By our reporters
There is a world of difference between the hype which heralded the imposition of emergency rule in some Northern states and the reality on ground in the affected local government areas of those states.
When President Goodluck Jonathan belatedly proclaimed emergency rule in 15 local governments spread across four states (Borno, 5; Yobe, 5; Plateau, 4; and Niger, 1) penultimate Saturday, it was greeted with mixed feelings. It is still being greeted with mixed feelings in those states.
The reason is simple: Apart from the presence of armed military men on the streets, the emergency rule is yet to be properly structured.
In Nigeria’s complex political environment, the process of enforcing the proclamation in those states appear to be confounding the presidency itself.
Reports from observations made in the four states suggest that the practicability of the proclamation remains shrouded in uncertainty and confusion.
Whereas some residents of Damaturu, Yobe State started fleeing the state capital upon the proclamation of emergency rule, residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, remain confused about what differences to expect in the face of an already rampaging Joint Task Force, JTF – gunmen during the last week succeeded in killing three people again, just as two bomb explosions rocked the Customs Post in Maiduguri.
The story is not different in Plateau State where nothing has changed.
In Suleija, where the Christmas day carnage happened, the proclamation manifests itself in the form of the increased numerical strength of armed military personnel.
Take, for instance, Plateau State.
As the first state to taste the bitter pill of such a declaration since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the people of the state immediately knew what it was all about. However, unlike the 2004 declaration of a state of emergency by then President Olusegun Obasanjo which covered the entire state and which involved the suspension of democratic structures, the current declaration covers just four of the 17 local government areas of the state.
The affected local governments are Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom where violence has remained a recurring decimal.
The declaration by Mr. President that details of the emergency would be made known later, kept people in suspense being the first time this variant of emergency proclamation was being experienced. Residents are still asking, “what is this emergency all about?”
Security men have been on ground in Plateau State for years because of the recurrent crisis in the state. A special task force code-named Operation Safe Haven had been in charge of security in the state for some time now. The task force, working with other security agencies in the state, had beefed up security in the state as the Christmas approached following intelligence reports of a plan to bomb some places in the state.
This, some residents argue, might be responsible for the absence of any visible evidence of the emergency declaration in the state. “Security has been tight in this state for some time now, so we do not know what the declaration of emergency was meant to achieve” a resident said.
If the residents are confused about the development, the security agencies themselves are not faring better as they are yet to receive specific instructions on what form the emergency would take. Contacted by Sunday Vanguard on what the declaration meant security-wise, Media Officer of the Special Task Force, Captain Charles Ekeocha, said they were awaiting instructions on what to do.
“We work based on directives and as it stands, we are yet to receive any directive or details concerning this development. So it’s hard to comment on it. You will notice that nothing has changed but as soon as we get details, we shall make them available to you”, he said.
Spokesman of the state police command ASP Samuel Dabai also declined comments on the ground that he did not have details concerning the proclamation. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Dipo Ayeni, also confirmed at a press briefing that further directives on the matter were being awaited.
However, reactions continue to trail the declaration of the state of emergency with some welcoming it and others describing it as unnecessary. There are also those who say they do not know what it is all about in the circumstance as it affects Plateau which already had a heavy security presence.
The reaction of the state government came through the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Yiljap Abraham, who in a statement pledged the administration’s support for any step that would help restore peace to the state.
According to him, “The state government will continue to be interested in measures aimed at containing threats to security in the state. Already, the state government has been collaborating with the Chief of Defence Staff and the Special Task Force who have been carrying out the President’s mandate in the state.
While the nation awaits further details on the president’s proclamation, the state government is appealing to citizens of the state to continue to remain calm, law-abiding and vigilant.” Governor Jonah Jang told a meeting of the PDP in the state on Wednesday that the proclamation would not affect the democratic structures in the affected local government areas.
Member representing Jos South/Jos East Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Bitrus Kaze in his reaction, wondered what criteria were used to decide which states would be affected considering the fact that some equally troubled states were left out.
“What is the yardstick? What about Kaduna where there had been several bombings and a factory for manufacturing bomb was discovered, or Bauchi where Boko-Haram was bred, and what about Gombe and FCT? I don’t know the yardstick but I know the President dealt with the issue partially.
You heard the Inspector General of Police saying they caught only the boys. Who are the men? The President ought to have critically examined the activities of the service chiefs, what we need to address the upheavals on the Plateau is justice”, he opined.
In its own reaction, a rights group, the Christian Foundation for Social Justice and Equity while commending the president for the action said the emergency should have been total in the affected states to be effective in tackling the security challenges threatening the corporate existence of the country.
In a statement signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Joseph Sangosanya, the body also said the state of emergency should be extended to critical sectors and issues that are critical to the country’s well being. National Assembly members from the state also lent their voice to the matter at a joint press conference on Wednesday, querying why Plateau which has a crisis which predated the Boko Haram debacle should be lumped with others.
They described the inclusion of Plateau State in the group as suspicious insisting that the problem in the state is not Boko Haram. Senator Representing Plateau North, Dr. Gyang Dantong, who led the national lawmakers said “the situation in Plateau State is different; it is a case of attacks and not Boko Haram hence it should be treated differently; we have a peculiar situation on the Plateau.”
The group which also included Senator Victor Lar (Plateau South) and member representing Mikang/Quan Pan/Shendam Federal Constituency, Mr. Innocent Tirsel noted that “the inclusion of four local government areas of Plateau State under the state of emergency is politically motivated rather than another solution to the crisis.
It seems to our people that it (Plateau) was merely inserted to placate certain vested interests because by all indications the state is actually the victim of terrorist acts sponsored, organized and executed by external forces.”
Senator Lar added his voice saying, “this sect Boko Haram is not domiciled in Plateau State; our case is that of bandits who come in the dead of night to raid innocent and unsuspecting our people”. He said the manner the idea was conceived was suspect.
“The Sultan of Sokoto was invited to discuss the Madalla bombing. What is the link between what happened in Niger State and what has been happening in Plateau State? Rather than face the issue he (Sultan) decided to advice that the president implements the Solomon Lar white paper.
For your information Lar’s was not a judicial committee but it was political and only meant to reconcile the warring factions to stay in peace with one another”, he argued.
The lawmakers also queried the wisdom behind the declaration of the emergency when the posting of a military special task force to the state has not achieved much. This feeling was echoed by Hon. Tirsel, who said “looking at what has been of Plateau and its people since the reigns of security was handed over to the military (STF) it will be reasonable to say the military has failed.”
The lawmakers listed various incidents to justify their suspicions. According to them, under a curfew regime managed by the STF the Dogo Na Hawa massacre of hundreds of defenceless children women and the aged took place in one night; the kidnapping in broad daylight of Pa Michael Obi the