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ACN cautions as Senate debates state of emergency Tuesday

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Image: Senator David Mark

The National Assembly will debate the Presidential declaration of state of emergency in three states on Tuesday.

Senate President David Mark told senators yesterday to make attendance of plenary on Tuesday mandatory “to enable us to deliberate and discuss a sensitive matter that will be before us.”

The House of Representatives said the President consulted the leadership of the legislature before announcing the state of emergency in the troubled states.

But the Action Congress of Nigeria (AC N) warned the lawmakers to study the proclamation carefully before endorsing it.

“Members of the federal legislature, as the true representatives of the people, must decide – purely on the basis of facts rather than sentiments – whether or not the emergency rule is the best option to resolve the Boko Haram crisis,” the party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Section 305 (6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution (as amended) states that “A proclamation issued by the President under this Section shall cease to have effect (a) “If it is revoked by the President by instrument published in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation.

(b) “If it affects the federation or any part thereof and within two days when the National Assembly is in session, within ten days when the National Assembly is not in session, after its publication, there is no resolution supported by two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly approving the proclamation.”

Most Nigerians who gathered in the Senate gallery with the hope that debate on the proclamation of emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States would be taken were disappointed.

Senate President David Mark did not specifically mention declaration of state of emergency in the three northeast states, many believed that approval of the presidential proclamation of state of emergency will likely be the “sensitive matter.”

While praying Senators “those who are here and those who are not here to be in the chamber on Tuesday May 21,” Mark also referred to the need for the Senate to form a quorum “for us to deliberate on a sensitive matter.”

Only 54 Senators were observed in the chamber yesterday.

Senate Clerk, Benedict Efeturi, in a statement informed Senators that Senate plenary on Tuesday, May 21st ‘will consider matters of urgent national importance.

He urged all Senators to endeavour to attend “this crucial session of the Senate.”

Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba dismissed insinuations of constitutional crisis over the state of emergency proclamation as unfounded.

Ndoma-Egba explained that the counting of number of days begins after the proclamation has been published and gazetted.

He said the constitution did not specify when the President should publish and gazette the proclamation.

He added that some Nigerians erroneously believe that state of emergency follows a broadcast.

For the Senate Leader, the constitution does not recognise broadcast as a means of declaration of state of emergency.

Ndoma-Egba said as far as the Senate was concerned, the President has not declared any state of emergency.

What the President did, he said, was merely to communicate to Nigerians his intention to declare a state of emergency in some states.

He said that the President has only conveyed to Nigerians his intention and no more.

  Ndoma-Egba said that state of emergency would be declared when the proclamation is published and gazetted in the Official Gazzete of the Government of the Federation.   He said though troops were reported to have been moved to certain areas, nobody can say exactly where the troops were been deployed.   He added that if there is threat to national security, the President is under obligation to deploy troops.

He said, “There is no where in the constitution where the President is given time limit to publish the gazette within a specific time.

“The constitution did not say that the President must publish the gazette within 24 hours, 48 or 72 hours.

  “So whenever the President publishes the gazette, then the two days or ten days as applicable begins to run.

“For the purposes of the constitution, it is not a broadcast that proclaims a state of emergency.

“It is the instrument published in the gazette.”

Deputy House Spokesman, Victor Ogene, said the President has not violated the Constitution on the details of the state of emergency that was yet to get to the lawmakers.

“ Even though the communication expected from Mr President is yet to get to the House, as representatives of the people who are equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project and desirous of the peaceful coexistence of every Nigerian in any part of the federation. We are equally as concerned as any other Nigerian,” he said.

He said: “ if you read the constitution, it says that two days upon the President’s being gazetted. So, the issue really is whether it has been gazetted, that is what the constitution says. It stipulated that two days upon the pronouncement being gazetted when the House is in session, the communication ought to get to the National Assembly.

Besides,  the National Assembly was not unaware of the President’s action on the three states, he said, adding, “ We are aware that the President, before the declaration did interface with the leadership of the National Assembly, and I can tell you that the input of the National Assembly has led to the management of the situation such that we do not have a complete state of emergency that would have swept away democratic structures in the concerned states as we had in the past.

“As the bastion of democracy, the National Assembly is always desirous of maintaining and sustaining all democratic ethos which was why the leadership of the National Assembly did suggest that why we would support a return to normalcy using the mechanism of the state of emergency, it will not be right and it will send wrong messages if democratic structures such as the governor and Houses of Assembly were to go.”

The ACN said the Jonathan Administration, realising the groundswell of opposition that will be triggered if the governors and the Houses of Assembly members were sacked, decided to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting Nigerians by leaving the elected officials in place even under the emergency rule.

‘’In practice, it was a monumental deception. First, the democratic structures left in place are of no use in a state under martial law; Secondly, the proclamation did not give a time frame, meaning that the emergency rule is open-ended and can last as long as the President wishes. After all, the emergency rule imposed on 15 local councils in four states was never lifted. Thirdly, now that the President has tested the waters and realised people could be so easily hoodwinked, what prevents him from extending the emergency rule to other states that catch his fancy?

‘’Truly, leaving the governors and the state legislatures in place has made it easier for Nigerians to accept the imposition.

But the truth is that the state chief executives and the legislatures have no role to play under the new system in place in the states.

‘’Essentially, there are two governments in place in each of the affected states, the de facto one headed by the military commander and the de jure one headed by the elected Governor. Real power resides in the de facto government, and the de jure government is just there in name. The Governors and the members of assembly are on holiday!

‘’What are the powers of the Governors and the state legislature now?

Who has the power to order a search, an arrest, confiscation of property and lock-up of premises? Can the Governors move around freely, commission or inspect a project without the tacit approval of the military commander? Which is superior: the proclamation by the military commander or the law made by the state legislature? What happens if the military commanders order that the State House of Assembly be locked up for allegedly harbouring suspected Boko Haram members? These are some of the questions that should be asked before this proclamation is allowed to stand,’’ the party said.

The ACN said its rejection of the imposition of emergency rule was also based on the fact that it brings nothing new to the table – beyond the use of brute force and the infringement on the constitutional rights of innocent citizens – in the search for a sustainable solution to the Boko Haram crisis.

It reiterated its earlier statement that the use of minimal force must be complemented with genuine dialogue in the short term, while in the long term good governance that delivers the dividends of democracy, including jobs for the teeming unemployed youths, will help deny Boko Haram the fertile ground for recruiting ready hands to perpetrate violence.

Article Credit: The Nation Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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