News / Africa

Nigerian Lawmakers Consider State of Emergency Renewal

Anne Look
Nigerian legislators are reviewing the president's request for a second six-month extension to the state of emergency in the northeast.  But political opposition to the president's request is growing. Northern politicians say the federal government needs to shift its strategy for combatting Boko Haram terrorists.

Nigeria's National Assembly voted unanimously to renew the state of emergency for the first time in November.  

But this time, several lawmakers, including Senator Muhammed Ali Ndume, say they will vote against it.

Ndume's district in Borno state includes Chibok, the village where militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls a month ago.

"State of emergency declared for the past one year has not improved the situation.  In fact, we got from bad to worse.  So we are saying that they need to change strategy and what we identify as the critical problem is that there is not enough deployment of troops and the troops need more equipment.  They need to be more motivated and the security agencies need to be more proactive than reactive," he said.

He and others say emergency rule is unnecessary and could even be backfiring.

Some analysts say the enhanced powers given to the military, such as search and seizure powers, have worsened relations with civilians, impeding intelligence gathering.

Adamawa State politician Umar Ardo is a military historian who taught at Nigeria's National Defense Academy.

"It is an intelligence failure and to a large extent it is a failure of political leadership.  That is for sure," said Ardo.

Those in favor of the extension say the military should get more time to deal with the Boko Haram insurgency.

President Goodluck Jonathan told lawmakers "substantial progress" has been made against the militants, but he said the "security situation that necessitated the proclamation of a state of emergency is yet to abate."

Boko Haram continues to kill civilians by the hundreds in brutal attacks, prompting villages to form self-defense vigilante groups.  One such group reportedly killed scores of Boko Haram fighters in a confrontation Tuesday.

There also have been reports of discontent among soldiers fighting in the northeast.  Tuesday in Maiduguri, soldiers fired on their commanding officer after they were ordered to return by road at night and fell into a deadly ambush.

The mandate for emergency rule expires Monday in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.  The governors of all three states say they are against extending it.

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