceived as selective application of emergency powers.
He said, “The Federal Government cannot invoke emergency powers in Anambra State when it failed to invoke same in the North-East and even NorthWest that have more precarious security situation than Anambra.
“If the Federal Government wants to invoke emergency powers on grounds of insecurity, all other states implicated of insecurity should be affected. No to selective application.”
National welfare secretary of the Bar, Mr Kunle Edun, said, “The declaration of state of emergency in Anambra State as envisaged by Section 305 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must necessarily entail the existence of certain factors, which visibly must indicate a complete breakdown of law and order.”
Edun, who is the immediate national publicity secretary of the NBA, said, “there is, however, no provision in the constitution that makes it mandatory that when a state of emergency is declared in a state, the governor and his cabinet and the House of Assembly of the state will be removed or suspended from office. What is not expressly provided for in the constitution cannot be implied.”
He added that, “A consideration of the provisions of Section 305(3)(c),(d) & (e) may apply to the security situation in Anambra State but this is still debatable. For the president to issue a proclamation of state of energency in Anambra State, Section 305(5) of the constitution requires that there must be evidence that the governor of the state has failed to make a request for the proclamation of a state of emergency in that state within a reasonable time. So, it is not an automatic power that the president can exercise whenever he likes.”
Edun, who also is the Executive Director, Centre for Transparency and Defence of Human Rights, said the move would be selective if executed. He said what the Federal Government should be concerned with regarding the security situation in the South-East is to look for the root cause of the problem and and have more engagements with the people of the zone.
Afenifere, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said the declaration is more of a verdict of failure on the part of the Federal Government to provide security rather than the failure of the Anambra State government.
It added that shifting the blame to the state government is, therefore, shocking and unfortunate. The sociocultural group said though it was in order for the Federal Government to warn that incessant violence in the state is unacceptable and may lead to undesirable consequence, it is a height of blame game and hypocrisy to put all the blame on the state government.
It said, “The highest any state government in Nigeria is allowed to do in terms of security is to set up local vigilance groups, members of which cannot carry equipment necessary to combat insecurity in this 21st security. The kind of weapon they could carry under the present Nigerian law is the type a person going to hunt for game in the bush can carry, while those they are supposed to confront are armed with almost the most sophisticated weapons available.
“All the efforts made by states in the South-West for example to allow their security network, Amotekun, have the power of a state police have been rebuffed. So, the Anambra State governor, like his counterparts in other states, is constitutionally and administratively encumbered from providing security in his state despite the fact that the same constitution dubs him as ‘the chief security officer’ of his state.”
It regretted that the Federal Government did not threaten to impose emergency rule on states where serious security challenges had been occurring for months, such as Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Niger, where even sections of local governments are under the control of bandits as announced by the governor.
It asked, “In any case, if government declares a state of emergency in Anambra and there is insecurity in some other states, especially where and when elections are due, would the government again declare states of emergency in those states?”
Also, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide called on South-East governors to resist the threat by the Federal Government to declare state of emergency in Anambra State.
In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the group said the actions and threats were all about politics.
It added that the threat was a reaffirmation that insecurity challenges in the South-East were sponsored and man-made, including the ‘Operation Golden Dawn’ of the army. The statement read: “We expect that President Muhammadu Buhari should have declared a state of emergency in Kaduna, Kastina, Borno, Zamfara, or Yobe states before threatening to declare a state of emergency in Anambra.
“We are astounded that APC-led Federal Government is tinkering out the scripts for the hijack of the electoral process in Anambra governorship election, the threats to announce a state of emergency in Anambra and replace Governor Willie Obiano with sole administrator from the North…
“Our suspicion has been reinforced with the recent presidential threats to declare a state of emergency in Anambra, as a reaffirmation that the insecurity challenges in the South-East were sponsored and manmade.
“Even the ‘Operation Golden Dawn’ of the army was a deliberate action and threat from the Presidency are all about politics. Ndi Anambra should resist this devilish plot of importing a sole administrator from the North to impose an APC governor in Anambra.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) warned the Federal Government to perish every contemplation of emergency rule in Anambra. The main opposition party, in a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its national publicity secretary, described the move as a ploy to suppress Anambra people in order to manipulate the election.