Gentlemen of the Press, good morning;
When President Goodluck Jonathan first proclaimed State of Emergency in Adamawa State on May 18th, I objected to the policy as being unfair to the people of the state. Now, having lived one month under emergency rule, and after having very carefully gone through the provisions of the constitution, I can categorically state that the action is also unconstitutional. In addition, given the legal implications of State of Emergency, the measures put in place by the operators of Emergency rule, and their cumulative effects on the lives of our people, it is also unreasonable, unjustifiable and counter-productive.
Although Section 305 of the constitution gave the President powers to declare state of emergency in all or parts of the country, it is ONLY WHEN at least 1 of the 7 conditions listed apply in a state before the president shall assume those powers. It means that when none of these conditions is present, then the President lacks the powers to declare state of emergency, and if he does then he did it unconstitutionally. Let me categorically state that as at 18th May, Adamawa State did not meet any of the 7 conditions outlined by the constitution to empower the President to proclaim state of emergency in the state.
Given the implications of the Proclamation on the rights of the citizens under state of emergency, the act is clearly unreasonable and unjustifiable. Perhaps unknown to many, the mere act of proclaiming emergency rule in the state has directly derogated 5 fundamental human rights of citizens. These include:
- Right to private and family life;
- Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
- Right to freedom of expression and the press;
- Right to peaceful assembly and association; and
- Right to freedom of movement.
Also indirectly derogated by operating certain measures that ‘are reasonably justifiable’ are:
- Right to life; and
- Right to personal liberty.
In essence, through the Proclamation, the President has appropriated and assumed to himself powers that lawfully derogate these 7 fundamental human rights of citizens under emergency rule. The question is, does the President need to assume these powers to be able to ensure public order and safety, and protect the rights and freedom of citizens? The answer is a big NO. These rights are fundamental and inalienable. The President is there to protect these rights and freedom and not to derogate them. State of Emergency derogates these rights and is therefore objectionable.
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 and property, to personal liberty, conscience and religion, etc. and we all want it decisively tackled. 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. The primary duty of government to rid the society of terrorists and terrorism is not more sacrosanct than its duty of protecting the lives, property, rights and freedom of innocent citizens, and maintaining peace and harmony in the society. One cannot save innocent lives by putting measures that invariably ultimately take away other innocent lives. It is illogical and counter-productive.
In the light of the above, one should rationally ask, can’t the President provide public order and public safety without having to derogate rights and freedom of citizens – i.e., without declaring state of emergency? The answer is of course yes he can. As the Commander-in-Chief, the President has the powers to deploy troops to restore public order and safety, if the situation so requires, without necessarily declaring state of emergency with all its attendant derogation of citizens’ rights and freedom.
Some may argue that even though the President has assumed those powers, in practice they are hardly used. This argument is untenable, because so long as he lawfully assumes such powers he can (and does) exercise them anytime, anyhow and on anyone. The essence of freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone in that society; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain and arbitrary will of another man, whether in public office or not.
The bottom line is that any law that derogates the rights and freedom of citizens is a bad law; and any leader that applies it is a bad leader. Yes, Section 45 (2) of the Constitution provides that “reasonably justifiable measures” can be taken that may derogate citizens rights under emergency rule, but what constitutes “reasonably justifiable measures”? We must never allow the interpretation of this provision with the President because this is one constitutional provision which application can easily very well slide to serious abuse of power, as in the present case of Adamawa, if its interpretation is left to the discretion of the executioner – which abuse can slide to dictatorship and even fascism. That is why it is supremely important to establish a standard to its application through a clear and unambiguous judicial interpretation. The present Adamawa case presents an excellent opportunity for the state government to directly approach the Supreme Court for its interpretation. After all, that is why the constitution made such provision and that is why the Supreme Court is there.
After one month of emergency rule, the hardship that it has brought to our people in all facets of live is unbearable and clear for everyone to see. It has virtually destroyed the economic, social and religious lives of our people. The sick and women-in-labour die as a result of non-availability of Medicare, most especially during the long hours of curfew. The non-availability of communication services has also worsened the already bad situation. With already poor economic base, hunger and starvation are prevalent now more than ever before, and likely to get worst if this ugly situation continues.
With these adverse effects of measures accompanying state of emergency on our people, I call upon the President to kindly review this policy with regards to Adamawa state with a view to ending it. Failure to do so, I call upon the National Assembly to end it by invoking the powers given to it by the Constitution. In the alternative, I still reiterate my earlier call on the Adamawa State Government to approach the Supreme Court to quash the Proclamation and end Emergency Rule in the state.
Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
DR. UMAR ARDO
(Adamawa State PDP Stakeholder)