•Buhari warns political parties against intimidation in Anambra 

election; Malami’s comments unfortunate —Gov. Obiano

•Abubakar Malami should learn to live by example—Evang. Obigwe 

•Plight of youth, families a cause for concern—Igbo church leaders 

•Governors not helping security in South East — Ozobu 

•That call from Malami was height of political drama —Onyike 

•AGF was ill-motivated, biased—INC 

•Malami misspoke, no evidence for Anambra emergency —Amadi 

By Anayo Okoli, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie, Ikechukwu Odu & Emmanuel Iheaka

Ahead of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami rattled Nigerians last week when he  threatened a possible declaration of state of emergency in the state if the insecurity in the state persisted.

His suggestion did not go down well with Nigerians who greeted it with outrage. Many questioned the parameter he used to judge the Anambra crisis to make such dangerous suggestion. A lot of Nigerians argued that in the heat of Boko Haram crisis  in Borno and other parts of the North, security was provided for elections to   hold; that the Federal Government has a duty to do that in Anambra if it comes to that, not declaring state of emergency. Some  have also gone ahead to allege that  the plot was a dangerous agenda for  the APC-led  federal government to win the election and take over Anambra State by all means.

Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano who was livid blasted the Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for making that suggestion in the first place. Obiano, who headed to Abuja to meet President Muhammadu Buhari, said the AGF’s statement didn’t have the support of the President.  According him, the President never mentioned anything relating to the AGF’s statement during their meeting.

The governor, who spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting, said that President Buhari warned political parties against using intimidation in the November 6 governorship election in the  state and described Malami’s comments as unfortunate. He wondered why the minister had not considered a declaration of emergency rule  in the North-East and North-West, especially in Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara States where banditry and terrorism are  claiming lives virtually  on  a  daily basis.

On Malami’s comment, Obiano said: “That is a very unfortunate comment by the Attorney-General; very, very unfortunate. I also reported that to the President and this is not in the books for the President because he knows that Anambra has been the safest state in Nigeria for seven years plus.”

The governor said those causing trouble in Anambra are from neighbouring states: “These are invaders  from outside Anambra State; from the neighbouring towns. We are going to deal with them. We are already working. We are getting more equipment and I believe in less than two weeks, all these things will be over. We will overwhelm and conquer all these miscreants that came from other states nearby to harass Anambra people. Let me stop at saying that they are from neighbouring states. Whatever it is, I have not had challenges with whoever is causing the trouble; no matter who he is, we are going to flush him out. That is all I can tell you.”

Enraged Obiano further said: “Even to contemplate state of emergency is unfortunate. Look at what is happening in the North; they kill dozens every day. That is a very unfortunate comment by Malami. I will call him to express my reservations on those kinds of comments, he shouldn’t try that. Anambra is doing well, and don’t forget that Malami  is  on the National Campaign Committee for the APC candidate.

“So, if that is their strategy, then they have failed already. Come  to the ballot box, APGA will beat them hands down. They are trying to see how they can destabilise us.

“Anambra has always been the safest state in Nigeria under my leadership for seven and half years. So this little hiccup will not warrant his comment. Why didn’t he make those comments in Kaduna, in Plateau, Imo, Zamfara? Why is he making that kind of assertion and we have an election by the corner? There’s no reason to make that assertion.

“In summary, what I am saying is that what is happening in Anambra will not stop the election, this election must hold, the crisis and challenges are  far from being close  to challenges in the North-West and in the North-East, as the case may be. The comment by the Attorney-General is unfortunate.  He  shouldn’t  have  made that comment because there is no basis to make that.”

Elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amechi was taken aback by the Attorney-General’s suggestion,  saying that there  is no justification for even thinking about that in Anambra or any part of South-East.

According to Chief Amechi, if the Federal Government is thinking along that line of action, it is wrong because there is more violence in  Kaduna, Kastina, Niger, even in Bauchi, Zamfara, Benue and Plateau States and state  of emergency has not been invoked in any of the states.

He added that there are violent activities almost in all states of the country which warrants declaration of state of emergency, pointing out that the violence in Imo State is more dangerous  when compared with Anambra State. He warned that singling out Anambra for a state of emergency means they have  a hidden agenda.

“If it is true that they are thinking along that line, of course I do not believe they are planning that, but if they  are, they  should first of  all  declare state of emergency in Borno, Kastina, Kaduna, Plateau and other states where violent activities have subjected people to finding home  and shelter in Internally Displaced Peoples camps. Soldiers and officers of the Nigerian Army are brutally murdered and forgotten.

“If it is true, it really  shows and gives the impression that the Federal Government as presently led, does not like  Igbo; they should stop  giving that impression, it is wrong and I advise the Federal Government to drop the idea and rethink. I strongly reject it and advise them to give that line of thinking a second thought, if it is true that they are planning it”, the elder statesman said.

Anambra lawmakers and the Middle-Belt Forum did not spare Malami for the threat. While the lawmakers asked him to tender an apology or resign and urged the President to sack him if he fails to resign; the Middle-Belt Forum also called for the sack of the Attorney- General for embarrassing the President.

Seasoned legal luminaries, Femi Falana and Chief Mike Ozekhome, both  Senior  Advocates of Nigeria, also condemned the threat by the Attorney- General. While Falana said it would be dangerous to declare a state of emergency in Anambra, Ozekhome also frowned at it.

“I personally do not like what is going on in Anambra State all because of a mere governorship election. The Federal Government  will however, run  into  a serious  moral and legal cul-de-sac if it ever contemplates a declaration of  a state of emergency, the kite of which was flown by Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation. I would seriously advise the Federal Government against it as it would exacerbate an already ugly  situation and engender more tension and insecurity,” Ozekhome said.

According to Evangelist Chinedu Obidigwe, Malami was out to set Anambra on fire unnecessarily. “It is important to let Nigerians know that Abubakar Malami is from Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State. His state is not exempted from bandit attacks.  Bandits have in fact been ravaging his state. Bandit attacks in his state took the lives of  89 people in a day but when the ugly incident happened, he maintained sealed lips  and looked the other way. He did not deem it necessary to advise President Buhari to proclaim a state of emergency in Kebbi State. Anybody that goes to equity must go with clean hands.

“Malami is a (alleged) compromised Attorney-General of the federation that is playing detrimental politics in the Buhari administration. For allowing  himself to be used to set Anambra on fire, he is not supposed to be in that position as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. Malami should have known that playing politics with his position will backfire.”

Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops on Peace and Conflict resolution said that what is needed in the South-East is restoration of trust, confidence and calm even as they tasked the governors and other leaders in the region on this.

They lamented that “the tragic plight of our youth, our families and individuals in the entire South-East region is now a cause for grave concern for us all in our local communities and within our various church bodies.

“The level of violence and insecurity in our land is no longer tolerable. A land where people have always been known  for their industry, entrepreneurship and creativity is now  living in crippling fear. Our land is soaked with blood and a gloomy cloud hangs in the air. This cannot be allowed to go on.”

For  solution, they urged the  leaders to dig beyond the immediate causes of this situation, saying: “we would prefer to point out that at the root of all this is the  failure of governance at various levels.

“With the return to constitutional democracy in 1999, our people had looked forward to a national sense of belonging and the restoration of equity and fairness in dealing with all segments of Nigeria. This, unfortunately, has not happened. The failure in this regard opened the way for ethnic and sectionalist agitations for justice  and fairness.

“With the increasing divide between the ruling class and the people, and the vacuum created by an alienating leadership at the federal, regional and state  levels, separatist bodies emerged and soon began to win the loyalty of frustrated citizens.

“In the South-East of Nigeria, one of such groups, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, gained prominence some years ago. Although it was proscribed by the Federal Government in 2017, the group has continued its agitation for an independent State of Biafra, often leading to heavy military responses and the loss of lives of many youths. The group is also accused of various killings, many of which it denied. This situation has created a very dangerous environment, which is being exploited by many criminal elements who have unleashed a reign of terror on the helpless citizens of the region.

“As religious leaders of this badly battered region, we  appeal to all those responsible for the killings to please stop, before the entire South-East descends into anarchy, which will invariably affect the other parts of the country.

“We passionately call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, address the underlying reason  for the agitations, namely : the desire for equity, fairness and good governance in Nigeria. We equally appeal to the political leaders of the South-East to see themselves as representatives of the people and to invest all available resources in the security, development of the region, and creation of jobs. Our political leaders must do something to reduce the huge gulf between their personal welfare and that of the people at large.

“We would also like to engage the members of the Indigenous People  of Biafra and other separatist groups, to ask them to eschew all violent activities. But we cannot reasonably do this as long as any of them is proscribed as a terrorist group. We therefore call on the Federal Government to consider granting amnesty to IPOB and other separatist groups. We believe that the de-criminalization and de-proscription of these groups would lead them to embrace the democratic and non-violent means of negotiation, thus opening the path of dialogue on the future of Nigeria. A militarist and high-handed approach may win the peace of the mortuary and graveyard, but it cannot win the hearts and minds of the people”.

They enjoined Igbo sons and daughters, especially those in the Diaspora, to make responsible use of the social media.  They also urged the security agencies to be professional in their efforts to ensure the maintenance of law and order in the region. 

A statement by the group was signed by the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna; the Anglican Archbishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma; the Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia, Most Rev. Dr. Chibuzo R. Opoko; the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian M. Okeke; Past Principal Clerk, Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Most Rev Dr. Uma Onwunta; Bishop Obi Onubogu of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, South-East zone, Rev. Dr. Abraham Nwali.

For human rights lawyer, Dr. Sam Amadi, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami misfired for suggesting the declaration of state of emergency in Anambra State. Amadi insisted that there are no constitutional facts to justify declaration of State of emergency in Anambra, as no evidence suggests that there is a collapse of governance or law and order in the state.

“The constitution does not say that the moment a non-state actor makes a declaration against law and order, then there should be a declaration of state of emergency. If it is so, a state of emergency should have been declared in the entire northern Nigeria since 2015 when Boko Haram and ISWAP declared a caliphate over northern Nigeria and engaged in scorch-earth operations that have killed tens of thousands.

“We have not declared state of emergency in Katsina and Kaduna where scores of school children are kidnapped daily and hundreds die. The AGF misspoke. There is no basis for any state of emergency in Anambra State. What we need now is full rigor of law enforcement and honest and accountable governance to fix Anambra and other states in Nigeria. Nigeria needs a state of emergency in justice and effective governance,” Amadi declared.

Igbo National Council, INC, believes there was an ulterior motive behind the threat and targeted towards rigging the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State.

According to the National President of INC, Comrade Chilos Godsent: “The call by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami was ill-motivated, biased and born out of frustration and envy. State of Emergency should rather be declared in Kaduna and Niger states following the continuous attacks by terrorist groups.

“We believe those causing problem in the South-East are fundamentalists who infiltrated here during lockdown which we raised the alarm about. That is why it has been difficult for security men to confront them at the point of action and arrest them. When they kill an Igbo youth, they say it is unknown gunmen.

“We have conducted a survey and made some preliminary investigations by talking to some non-political actors in Anambra; the finding is that a certain political party is trying to cause chaos in order to create voter apathy so as to rig the forthcoming governorship election in the state.  These are some of the fundamental issues.

“We are appealing to our brothers not to allow them to have their way. They should support the electoral process so that these elements will not succeed in installing a puppet that will work against the interest of the Igbo. It will be another challenge for the development of the Igbo nation and the struggle for the self determination of the Igbo nation”, Chilos said.

In his reaction, a senior lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr. George Iloene, said the threat was premeditated.

The don who said that there are other states in the federation with worse security situations than Anambra State, urged the people of the  state to look beyond the surface in order to unearth the suspected plot by the Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, saying that it could be a plot by the ruling All Progressives Congress to take over the state in the November 6th governorship election.

“My view is that the threat to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State is premeditated. One does not just wake up one day and begin to threaten a state like Anambra.

“He didn’t threaten Kaduna and Bornu states for instance; where there have been mayhem, bloodshed and kidnappings. There are other states with worse crisis situation than Anambra. So, there are other plans than meet the eyes which cannot be interpreted at surface level. One has to look deeper to understand the purpose of what he wants to achieve by taking such stance.

“It could be interpreted as a plot by the APC-led Federal Government to take over the state. In view of the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state, there are a lot of political shenanigans going on underground; you can never know what the plot is. Apparently, there is a plot going on,” he explained.

According to a chieftain of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Richard Ozobu, the governors of the South-East zone are not doing enough to secure lives and property in the zone. He urged the governors of the zone to deploy the security votes available to them to secure their states and create employment opportunities for the youths, saying that is the only way to reduce crime.

He also stated that the threat of a state of emergency should make Governor Willie Obiano and other stakeholders to be alive to their responsibilities and ensure a violence-free governorship poll in the state.

“It is not necessary for us to be comparing this with what is happening in other areas; why a state of emergency has not been declared in other states. What we need to do is to put our own land in order. We don’t need to scare investors; we should rather make room for dialogue. 

”The state of emergency is yet to be declared. Yes, the threat is real, but there is a constitutional provision for it. I am not trying to compare the issues in Borno and other places with what is happening in Anambra State. In Borno, you have an insurgency called Boko Haram over a widespread area. Boko Haram is an extensive military force more than the present situation in Anambra. You require external forces to help fight the insurgency. 

”If the insurgency is allowed to prevail over the northern territory, they would cross over the Niger within seven days and take over the South-East and the South-West will also be threatened. The people of the South-East zone should work to ensure security in the zone rather than making comparisons with the situation in other zones.

“We should be concerned with what we are doing to ourselves here in the South- East. If the threat of state of emergency will make us sit up, let us get together and see if we can prevent it. There is a likelihood of the violence in Anambra spreading to other Igbo states

if nothing is done to nip it in the bud. I don’t consider the threat of state of emergency to be hatred on the Anambra or Igbo people. Governors of the South-East states must live up to expectation in executing their functions as governors.

“IPOB should be separated from the problem going on. It appears that the chaotic situation in Anambra has nothing to do with the Biafra issue. If the society by itself cannot address the issues, maybe the constitution should apply.”

 You can also imagine the situation where IPOB said they have lifted the ban on Monday sit-at-home, yet people cannot move out without harm. Students who were meant to sit for examinations could not attend.”

Ebonyi State lawmaker representing Ivo State Constituency, Hon. Oliver Osi expressed outrage over the controversial issue of state of emergency in Anambra State and wondered why “the handlers of Mr. President are confused about almost everything; a blind man leading those with eyes.”

However, in his reaction, the Executive Secretary of Anti-Corruption and Research- Based Data Initiative, ARDI, Chief Dennis Aghanya said the barrage of attacks against Abubakar Malami is a misdirection of anger.

According to Aghanya, IPOB members who are openly conversing that there will be no election in Anambra State and the subsequent killings and destruction of properties should be held responsible if the emergency rule is declared.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.