Nigerian Parliament Rejects Extension of Emergency RuleNovember 21, 2014 in Nigeria
On Thursday, Nigerian police fired teargas inside parliament in an apparent attempt to block opposition lawmakers, including the speaker of the lower house, from entering for a key security vote. In the midst of the chaos, lower house members rejected a government request to extend emergency rule in the northeast region, which has been hit by Boko Haram attacks, and announced that the special powers had expired. The country’s main opposition indicated Thursday that it opposed prolonging the state of emergency, describing it as a complete failure that had not curbed the Islamist violence. The decision to vote against the emergency ruling came as local government officials and residents reported that Boko Haram militants were suspected of killing at least 45 people on Wednesday in an attack on the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area of Borno state.
Earlier in the week, the Nigerian government announced that it would seek to extend emergency rule in the restive northeastern region of the country for another six months, effectively meaning that the measures will likely be in force for February’s presidential elections. On Monday, Justice Minster Mohammed Bello Adoke confirmed that officials have “…reviewed the state of emergency declared in three states and the government will be requesting the national assembly to grant the extension,” adding that the extension request will likely be given to lawmakers on Tuesday.
In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, stating that the military temporarily needed enhanced powers in order to end Boko Haram’s uprising. Despite mounting evidence that the measures had done nothing in order to ease the crisis, lawmakers in November 2013 and May 2014 approved two extension requests. On Wednesday however Nigerian Senators demanded to hear testimony from top military brass before voting on the government’s request for a third extension of the emergency rule. Many critics have indicated that the emergency rule has been a complete failure as violence has worsened since the emergency rule was imposed in May last year. Lawmakers in the upper house have so far refused to vote on the extension, with opposition senator Kabiru Gaya from northern Kano state telling journalists “I believe that we have to wait until we hear from the service chiefs, if they are able to answer our questions then we can take the next step.” The speaker of the lower house, Aminu Tambuwal, later called on lawmakers from that body of government back from recess in order to hold an emergency vote on the extension on Thursday.
The focus of the police aggression on Thursday appears to have been aimed at lower house speaker Aminu Tambuwal, whose defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) party last month outraged the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Since then, the PDP had attempted to remove Tambuwal from the speaker’s chair and has stripped him of his security detail. On the ground sources reported that police repeatedly tried to stop Tambuwal, and 40 other lawmakers, from approaching the main gate of parliament. While the group managed the pass several police barricades, officers later locked the gate that leads into the parliament complex resulting in lawmakers pushing aggressively on the bars to force their way through, with some scaling the gate. According to police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu, officers were initially acting on reports that “hoodlums and thugs” had planned an “invasion” of parliament, adding that Tambuwal and his allied had defied police orders, assaulted officers and were to blame for the escalation in tensions. While Senate President David Mark ordered the immediate closure of both chambers over the teargas incident, with the chambers of the National Assembly remaining closed until Tuesday, House of Representatives spokesman Zakaria Mohammed later disclosed that the chamber had held a brief session before the parliament was shut down, where they decided to reject the extension of the state of emergency. The reluctance to sign off on the extension highlights the mounting criticism of the President’s state of emergency policy, with opposition senators on Tuesday describing the strategy as “a failure.”
In recent months, the crisis in northeastern Nigeria has deepened, with Boko Haram capturing and holding several key towns in the states under the emergency rule. Boko Haram is now believed to be in control of roughly two dozen towns in the region and appears to be attempting to position itself as a rebel authority in certain areas. While President Jonathan’s critics initially applauded the state of emergency, describing it as a sign that he was finally treating the Boko Haram threat with urgency, many now state that the President has over the past 18 months failed to back up the emergency rule, ignoring calls for sufficient troops and military hardware on the ground, amidst reports that Boko Haram militants are overrunning soldiers in many areas.