Clear signs that President Goodluck Jonathan’s bid to extend emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states will not have a smooth sail in the National Assembly emerged on Wednesday as members sharply disagreed on its desirability.
In the Senate, members from the North met behind closed-doors for about three hours and resolved to vote against the extension of the state of emergency.
The senators argued that its extension was not the best way to combat the insurgency in the three states.
The Chairman of the Northern Senators’ Umaru Dahiru, told journalists after the meeting, that the group had set up a committee to meet with the governments of the affected states on the way forward.
Dahiru said, “Our meeting this(Wednesday) afternoon discussed basically the issue of emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Everybody in attendance made contributions and a lot was said.
“The majority position is basically that we are not going with the state of emergency. That is our categorical position because we are not convinced that it is only the issue of emergency rule that could make the security personnel to achieve success in the area.
“We believe a lot of things ought to be addressed in order to conquer the issue of insurgency. So, our own position is that we are not going to support extension of the emergency rule in the area.
“We are going to engage the three governors in the affected states. We want to know what went wrong to be able to come up with better ways to tackle the crisis. However, the government must work for the benefits of its citizens.
“The leadership of the affected states and our forum are saying no to emergency rule.
“The constitution requires two-thirds majority in terms of voting. Of course, we are going to vote on the issue. If we can outnumber them during the voting fine, but of course, our position is that we are going to vote against it.”
The Senate had earlier on Wednesday passed a resolution summoning two ministers and the service chiefs to appear before it on Thursday(today) to explain the situation of things in the three states under emergency rule since May 2013.
Those invited by the Senate are the ministers of Defence (Aliyu Gusau) and Police Affairs (Abduljelili Adesiyan); the Chief of Defence Staff (Alex Badeh); the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar.
Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma – Egba (SAN), who moved the motion for the extension of the emergency rule, urged his colleagues to allow the item be stepped down in the order paper till the next legislative session.
He hinged his reasons on the fact that the aspect of the 1999 Constitution dealing with emergency rule declaration had not been gazetted for circulation in the Senate and the fact that the chamber had yet to review the success or otherwise of the emergency rule .
The senator said, “We must circulate the gazette before we can debate it. Secondly, it is the tradition of this Senate that we appraise and assess, the performance of the state of emergency before we debate.
“I therefore move that the distinguished Senate do invite the COAS, the CNS, CAF, and the IG to brief us tomorrow in a close session to enable us to commence debate on the President’s request.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided described the motion as “a very serious business” which bordered on security in a part of this country.
He appealed that in accordance with the motion moved by Ndoma-Egba the item be stepped down till Thursday(today).
In the House of Representatives, members deferred voting on the emergency rule extension request till Thursday (today).
The Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwa,l said after about three hours of debating by the members, that a briefing by service chiefs on the security situation in the affected states would precede the voting.
He also said that the chiefs would brief members on the actions the military had taken so far to free the over 200 schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.
The House had earlier passed a resolution summoning the service chiefs, following the abduction of the girls.
Tambuwal said , “Voting on the emergency rule will take place tomorrow (today).
“I urge all principal officers and all caucus leaders to pass this information to members who may be away to make themselves available for the voting.
“The service chiefs will appear before us for a briefing on the Chibok girls tomorrow(today) before we vote on the emergency rule.
“We will take the service chiefs first, then vote as soon as we are done with them.”
However, there was division among the members as they debated Jonathan’s request for another extension of emergency rule by six months.
While many lawmakers argued that an extension was justifiable in view of the precarious security situation in the states, others observed that insurgents had been emboldened since the declaration of the emergency rule.
The division was more pronounced among lawmakers from Borno and Yobe states.
Members of the Borno State caucus backed the extension, but said the Federal Government should properly equip the military to be able to confront the insurgents.
The leader of the caucus, Mr. Mohammed Mungono, noted that a situation whereby soldiers reportedly “ran away” on sighting insurgents was embarrassing to the country.
“Let us address the problem of giving the military necessary equipment to win this fight,” he added.
But, lawmakers from Yobe State were agitated as their colleagues from Borno spoke in support of the extension.
The Yobe caucus leader, Mr. Goni Bukar-Lawal, told the House that he had the mandate of his colleagues and the Yobe State Government to reject Jonathan’s request.
Bukar-Lawal argued that there had been more loss of lives and property in the state after the emergency rule was proclaimed.
He said, “There are many military roadblocks in Yobe, yet hundreds of lives have been lost to attacks by insurgents.
“For us in Yobe State, we don’t want emergency rule; what is the relevance of the soldiers?
“All they do is to say, ‘Oga, we are here o!’ You are here doing what?”
The only Adamawa State lawmaker, who spoke, Mr. Ganama Titsi, supported the request.
He said, “Let us not forget so soon that Boko Haram had taken over Northern Borno before the emergency rule.
“They even hoisted their flag in some local governments before the military came to dislodge them and restore governance there.”
The Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, argued that Jonathan did not need emergency rule to fight the insurgents.
According to him, in addition to the Anti-Terrorism Act, Section 218 of the 1999 Constitution also empowered the President to deploy the Armed Forces for security operations in any part of the country.
Gbajabiamila also opposed the resort to external help by Nigeria, saying that government was merely compromising the country’s sovereignty.
He said, “What is the point of emergency rule if the casualty figures are increasing daily? Let us compare the casualty figures before and after emergency rule to determine how far we have fared.
“Again, this idea of opening our doors to external hands is compromising our sovereignty.”