I read a news story in Thisday Newspaper of Thursday, 16th May credited to Alh. Bamanga Tukur, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as saying that the State of Emergency imposed on Adamawa state is justified. Giving reasons for the justification, Tukur posited that as a border state to Borno there is need to create a buffer zone so as not to allow insurgents operate in Adamawa. He further claimed that border areas in Adamawa share the same ethnic and religious affinity with Borno state, hence the need for the emergency rule in the state.
With all due respect, I disagree with the justification given by the PDP Chairman as regards Adamawa state. I consider the reasons given as factually false and operationally illogical. In the first place, the 4 Local Government Areas of Adamawa bordering Borno state are Madagali, Michika, Shelleng and Gombi. Apart from Shelleng, all the other 3 LGAs, and especially the communities on the borders, are predominantly Christian, or at least non-Muslims. It is therefore false to claim they share religious affinity with the Islamic insurgents.
Furthermore, states of Gombe, Bauchi, Kano and Plateau also share borders with Borno and Yobe, and have much closer religious affinity with the Islamic insurgents than Adamawa. Besides, there are more violent attacks and killings in these states than in Adamawa. It would have been more logical to create this so-called buffer zone in these states than in Adamawa, or at worse alongside Adamawa. But to leave such states and clamp down on Adamawa does not, in my opinion, make any sense whatsoever.
As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no justification for considering Adamawa deserving of emergency rule and the other states do not. While the reasoning is incongruous 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.
At this juncture, it is important to state 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.
A counter terrorism measure that limits or derogates from human rights, like the right to freedom of movement can only be reasonably justified in a democratic society if and only if it can be shown that the limitation or derogation do not deprive or threaten to deprive citizens of their economic, social, religious or political rights, and more so if such deprivation or threat to it can create conditions conducive for the spread of terrorism. 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 will blight citizens’ rights to worship. For the Muslims, they cannot perform 3 of their obligatory [Magrib (sun set), Ishah (night) and Subha (morning)] prayers. I believe it will also hamper on some Christian denominations and faithful who undertake late evening and early morning congregations. This curfew period, therefore, certainly would be unacceptable to such believers, most especially the Muslims, and can generate cause for 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.
We all acknowledge that the adverse effect of terrorism in our society is direct and substantial, i.e. it endangers the rights to human life, to personal dignity, to liberty, to freedom of movement, conscience and worship, to pursuit of wealth and happiness, etc. However, it is not contemplated and acceptable that measures taken to counter terrorism should have adverse impact, in the same way terrorism has, on the lives of citizens, or activities of society. If that happens, then it becomes a double jeopardy to the people. 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 maintain peace and harmony in the society. In carrying out this responsibility, the Nigerian Federal Government must not only be able, but also must be seen to be able, to effectively balance the two elements.
Finally, 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, reduction 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.
Dr. Umar Ardo
(Adamawa State PDP Stakeholder)