Dr Umar Ardo is a PDP stakeholder and governorship aspirant in the last election in Adamawa State. In this interview with Newsfact Online, he says the Federal Government has failed in every stage to tackle the insurgency in the North East and doubts the emergency rule can make it perform better
Emergency rule has been imposed on three states in the Northeast zone, including your state of Adamawa. What is your take on that?
The declaration of state of emergency is a poor policy choice which we ought not to have arrived at if the right policy option was taken in the first place. Boko Haram is not a movement whose ideology or method is shared by a large number of Muslims; it is an organization whose ideology is shared only by its few adherents.
I do not know the definite statistics, but I can bet that membership of the organization is less than .01% of the total number of Muslims of the Northeast zone alone. This is an insignificant number whose ideology is plainly harmful to the society and the state fails to protect citizens from this harm.
Now at a point in time, members of this organization started conceiving evil, consulting amongst themselves, then reached the stages of plotting, planning and executing their evil deeds and then vanishing into the thin air without being apprehended. Though no one knows the minds of men, but from the moment man voices out his intents, he has open himself up, and is prone to be detected by the state and his evil intentions contained.
If not detected at this initial stage, then likely at the wider consultations level, or more likely at the planning level, or at worse at the execution level. And if at all these levels the state fails to detect and deal with the evil in accordance to law, and even fails to bring the perpetrators to book even after the evil act, and same is repeated again and again all over Northern Nigeria, then we all know who is culpable.
The only entity with the primary duty to detect, stop and punish evil act, and with all the powers, personnel and resources for that, is the state. It is the state that failed in its primary responsibility and instead blamed the insurgency on ‘Northern Elders’. The general accusation is that “the Northern elders know members of the Boko Haram”, with a veil allusion of shielding them because they vowed ‘to make the country ungovernable’ for President Jonathan. There is nothing more illogical and more annoying than this.
In the first place, what is the business of a ‘Northern Elder’, or any other person for that matter, with who is plotting evil, who is planning evil or who has carried out evil? Even when he hears of such things he only gets interested may be on account of patriotism, or because it affects his family members, friends, colleagues or some other acquaintances; but not because he is bound to know or have interest in such things.
This is the primary duty of the state – for which reason the state exists. For the state to now put blame of the insurgency on members of the public, and in this instance on the so-called Northern elders, means that the state has only succeeded in camouflaging and politicizing its failure.
The state has all it takes to have prevented the BH insurgency reaching the level it now reached for which state of emergency was declared, with all the attendant adverse consequences on the country.
The SSS could have detected its formation, decode its ideology and its intents long enough and facilitated for its lawful neutralization early enough; the SSS could also have traced and blocked the sources of funding of the organization early enough and substantially weaken it; the police could have effected arrests of its transgressing members and leaders making it impossible for them to be cohesively effective to cause harm to the society; the Customs could have made it impossible for them to secure arms into the country to heavily arm themselves to the point that it requires military operation under a state of emergency to dislodge; the Immigration could have contained the infiltration, influence, support and cross border cooperation with foreign nationals; the NIA could have prevented the permeation, collaboration and training of the BH in combat operations and use of heavy weapons by foreign terror organizations. If the Federal Government will budget about 1 trillion naira for security last year only for insecurity to escalate and ending up in a state of emergency in 2013, then it tells the extent of failure of the state on this matter.
It is centrally therefore the failure of the state to identify, isolate and deal with BH membership, leadership and financiers in accordance with the law from its incipient stage to the aftermath of its evil acts that has today resulted into this state of emergency palaver. Other than the huge human rights abuses that would ensue, the collateral adverse effects emergency rule would have on the economic, commercial, political, social, educational activities of our people, and the huge financial outlay on the state to prosecute the emergency rule, is better imagined. God forbid, if this option also fails, then it will lead us into a desperate state of quack mare. Now you can see how entire societies and the whole country have to suffer for the failure of the state.
But having reached the level we have reached on insecurity in the country, what else could be done other than the measures taken?
To answer this question, it is important to look at the entire scenario from this perspective. Remember the different stages in the ‘development and growth’ of insurgency in the country – i.e. initial, consultation, organizing, planning, execution and post-execution stages. The state was supposed to have contained the situation along all theses stages.
The logic is that either the state tried and failed in containing the evil along the stages, or it did nothing until the evil ‘blossomed’ to this terrible stage the solution for which is only through full scale military action under state of emergency laws. Now if the state had tried and failed along the various stages, then what guarantee do we have that it will succeed at this stage? And if the state did not try at all, which is why the situation has reached this level, then would it not be reasonable to claim that the state deliberately created the situation to reach this level so as to take this action for political reasons? In fact, the inclusion of Adamawa state under emergency rule may even buttress this latter reasoning.
As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no justification for considering Adamawa state deserving of emergency rule and the other states like Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Benue, Plateau and Jigawa do not. While the reasoning is inconsistent to the reality on ground, the action is out of all proportions to the violence or threat of violence in the state.
It only gives the impression that it is political rather than strategic considerations that informed the decision to include Adamawa among the states for emergency rule. This has the tendency to politicize the exercise and ultimately defeat its essence. This must be discouraged at all costs, if the objective is to succeed.
In addition, one necessarily does not have to be a lawyer or a judge to see that the act conflicts with the principle of necessity and proportionality under Subsection 33(2) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011. Worse of all, the imposition of curfew from 6pm to 6am on the entire state by the military authorities is also in conflict with the principle of reasonability as enshrined in Subsection 41(2) of the 1999 Constitution.
There are other reasons why I oppose emergency rule in Adamawa. We are all living witnesses to cries and accusations of extra-judicial interrogations, detentions, tortures and killings of innocent persons by the operators of emergency rule since the eruption of insurgencies in the North in 2009. We have also witnessed the morbid destruction of normal economic, social, political and religious activities in states affected.
No person would wish such for their states. While we all crave for insurgencies and terror acts be nip in the bud, we cannot accept the violation of people’s rights or innocent persons losing their lives on account of anti-terrorism measures employed by the authorities – because we know that terrorism can be obliterated without necessarily getting society suffer all the negative effects outlined.
In other words, the operators of emergency rule are duty bound to apply the principle of necessity and proportionality in their measures to proffer solution to terrorism. That is why I oppose the imposition of curfew on Adamawa from 6pm – 6am by the Military authorities in the state. The Order is clearly insensitive to the religious rituals of our people.
Such restriction of movements as contained in the Order blights citizens’ rights to worship. For the Muslims, they cannot perform 3 of their 5 obligatory [Magrib (sun set), Ishah (night) and Subha (morning)] prayers in the mosque. I believe it will also hamper on some Christian denominations and faithfuls who undertake late evening and early morning congregations. This curfew period, therefore, certainly is objectionable to such believers, most especially the Muslims, and can generate friction with authorities rather than the desired cooperation.
To this end, I call on the Military authorities in Adamawa to reconsider the curfew period while the state of emergency lasts, suggesting instead a period from 8pm – 5am. This would allow all reasonable congregational prayers over; and will help engender people’s cooperation and avert conflict with emergency rule operators.
After all, the act of terrorism is not, by itself, a capital offence under the Act. The primary duty of government to rid the society of terrorists and terrorism is not more sacrosanct than its duty of protecting the lives and property of innocent citizens, and maintaining peace and harmony in the society. In carrying out these two responsibilities, the Nigerian Federal Government must not only be able, but also must be seen to be able, to effectively balance the two elements.
To attain this balance, all actions must be taken to ensure that Nigeria complies with Resolution 60/288 of the United Nations Global Counter-terrorism Strategy in which member-states are required as a matter of necessity to take measures aimed at addressing conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.
Such measures, according to the Resolution, include the entrenchment of rule of law in public matters, preventing and punishing of violation of human rights, enhancing the welfare of citizens, reducing of poverty in the society and ensuring that all measures employed to counter terrorism comply with obligations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law. Anything short of this is counter-productive and therefore undesirable.
The State of Emergency Gazette seems to have empowered the president to take over state funds, take over the powers of the Governors and by extension suspending the states legislatures. Is it your idea of the nature of state of emergency?
No, it is not. As far as I am concerned, the constitution made provision for the declaration of state of emergency for good reasons. Because any emergency situation can occur in a particular state and LGA, and because these are governed under laws, in my opinion, the essence of state of emergency is to give the federal government direct access, unhindered by any law of the state or Local Govt., to the emergency situation on ground so as to resolve it without legal encumbrance.
Besides, state of emergency can be declared on several other situations than on security; such as natural deserters, etc. If that happens, is it then right for the gazette to give the president such powers as taking over the state funds, powers of the governors on matters other than that for which the state of emergency was declared?
The answer naturally is in the negative. On this current one too, I think other than matters relating to security, it is inappropriate, in fact illegal, to vest the president with other extra powers. It is a very dangerous precedent we are setting for the country that could consume us some day.