Which States of Emergency, in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan recently declared a state of emergency in response to violence by Islamic radicals.  This is a move with dangerous implications for democracy which has already had grave human rights implications for thousands of Nigerians.  In addition to hundreds killed and thousands displaced in the Baga Massacre in April, the United Nations reported this week that thousands of Nigerians have begun streaming into Niger and Cameroon, creating a new wave of displaced persons (will they soon be designated refugees?)

But if the state of emergency was declared so that the government can get a handle on the violence, why didn’t it declare one  in the states where the violence is most serious? This is the question raised by an important analysis released today by the Fund for Peace. It turns out that between January and April of 2013, the worst violence occurred in three areas: (1) around Maiduguri, where the Islamic militants are based, (2) near the city of Kano, and (3) the area just south of Jos in Plateau State (see map to the right from the FFP report). In fact, the overall levels of violence appear to have actually declined in Adamawa and Yobe, two states now subject to large scale military operations.

While the governorship of Adamawa has been held by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) since the 1999 transition, the other two states subject to the current emergency, Borno and Yobe, are opposition strongholds. The All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and its predecessor have held the governorships since 1999.  After the relative success of the 2011 elections, the Jonathan administration now risks creating an impression of partisan bias without a further rationalization for its decision about where to declare a state of emergency.

The International Law Association’s standards for such declarations, along with other conventions such as the European Unions’, say that the magnitude of the threat must be objectively demonstrable, with an impact on the nation on the whole.  And while the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows for suspension of certain rights “in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation,” it also provides no exception for Article 6(1), which states “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

N-Katalyst Forum: Nigeria’s Intellectuals Issue a Plea for Human Rights – and Civil Society Activism

Such concerns inspired last week’s declaration, at a meeting in Abuja organized by a group of scholars on Nigeria’s security crisis. The statement notes with concern that the Nigerian government has not made a legal determination about the nature of the current violence, and the counter-insurgency “seems to be conducted outside the ambits of both Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law.”

With equal alarm, the signatories note “there seems to have developed a culture of silence with respect to the impact of the security conflicts on civilian populations in the theatres of conflict.”  A full humanitarian response is needed not only by the government but from civil society.  You can read the full statement here.


4 thoughts on “Which States of Emergency, in Nigeria?

  1. Costus Spectabilis

    I agree – the entire North should be put under a State of Emergency.
    Better yet let The North have their Sharia and allow them to declare Independence.

  2. Ekpein Appah

    Even in countries that are dominantly Muslims have seen peace. The issue is, therefore, not about an ISLAMIC STATE in Nigeria. Some Nigerians, not used to being out if power since 1960, cannot imagine being out of power; even though their party is in power. Their reaction for out of power is the terrorism we are witnessing. Those currently shouting themselves hoarse about HUMAN RIGHTS were shockingly silent all through the mindless and gruesome murder and arson unleashed on innocent worshippers,harmless students, travelers and security agents all over the north. Remember, those who throw mud at others must themselves be muddied; those who live by the sword, shall inevitably die the sword.

  3. Carl LeVan

    In a new letter to the Nigerian Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, Human Rights Watch argues that any amnesty offer that emerges should not be available to those who committed the most serious human rights violations.

  4. Vfl

    I don’t get why people are angry about the ID card. I think it is nescasery. I agree with Ade cool. They need to have a database then it will be worth while, and get finger prints in the process. How do you think Americans are able to enforce the law? We all have social security, and they are able to track anybody down cause you can’t do anything without your SS.

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