N'Assembly okays emergency rule

By The Citizen

Both arms of the National Assembly on Tuesday ratified the emergency rule imposed on three northern sates of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa with the two chambers attaching conditions to their approvals.

While the Senate sought a code of conduct for the military during the emergency rule, among others, the House of Representatives said any order issued by President Goodluck Jonathan during the period must be approved by the National Assembly within seven days else it becomes a nullity.

The Senate said the Federal Government must ensure adequate funding of the operations in the state; troops must be given a code of conduct to guard against human rights abuse and that relief materials must be sent to the three states.

It also said that all democratic structures in the three states must not be tampered with.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly also urged the President not to foreclose the option of dialogue with the Boko Haram sect.

It stated that the 'carrot and stick' approach should be adopted.

The Senate reached its decisions after  meeting in closed session, which was attended by 100 senators. The Senate has 109 members.

After the closed session, senators through a voice vote approved the proclamation of a state of emergency in the states, without any dissension.

President of the Senate, David Mark, while reporting proceedings from the closed session, said, 'We want to emphasise, in fact, and very emphatically, that all democratic structures must be left in place and must be allowed to operate fully and actively; and they must also be involved in all the efforts that the Federal Government is putting up to bring this ugly situation to an end.

'We also would like to emphasise that the armed forces are issued a proper code of conduct where they will be humane; they will be benevolent and to make sure that all citizens are treated with utmost respect so that they do not lose their respect as human beings.'

Mark further said that the Senate was conscious of the fact that the Federal Government took the step as a last resort.

He, however, urged the government to ensure the involvement of the amnesty committee in efforts to bring an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

According to him, this should ensure that at the end of the day government can concentrate on efforts to win the minds and hearts of the people in all the affected states.

Speaking after the session, Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, told journalists that senators understood that the issue was beyond partisan politics.

He said that was the reason why there was no objection from the opposition parties.

'We spoke frankly to each other, and we were of the opinion that Nigeria comes first. We should have a corporate entity called Nigeria, after which we can have individual opinion,' he said.

On the funding of the operations, he said the President had not indicated that he would need more funds.

He added that the Senate would be willing to consider any supplementary budget if the President made any request for the purpose of funding the emergency operation.

Asked why senators did not vote individually, instead of a voice vote, Abaribe said, 'Our rules state that we can regulate our procedure, at the closed session we saw that we needed to protect some members from any harm by people who are misinformed. The decision was unanimous, there was no dissension.'

The House asked the Federal Government to compensate all victims of terrorism in the country as it enforced the emergency rule.

In an amendment that appeared to limit Jonathan's powers, the House said that the emergency rule should be administered by the governors of the affected states and not the President or 'any person designated or authorised to act on his behalf.'

The House stated categorically that the compensation should start ahead of the emergency rule or as the rule was being implemented.

'Government should commence payment of compensation to victims of terrorism on or before the emergency proclamation,' it stressed.

Members of the House, presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, had, like the Senators, met behind closed doors for over three hours to consider the emergency proclamation document.

Earlier before the closed  session, Tambuwal had read a copy of the proclamation Gazette sent by Jonathan to members.

In a covering letter to the gazette, Jonathan said that he declared the emergency in the states in compliance with Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and was seeking the approval of the House.

Part of the President's letter reads, 'The main features of the proclamation are as follows: a declaration of a State of Emergency in three states of the Federation, namely Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

'The continuation of the administrative structures in the affected states to administer respective states subject to any order, instruction or regulation as may, from time to time, be issued by me.'

However, lawmakers introduced an entirely new clause on compensation payments to victims of terrorism.

In addition, they want the implementation of the emergency rule to be restricted to the maintenance of 'public peace, security and safety' in the affected states.

Another amendment stated that the governor or local government chairman of an affected area shall remain in charge of the 'general administration' for the emergency period.

As members reverted to open plenary, Tambuwal announced the decisions taken at the executive session and called for a voice vote.

A total of 253 members sat on Tuesday to approve the emergency proclamation. The House has 360 members.

Tambuwal observed that the number of members in attendance surpassed the two-thirds majority required by the constitution to endorse the proclamation.

He spoke further, 'The constitution requires that the House shall attend to the matter of the emergency only if two-thirds of members are sitting.