Boko Haram: FG to Release Detained Women, Terrorists
National Assembly okays emergency rule with conditions
•Military debunks report on withdrawal of troops from Mali
Onwuka Nzeshi, Omololu Ogunmade, Senator Iroegbu and Daji Sani
In an effort to capture the hearts and minds of the people of northern Nigeria, the federal government has approved the release from detention some suspected Boko Haram terrorists, including all the women associated with the terrorists, who have been held in various prisons nationwide.
Disclosing this yesterday, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said that the decision to release the detainees was in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s promise to achieve peace and reconciliation in the northern part of the country.
The announcement from DHQ came just as the National Assembly endorsed the state of emergency declared by the president in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Brig-Gen. Chris Olukolade, confirmed plans to release the detainees in a statement, saying that it was in fulfilment of the request by the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Reconciliation.
Olukolade said: 'Consequent upon the directives of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, the Defence Headquarters will be releasing from detention a number of persons being held in connection with terrorist activities.
'The move is in furtherance of the federal government's position in response to requests by the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Reconciliation.'
The Defence spokesman disclosed that the measure, which was in line with president's desire to enhance peace efforts in the country, would result in freedom for suspects including all women in custody.
He said the details of the directives and those to benefit from this gesture had been communicated to field units and the Joint Task Force (JTF).
'The beneficiaries will be released to the state governors who will be involved in further rehabilitation before these suspects are released to their respective community leaders/relations,' he said.
DHQ, however, refused to open up on the actual numbers of the detainees being released.
It also debunked reports that some Nigerian troops deployed in the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) had been withdrawn to help reinforce the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
Speaking on the issue, Olukolade described such reports as 'rumour mongering' on sensitive affairs of the military.
Olukolade said Nigeria would not withdraw its troops on foreign mission as it was capable of handling various internal security operations across the country.
'As the operation to rid our country of terrorist activities continues, the Defence Headquarters wishes to reassure Nigerians that the Nigerian military is quite capable and ready to discharge this duty professionally and creditably well,' he said.
'The report therefore in a section of the press that Nigerian troops are to be withdrawn from Mali to face the ongoing insurgency is complete falsehood.
'There is certainly no need for such action now as the human and material resources of the Armed Forces of Nigeria are being meticulously deployed and quite able to meet its present internal and external assignments,' he added.
The spokesman added that even if the withdrawal of troops had taken place, it would be in accordance with the military's policy of routine troops rotation as adopted by the Nigerian armed forces in peacekeeping operations.
However, in a move targetted at increasing the size of the military in the country, the federal government is currently considering plans to expand the recruitment drive for more personnel into the Nigerian armed forces.
Military sources revealed that there is a sustained pressure to recruit more people into the armed forces so that the country does not abdicate its role in internal security operations as well as international peacekeeping obligations.
The sources said the plan had already been sent to the president and was awaiting his approval to meet the challenges of 'war time' obligations.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian army yesterday relaxed the curfew imposed on Adamawa State by one hour, changing the time for the restriction of movement from 7 pm to 6pm, as opposed to the 6 pm to 6 am imposed on the state last week.
A statement from the 23 Armoured Brigade in Yola, the state capital, said the new arrangement took effect yesterday.
The army's Public Relations Officer, Lieutenant Jaafaru Mohammed Nuhu said the army had decided to review the curfew, adding that it was done to encourage socio-economic activities in the state which were becoming moribund.
In addition, Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako yesterday approved new working hours from 8 am to 3 pm daily for civil servants in the state to enable them reach their homes before the curfew.
However, the National Assembly gave the president’s declaration of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States legislative backing yesterday, when it endorsed emergency rule in the three states.
But in the House of Representatives where 253 legislators approved the declaration by a voice vote, the lawmakers in the lower chamber elected to amend some sections of the proclamation.
In the Senate, on the other hand, all 100 senators present endorsed the imposition of emergency rule on the three affected states without a dissenting voice in sight.
Although only 72 senators, constituting the two-thirds majority, were required to approve the president's declaration, only nine of the 109 senators were absent at the plenary Tuesday.
Seven of the absentee senators were: Remi Tinubu (Lagos Central), Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North), Ma’aji Lawan (Borno North), Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central), Babafemi Ojudu (Ekiti Central), Ibrahim Musa (Niger North), and Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central).
Senate President David Mark said they were absent because they were on essential duties.
The Senate's endorsement, which followed a one-hour closed door executive session held by the senators, was facilitated by the official gazette of the declaration, sent to the chamber by the president and read by Mark at the opening of yesterday's plenary.
The Senate had at the opening of the plenary invoked Order 136 of its Standing Rules (as amended) to proceed into an executive session, where the decision to endorse the state of emergency was taken.
While explaining what transpired during the executive session, Mark said emphasis was placed on the retention of all democratic structures in the affected states, adding that all senators acknowledged the move as a deliberate effort to bring to an end the prevalent anarchy in the affected states.
Mark said: 'In a closed session, we extensively discussed some of the issues that we think are very important to this proclamation of state of emergency.
'We want to state very emphatically that all the 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 are humane and benevolent and make sure that all citizens are treated with the utmost respect so that they do not lose their respect as human beings.
'We are conscious of the fact that the government is taking this step as a last resort but alongside that, we want to encourage the government to also urge the committee on amnesty to work alongside the current functions that are put in place to bring this to an end, so that at the end of the day, government can concentrate efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people in all the states that are affected.
'We are conscious of the fact that there was lawlessness, there was anarchy and mayhem in most of the places that are involved in the declaration of state of emergency and we appreciate the fact that government must take every possible step to bring this to an end as quickly as possible with minimal loss of lives and materials.
'At the end of the day, we would like to support the federal government in this proclamation of the state of emergency in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States. But we also would like to remind the president that the federal government must fund the operations there properly and adequately.
'We must also remind the federal government as the operation is going on, that relief and all medical materials should as quickly as possible, be moved to the area so that the people can benefit from government's presence.
'We are conscious of the fact that this problem ought to have been brought to an end long ago but it is better late than never. We want to appeal to the Boko Haram insurgents and terrorists that it is still not too late to cooperate with the forces that are there in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe so that we can bring this to a logical conclusion as quickly as possible.
'The summary of our discussion is that the democratic structures will remain in place - the governors and local government chairmen - as it were, and with the backing of the federal government, they should ensure that this is brought to a logical conclusion.'
Also speaking with journalists after the plenary, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the Senate encouraged the military to bring the insurgency to an end within a brief period.
He also said members of the opposition, contrary to the positions of their parties opted to support the Senate's move because it was emphasised at the meeting that the issue affected the entire country and Nigeria must be seen to be greater than political parties.
He said if need be, the Senate would approve any supplementary budget that could enhance military operations in the three states.
In the House of Representatives where 253 legislators met behind closed doors for three and a half hours, the lawmakers approved the declaration by a voice vote, but elected to amend some sections of the proclamation.
The House's endorsement of the emergency rule put to rest speculations that the lawmakers in the lower chamber were likely to oppose it.
THISDAY, however, learnt that the main opposition political party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), attempted to raise dust during the executive session but was checkmated by some lawmakers from the ruling party.
It was gathered that the opposition attempted to move a motion attacking the declaration and warning the military against human rights abuses, but the motion was shot down by other lawmakers who saw it as premature.
The House, nonetheless, made some amendments to the provisions of the declaration, one of which was Section 2 of the Emergency Powers General Regulations, 2013, which deals with the Administration of the Emergency Areas.
The gazette, which the president sent to the National Assembly, provided that 'a State Governor in an emergency area shall continue with the general functions of administering the emergency area under the control of the President or any person designated or authorised to act on his behalf.
'The President may give directions to a State Governor or Local Government Chairman directly or through his designate or a duly authorised person with respect to the administration of the emergency area and it shall be the duty of the State Governor or Local Government Chairman to comply with the directive.'
But the House amended some clauses in the provisions to ensure that these political office holders retained their constitutional powers and would not be subjected to any authority.
The lawmakers argued that the state governors and local government chairmen in the emergency areas should be allowed to remain in charge of their domains in the interest of democracy.
The House also stipulated that the president must send to and seek approval of both chambers of the National Assembly any further orders on the emergency areas within seven days of making such orders.
In addition, the lawmakers injected into the declaration a provision that requires the federal government to pay compensation to victims of terrorism during or before the emergency proclamation.
The House also barred the executive from using the federal allocation of state and local governments to fund the emergency rule in the three states.
When it became obvious that the lower chamber had altered the presidential proclamation and may have passed a version different from that of the Senate, it opted for a conference committee.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, appointed a six-man committee to meet with their counterparts in the Senate to harmonise the two versions.
The committee, which is headed by the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, has in its fold Chairman, House Committee on Justice, Hon. Ali Ahmad, and Hon. Aminu Shagari, Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary.