State of emergency in Nigeria – Matters Arising

That our country, Nigeria, is in a state of severe security crises is no longer in doubt. From the northern savannahs to the creeks of the Niger Delta; from the southeast to the coastal plains of the southwest; every part of the country is embroiled in one form of conflict or the other.

The Niger Delta is experiencing resurgence of militancy and criminality; kidnap for ransom has become the order of the day in the southeast, and speedily extending its tentacles into the southwest; and the north is witnessing unprecedented levels of terrorism, brigandage and chaos.

Starting from October 1, 2010, when the first coordinated terrorist attack interrupted Nigeria's Independence Day celebrations at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the activities of terror groups and increasingly violent criminal gangs around the nation, particularly, the Boko Haram sect has enveloped the nation with a veil of insecurity and despair and has practically brought social and economic activities in north-eastern Nigeria to its knees. Bombing and sundry forms of fanatic depravity have turned most of the affected states into killing fields, the city centres and villages have become unmarked graves for the young and old, while life has since lost its sanctity.

As a step towards curbing the armed insurgency, on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of Emergency in three North Eastern states, namely Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. These states had become the epicentre of terrorist activities and armed insurrection against state and federal interests. The recent ambushing and cold blooded slaughter of 56 law enforcement officers, including operatives of the Nigerian Police and State Security Service, on May 7, 2013, by members of the Ombatse cult, in Nasarawa State and the increasingly outrageous and audacious nature of peddling violence, death and destruction by these murderous gangs made this declaration by government inevitable.

As a responsible corporate citizen committed to peace, security, unity and oneness of Nigeria, we, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity), condemn unreservedly, the campaign of terror unleashed by the Boko Haram sect and other criminal gangs and elements unleashing terror on innocent citizens. We therefore, fully support the declaration of emergency rule in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, as a prelude to containing the senseless and wanton killing of innocent Nigerians in these parts of the country. We also commend the decision of government not to thwart existing democratic governance structures within these states.

However, we are of the opinion that the "State of Emergency" declared by the Federal Government is a temporary measure and will suffice for the short term but falls short of what is required for the longer term. To ensure that normalcy finally returns to the affected areas and guarantee the restoration of the dignity of life, the Federal Government must develop a robust and effective strategy to tackle terrorism. Quality education, mass employment and youth-focused reorientation programs must take pre-eminence in government policy considerations going forward. Government policies aimed at tackling armed insurgency must not be mired in political considerations, as this has been the bane of efforts by the Federal Government to tackle this affront to our corporate existence as a nation. In the long term interest of peace and security, government should view, and respond to this security situation as a law enforcement challenge.
We are also deeply concerned by allegations that in the course of deploying military action to repress the Boko Haram insurgency, the Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, will only exacerbate the violence and amplify resentment and extremism from the host communities.
We urge Nigeria's security forces to clearly define the rules of engagement for these operations, and ensure that they are in consonance with United Nations "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", Articles 1 -30. Disciplined use of force must be applied in all operations, the lives and properties of civilians must be protected in any security response, and respect for human rights and the rule of law must also be held sacrosanct.

The planned release of arrested female suspects in the course of the lockdown of the volatile areas appears premature. Given that women have been reported to be involved in various violent and non-violent crimes committed within and outside the country, gender should not mitigate responsibility in criminal matters. Much as we are happy for the women to be released, we expect their release to be after due diligence has been done on their activities. This absolution exercise tends towards tokenism; and flies in the face of reason. It makes a mockery of Lady Justice by removing the veils from her eyes to tie up her hands.

Government must arrest, investigate and bring to book every individual or organisation found complicit in arranging, implementing or sponsoring terrorism and terrorist activities in Nigeria. In addition, all accusations and suspicions of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings by the security forces must also be investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

True and lasting peace in our dear nation, Nigeria can be achieved, but it must be founded on equal rights and justice to all. Let us make hay while the sun still shines for our dear country.

Ide Owodiong-Idemeko
NAS Cap'n
National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity)