The Federal Government does have the constitutional authority to declare a national emergency and impose emergency regulations by order of the President over particular states or regions, but only if such an order is duly obtained from an Act of the National Assembly empowering the President to so act.
Such an order is not made carelessly, nor is it obtained so very easily. It is one of those areas where the National Assembly exercises powerful oversight on the executive lest it misuses its power and its mandate to govern; and lest it turns authoritarian and bowls the nation over to war, lawlessness and resistance.
In other words, emergency powers are not granted the President on his whims, nor can he exercise such a power by caprice. Until such an order is obtained from the National Assembly, the President has no legal mandate to impose or direct or deploy any part of the Armed Forces to conduct Internal Security Operations in any part of the federation. Neither could any elected governor order any part of the Armed Forces to intervene in a local security situation.
To do that violates cardinal principles of the laws and the Constitution of Nigeria and constitutes impeachable offences. Any soldier who also violates the Nigerian Army Act by heeding an illegal order, irrespective of whom by that order is given, is subject not only to the laws of Nigeria but also to the sanction of the International Criminal Court.
In other words, the soldier swears an “oath of allegiance” and loyalty, not to the President, but to defend the Constitution of the Republic. Even if the President orders him to violate that law, he has an obligation to himself to resist it, even if he has to rein his commission.
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That is the law. These cardinal laws, however, have been serially violated by the President of Nigeria who has routinely sent the Army to various parts of Nigeria to settle political scores.
Also recently, the governor of Imo State obtained orders to direct the Army to operate and kill civilians in the state under the guise of fighting IPoB which has publicly declared itself a non-violent separatist organization. IPoB has, routinely and vigorously, denied these accusations and attempts by the Federal Government to link it to violent activities, including attacks on security personnel and the burning of police stations. Curious observers have since noted that these attacks on security personnel in the South-East and on police installations began almost in sync with the recent announcement by the British Foreign Office that it would grant political asylum to IPoB and other Biafran activists; a move which the Buhari administration very vigorously protested, claiming the British government’s “disrespect” for Nigerian domestic policies.
Under this policy, the Buhari government got the court to declare IPoB, an unarmed, non-violent political organization, whose known inspiration is Martin Luther-King Jr’s version of the American Civil Rights Movement, a “terrorist group.” Why would they do that? Well, the Biafra bogey haunts Buhari.
The man continues to live in the nightmare of Biafra. But all the Igbo have asked Buhari is a fair treatment in the scheme of things in Nigeria, and if Nigeria is unprepared to accord the Igbo his or her basic human rights, to allow a peaceful process of the dissolution of the federation so that they could, with those whom they historically are linked, form their own nation of Biafra.
The Igbo have constantly reminded Buhari that they too are vested in Nigeria and that they would much better prefer to be Nigerian, under the right circumstances, in spite of the agitation by a growing number of a younger generation who have expressed legitimate desire to free themselves of a Nigerian “chokehold.” And they are under a chokehold that makes it impossible for them to breathe, grow, aspire, dream, create, imagine, and build the kind of modern nation that they feel entitled to.
Biafra is a legitimate demand. It is not the kind of demand for which Buhari should illegally send a brigade to mow down hundreds of unarmed civilians peacefully agitating for secession. The word “secession” is not a dirty word. The Scots have been organizing to secede from the United Kingdom. Ditto for the Quebecois from Canada. More recently, the UK broke free from its EU partnership. All these are secession movements.
There are many examples.
There are open secessionist movements from New Hampshire to Texas in the United States; some backed by armed militias. None has been attacked by their governments. They just keep an eye on them and allow them to talk, and act, and walk, because suppressing them would lead to a greater danger of an underground and more dangerously organized movement.
But not the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is only in a country like Nigeria that the Biafran flag with its sign of the rising sun waving in the breeze is equated to a hand-grenade. The IPoB did demand, and publicly led processions for the separation of certain parts of current Nigeria into a Biafra state, and demanded a referendum.
That was hardly a reason to prosecute and continue to persecute them, to the point now, where it is being suspected, that on account of its legitimization by the declared policy of the British government to grant its activists asylum, the Buhari administration is instigating subterranean state violence in the South-East and South-South, in order to tar IPoB and provide cause for targeting certain opposition political figures among the Igbo, and therefore the adequate ground properly watered to establish emergency rule over the South-East and the South-South.
The problem is that these old tricks are a little jaded and familiar. They seem almost sophomoric. Kill a few Igbo policemen. Attack some police stations in the South-East. Accuse IPOB and make it look like they have become violent, non-state actors. That’s the real deal.
Many suspects that these rogue operations are instigated by the Buhari government in its attempt to turn the South-East, the bastion of opposition to his failed government, and hitherto the most peaceful part of Nigeria, into an ungovernable and violent-prone area, and then blame it all on IPoB. Whispers already are that these attacks on policemen and police stations are planned and executed from the various military barracks in the South-East led by officers specially deployed there to carry out this illicit mandate. Until now, the only part of the country where the Buhari administration had obtained emergency operational powers is the North-East, where Boko Haram has long been operating.
That mandate was an extended mandate from the Jonathan era. It is on record that Buhari cried out that the operations of the Nigerian Armed Forces to rout Boko Haram were an offence against the North.
But even in those operations, President Jonathan, who legally obtained the authority of the National Assembly, did not issue orders to “shoot Boko Haram at sight.” Or to shoot at sight any person whom the soldiers just simply identified as Boko Haram. And Boko Haram is an armed terrorist organization whose stated endgame or goal is to overthrow the government of Nigeria and establish Shariah law on Nigeria. Buhari himself is a vociferous and public advocate of the imposition of the Shariah on the rest of Nigeria and therefore a patron of the Boko Haram ideology.
This accounts directly for why his policy on Boko Haram is more a policy of appeasement and compromise. You capture them, then you “rehabilitate” them. That means putting them on government scholarships or recruiting them into the Nigerian Armed and Intelligence Services. Buhari has never given any orders to shoot Boko Haram at sight, nor to shoot any Fulani cattle herder carrying an AK-47 rifle at sight.
But he gave the orders to shoot the Igbo at sight, seen carrying a gun. Victims of this order may clearly include those who have legally obtained licenses for their guns. Let us be clear: it is the right of a citizen to bear arms.
It must be properly licensed and registered under the gun control regulation, of course. It is not illegal to bear properly licensed and registered arm. If this right has been delegitimized in Nigeria, it must be reversed, because guns can be registered for recreational use, as well as for self-defence and the protection of individual property.
All that needs to be done is open a gun registry under the local government where gun audits can be routinely be made. The order to shoot people at sight in the South East is an illegal order. Ohaneze Ndigbo has duly condemned it.
But it is not enough to condemn it. Ohaneze must flood the courts with their lawyers to obtain an order of mandamus restraining this President or his agents from carrying out such an illegal and inhumane order in the South-East and South-South where no state of emergency is, or should be in force.
Any killing made under this order should thus be regarded as extra-judicial murder and must compel the Igbo, and their lawyers, to force this President and his executioners before an International Criminal Court for targeting and killing his key political opposition. This must have to stop.