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Published On: Tue, May 20th, 2014

Democratisation of violence or state of emergency?

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Boko-Haram1By Babayola Toungo

The request for the extension of the state of emergency in the northeast states tabled before the National Assembly by Goodluck Jonathan and sheepishly approved by the House of Representatives is clear indication that they have harkened to the misinformed call of the Southern Leadership Assembly and not the informed call by the North East Leadership Forum. While the former live over a thousand kilometres away from the northeast, the later are right at the centre of the mayhem. The act of tabling the request in itself is further prove positive that the Jonathan administration “has now become a government of impunity run by an evil-minded leadership”, to quote Admiral Murtala Nyako.

While the people of the three states – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – are counting the days and eagerly waiting for the last day of the emergency rule, those who the Admiral described in his Memo as “murderous/ cutthroats imbedded in our legitimate and traditional defence and security organisations” are pushing for the extension of the emergency. As it turns out, Admiral, the “cutthroats” are also embedded in the political class. The people of these three states have been living through hell in the past one year. Their routines have been dislocated, their economic activities were grounded and their psyches have been brutalised. Worse of all, the security situation became shoddier under the emergency regime. An unnecessary curfew is imposed on the people making life more difficult than before the proclamation. All businesses must be closed from a certain time to a definite time. One is not allowed to venture out once the curfew hour kick-ins. Even the act of taking a sick relation or expectant mother to the hospital has become risky because one may either be shot or arrested. While they were enduring these, those calling for the extension of the state of emergency are ensconced in far away places like Abuja, Enugu, Port-Harcourt or Lagos.

It is not unusual for the soldiers to close down a whole town in the middle of the day in the name of “stop and search operation”. While the innocent and law abiding are harassed, humiliated and confined to their houses defenceless and at the mercy of killers, the killers are having a field day with unbridled impunity and access – choosing and picking their targets.

Another fallout of the state of emergency is the unwitting “democratisation of violence” – the proliferation of arms within the northeast of arms and ammunition. Today in the northeast, a toddler knows what an AK-47 looks like. Small arms and rifles are now common sight. It also led to the escalation of violence to unthinkable proportions. Before the declaration of the emergency regime, the insurgents operate in small ways before the audacious Baga massacre, which was attributed to the military. This was the point that the mayhem took a life of its own and the declaration of the state of emergency only escalated the killing sprees. With the insurgents killing and destroying at will, the soldiers are harassing, humiliating and brutalising the people. The innocent poor are now living a life filled with violence from both sides.

The proclamation of a state of emergency in a democratic dispensation is an aberration and can therefore not be used ad infinitum. If Jonathan believes that the Boko Haram menace falls under the factors numerated in S.305 (3) (c or d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), then in my opinion, the threat by the Ijaw Youth Congress should be treated under S. 305 (3) (f). With the near collapse of civilisation in the eastern region in the recent past when Port Harcourt was practically set ablaze, no such drastic action was taken on the region. What is the difference now?

If the logic of those calling for the extension of the state of emergency in the three northeastern states is allowed to prevail, then the northern region of Nigeria should brace itself for a declaration of state of emergency in the whole of the region before the 2015 elections. Either by design or default, the north is on fire – Boko Haram in the northeast, farmers/ herders clashes in the north central and bandits in the northwest.

The success of the Civilian JTF in Borno is inspite of the emergency, not because of it. Were the people of Raan, Kala Balge local government to rely on the soldiers to save them, their town will have been laid to ruins. For the people of the northeast, emergency rule is akin to lining them up to be killed. This, they are rising to reject. The result? Everybody is arming himself the best way they know how. This way they are all soldiers defending their lives and livelihoods. Violence have been democratised by the emergency rule and who knows what becomes of these “civilian” JTF’s after the war against Boko Haram is won? I leave that to your imagination. The Senate may yet save the people by denying Jonathan his request. If all else fails, then Diariz God.


Babayola Toungo via


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