Prominent lawyers yesterday endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. They said they were impressed he acted within the law.
Former Nigerian Ambassador to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, said the president acted to save the country.
Obanikoro said: “Thank God the president has done the right thing politically, morally and religiously. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost unjustly as a result of the madness and recklessness of a few disgruntled elements. They have negatively impacted our values, our ways of lives and our country. They have inflicted untold hardship on all of us psychologically and physically. This is not the time for partisanship but time for patriotism.”
Speaking to The Nation last night, Constitutional lawyer Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) described it as the “proper” thing to do. He said it was overdue since it has been established that a well armed group of terrorists was bent on holding the country to ransom.
“What the President has done is the right and proper thing to do. It is very well established that an armed group of terrorists has been operating with impunity in the areas affected with total disregard for lives and property; it has been operating without regard for our institutions.
“If he did not do it, the situation would get out of hand and a terrorist state would be established next to to Nigeria and it would open the door for all sorts of terrorist groups in the world to dwell next to us, and that is unacceptable”.
Lagos Lawyer Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) said the declaration of the state of emergency was “perfectly in order”. He said Section 305 of the Constitution gives the President the power “to restore law and order where peace and order are being threatened. He however, requires the National Assembly to approve the same.
“But I must say, that unlike Obasanjo, he acted within the bounds of constitutionalism and the rule of law. He has left intact the democratic institutions in those states. This is commendable,” he said.
Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) said it should have been declared much earlier than now. He said it was the right thing to do.
“It is the right thing to do, it should have been declared earlier. Let us stop pretending about it, there is a state of war. That is the way I see it. And if a group has declared war on the country, the president must assert the sovereignty of the country. it is good, it is proper, it is right,” he said.
Professor of law, Akin Oyebode, said the declaration was belated, half-hearted and reminiscent of a slightly pregnant woman.
“President Jonathan’s declaration of emergency is belated, half-hearted and reminiscent of a slightly pregnant woman.
“He ought to have gone the whole hog in order to make it meaningful. But I guess he was compelled not to hurt certain vested interests.
“It is a non-starter because you cannot declare emergency rule and leave the status quo. An emergency rule warrants extraordinary measures which nullifies the maintenance of the status quo. His declaration should have been accompanied by a military rule for a short time in the states to save the situation.”
Former Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Osagie Obayuwana said the declaration was long overdue.
He said: “Although the declaration of emergency rule is long overdue, I think it is time for people to rally round the president and not allow rascals to continue in their atrocious deeds.
“The declaration is better late than never and we should at this point, put politics aside and rally round the president to end this recklessness.”
Constitutional lawyer Dr. Fred Agbaje said although the emergency rule was long due, the constitutionally recognised emergency rule as enshrined in Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution as amended was for all legislative powers of the state houses of assembly to be suspended automatically.
He said: “Throughout the period of an emergency rule, it is the National Assembly that oversees legislative functions of those states. What the president has done is to stand the Nigerian Constitution on its head, by purporting to declare a state of emergency and at the same time allowing the state legislature to function.
“His action is constitutionally heretical and anathema. If the President has not got the liver or kidney to declare an outright state of emergency in the affected states, he should not ridicule the concept.”
Agbaje said state of emergency is always the last resort when law and order has been broken down irretrievably in a state.
“Therefore, the only option left for the government to carry out its constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens’ lives and properties is to declare same.
“The truth is that nobody in his right senses will dispute that law and order has broken down irretrievably in the affected states. Even the Boko Haram members know it and they saw the state of emergency coming. They cannot pretend, particularly with the unhealthy bloodbath and wanton destruction of lives and properties.
“My problem is that why is the president just waking up from his slumber? Why is it (emeregency) after he has put in place an amnesty committee, eventhough the Boko Haram elements have consistently said they do not want government’s amnesty and are the ones to give the Nigerian people amnesty?
“Why is government now declaring emergency rule when so much of tax payers’ money has been put into the amnesty committee? What purpose is the emergency going to serve now?
“It will amount to a contradiction on the part of the Federal Government to claim that they are pursuing amnesty and at the same time declaring state of emergency. Who is fooling who?”