Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, naively declared that the Buhari administration can slap a state of emergency on Anambra State if the security situation in the state does not improve. He made the ‘slip’ while answering questions from State House correspondents at the end of the virtual Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to Malami, the administration has the responsibility to sustain the democratic order and will do the needful in terms of ensuring that the governorship election holds in the Eastern Nigeria state. It’s not in dispute that Abuja has that emormous responsibility. Our concern here is that the threat of emergency rule in Anambra is tainted with a very narrow politics that is unbecoming of a credible Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Coming from an attorney general, the threat is as silly as it is idiotic and overly parochial.
For over a decade, the North-East region has remained the epicentre of an unceasing bloodletting c with Islamist insurgencies snuffing out the lives of nearly 350,000 Nigerians as of the end of 2020, going by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report. None of the BAY States – Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe has ever been threatened with emergency rule.
The toll, given by the UN agency was however in a new study on the war and its impact on livelihoods, is which clearly 10 times higher than previous estimates of about 35,000 based only on those killed in fighting in Nigeria since the conflict’s start 12 years ago.
“The full human cost of the war is much greater”, UNDP said in a report, released with Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance. “Already, many more have died from the indirect effects of the conflict”, said UNDP, citing damage to agriculture, water, trade, food and healthcare.
Though the Presidency reportedly declined to comment on the death toll, Nigeria’s war with Islamist insurgencies Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions of people dependent on aid. The conflict shows little sign of ending.
Children younger than five account for more than nine out of 10 of those killed, with 170 dying every day, UNDP said. It is even being argued that if the conflict continues to 2030, more than 1.1 million people may die, the agency said.
While UNDP said, “destruction and displacement have set back development in the region by decades, and continued conflict will only further scar the region”, ACAPS, an independent information provider that is free from the bias or vested interests of any specific enterprise, sector, or region says in North-West Nigeria, unidentified armed men are attacking civilians, engaging in criminal activities including village raids, sexual violence, kidnapping for ransom, killing, and large-scale cattle rustling.
According to ACAPS, ‘’the criminal groups have jeopardised the livelihoods of about 21 million people living in Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, and Zamfara. There is concern that militant extremist groups such as Boko Haram might have influenced these criminal groups either directly or indirectly. Such influence may have caused the rise in school abductions observed since 2020 December. A boom in weapons trade in this area has also encouraged the growth of criminal activity. There have been reports of activities such as village raids, cattle rustling, and attacks on farmers overlapping with farmer-pastoralist violence.?
‘’The violence in North-West Nigeria has resulted in an estimated 80,000 refugees crossing the border into the Maradi region, Niger, since 2019. ?Between March 2020–June 2021, over 1,400 students and staff have been kidnapped in several school abductions reported in northwest Nigeria. These abductions took place in Kankara and Mahuta (Katsina state), Kagara and Tegina (Niger state), Jangebe and Maradun (Zamfara state), Mando, Afaka, and Kasarami (Kaduna state), and Birnin Yauri (Kebbi state).
‘’While kidnappings by armed groups involved in the banditry crisis are motivated by ransom money and not uncommon in northwest Nigeria, mass abduction of schoolchildren by bandits is a new development in the region. Boko Haram had previously conducted mass abductions of schoolchildren in Chibok (Borno state) in 2014 and in Dapchi (Yobe state) in 2018. Evidence suggests that Boko Haram, which is mostly active in the northeast, collaborated with armed groups in some of the recent abductions in the northwest.?
‘’With more than 10 million children currently not attending school, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. In northern Nigeria, only 53% of primary-school-age children receive a formal education, and the Nigeria Union of Teachers has expressed concern that the rising number of kidnappings could keep more children out of school. The mass abductions have led local authorities to temporarily shut down some schools. It is also highly likely that students who were kidnapped or who witnessed the attacks will need psychosocial support
‘’On September 1, armed men abducted 73 students from a secondary school in Kaya village (Maradun LGA, Zamfara state). Since March 2020, at least 1,400 students have been abducted for ransom in northwest Nigeria. The frequency of abductions has increased since December 2020. Zamfara has been one of the states most affected by these attacks, with around 419 students abducted. Frequent attacks by armed men in northwest Nigeria have hindered economic activities and affected the standard of living of the affected communities.
‘’In the aftermath of the attacks, schools are subject to closure and restrictions are imposed over travel and telecommunications for security reasons, temporarily limiting movement and access to education. Psychosocial support and counselling services for affected parents and students have been identified as a priority in the humanitarian response.’’
Malami, however, said that nobody should rule out any possibility including the declaration of a state of emergency in the state. He 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 out ruled. The government will certainly do the needful in terms of ensuring that our elections are held in a Anambra in terms of ensuring necessary security is provided, and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to lives and properties.
“So, what I’m saying in essence, no possibility is ruled out by government in terms of ensuring the sanctity of our democratic order, in terms of ensuring that our elections in Anambra holds, and you cannot out rule possibilities inclusive of the possibility of declaration of state of emergency where it is established, in essence, that there is a failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order.
“So, our position as a government is these elections are going to hold and necessary security in terms of democratic order most certainly prevail for the purpose of this election. So, we resolve to have these elections. The elections are going to hold and no possibilities are ruled out in terms of ensuring the provision of security, for the purpose of the conduct of the election, as well as Anambra, is concerned.”
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has cautioned Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) administration to perish every contemplation of imposing a state of emergency in Anambra state ahead of the November 6 governorship election. PDP holds that the reported move to foist an emergency rule in Anambra state is a ploy by the APC-led government to suppress the people, manipulate the process and rig the governorship election for the APC and its candidate.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the party is demanding that Abuja should come clean on their roles in the sudden rise in insecurity in Anambra ahead of the election. “This demand is predicated on apprehensions in the public space that the spate of insecurity in Anambra is contrived to heighten tension in the state so as to derail the democratic process to the advantage of APC.
“PDP insists that the Federal Government has the capacity to ensure peace in Anambra before, during and even after the election, if it so desired. We, therefore, invite President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC Federal Government to be guided accordingly. Our party also charges the people of Anambra state to remain calm and alert as well as take steps within the ambits of the law to resist plots by the APC to derail the electoral process in its inordinate ambition to seize Anambra through the back door.”
Interestingly, Anambra State Government has described Malami’s threat as political. Its Information in Commissioner, Don Adinuba, as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today. On Wednesday said the state has not experienced the level of killings recorded in Plateau, Kaduna, Borno, Zamfara and other Northern States where rampaging bandits have murdered hundreds of innocent citizens in the last few months.
He said despite the high killings in the North-West and North-East, elections were held in states in the areas, claiming that there was nothing in the renewed violence in Anambra in the last few weeks that warrant the declaration of an emergency rule in the East.
Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano says President Buhari is not on the same page with the seeming trouble-seeking Malami on emergency rule in the state. Obiano who was in a meeting with Buhari said after the meeting in Abuja that the president assured him that he was only interested in a free and fair election on November 6 in the state.
Obiano said he reported Malami to Buhari, describing the attorney general’s seeming careless utterance as “unfortunate”, adding that he should have suggested the imposition of emergency rule in northern states experiencing more killings.