By Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, Ph.D.
The Attorney General of the Federation flew a kite today to the effect that the Federal Government may declare a state of emergency, ” to ensure necessary security is provided, and in terms of ensuring protection is accorded to lives and properties”. This is towards the forthcoming governorship election, especially “if there is failure on the part of the state government to ensure the sanctity of security of lives, properties and democratic order’.
Declaration of a state of emergency is however a serious constitutional matter within the purview of section 305 of the 1999 Constitution.It cannot be done with a knee jerk approach as the Attorney General appears to suggest. Certain conditions must be met.
Section 305 permits the president to declare a state of emergency by way of official Gazette. But, two-third majority of the National Assembly ( NASS) must ratify the executive proclamation within 2 days. This shows it is not solely an executive fait acompli. The Legislature must be fully involved.
The section permits such declaration if the Federation is at war; or if the Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; or if there is an actual breakdown of law and order and public safety in the Federation, or ANY PART THEREOF, in such proportions as require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security.
A state of emergency may also be declared if there is clear and present danger of the above scenarios; or a disaster or natural calamity affecting the community or a section of it occurs ; or there is occurrence of any other public danger that constutes threats to the existence of the Federation.
The president can also declare a state of emergency under section 305(4), where the Governor of a state with the sanction of resolution supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly, himself requests the president to so proclaim a state of emergency. Such a state of emergency lapses after months; or if the president revokes it by instrument published in the official Gazette; or if the NASS in session does not support it within 2 days; or the NASS not in session fails to support it within 10 days.
Surely, widespread threats to lives and properties of innocent citizens,as seen in the above constitutional provisions can lead to a declaration of a state of emergency, especially if it can be demonstrated that there has been actual breakdown of public and public order.
Such does not appear to be the situation in Anambra state as at now.
I personally, do not like what is going on in Anambra state, all because of a mere governorship election. Why do people have to maim ,burn and take the precious lives of citizens just because of a mere gubernatorial election? Do you kill innocent citizens because you want to serve them? Is it a matter of overblolated ego? Is it money? I am not aware Anambra has tons of it? Is it show of bizarre wealth? Just why the incessant killings, and to achieve what? Why turn an otherwise peaceful state into a field of killings and an odeon of grisly bloodbath just for a four year Governor’ s seat?
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. . For one, the Governor has not declared he can no longer contain the ugly situation. For another, the Federal government will certainly be accused of barefaced duplicity, crass inconsistency and ignoble selectivity, for which it is now infamous for. The question will be, why declare a state of emergency in Anambra over sporadic killings in a few weeks, when you have recused to declare it in many Northern states where boko haram killings, armed banditry and serial kidnappings and rape have been the order of day for years.
I would seriously advise the Federal government against it, as it would exercebate an already ugly situation and engender more tension and insecurity. It would give a ready made alibi for another Federal Government invasion of the entire South East, in the fom of operation “python dance” ,etc. So, stop!!!