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Nigerian House Fails To Reauthorize State of Emergency

Security men stand guard at the parliament gate in Abuja, Nigeria. Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.

The Nigerian House of Representatives has rejected President Goodluck Jonathan's request to extend the state of emergency in three northeastern states, where the army has been battling the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The country's main opposition party said the special powers had completely failed at curbing the Islamist violence in the region and have expired. However, the president remains free to deploy troops "to trouble spots" in the country.

Security forces fired tear gas inside parliament Thursday in a clash with at least 200 supporters of House speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who the police wanted to keep from coming into the building for the vote. One person there said the main lobby outside the House chamber filled with tear gas as people choked and looked for a way outside.

Eventually, a closed door meeting of some lawmakers was organized with the speaker and it was decided not to renew the special powers requested by the president, but no vote was taken.

Political analysts say losing the emergency powers has little practical impact on the fight against Boko Haram as its purpose was never spelled out.

Senate President David Mark described the chaos as "a very unfortunate incident" and closed both chambers of the National Assembly until Tuesday.

The House session was the first since Tambuwal's defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) party last month outraged the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

The APC is expected to present the biggest challenge to the ruling PDP and President Jonathan in elections in February. The PDP, which has controlled the government since democracy was restored in 1999, has found itself in an unfamiliar situation in recent months following a wave of lawmaker defections to the APC.