Doubts about Nigeria′s state of emergency | Africa | DW | 15.05.2013
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Doubts about Nigeria's state of emergency

Nigerian troops have moved to the north one day after the declaration by President Jonathan of a state of emergency in three northern states. Experts are skeptical as to whether this can curb the Islamist insurgency.

Rights groups in Nigeria have reacted with skepticism to President Goodluck Jonathan's declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Speaking to DW's Hausa service, Abdullahi M. Inuwa, a member of the NGO Human Rights and Environmental Activism in Nigeria, said the president'sa statement came too late.

"He should have declared it when there were serious problems in those areas," Inuwa said.

In his statement broadcast on state radio and television networks on Tuesday, President Jonathan ordered more troops to be deployed in the area in order to curb Islamist groups' activities.

He said the recent series of attacks, challenging national security, showed that the country is facing not just "militancy or criminality but a rebellion."

He warned anyone helping or harboring any form of rebellion against Nigeria and said such persons would be punished accordingly.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan speaks during a nationwide live broadcast on the state television on May 14, 2013. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

President Jonathan announcing the state of emergency

"Whoever they may be, wherever they may go, we will hunt them down, we will fish them out, and we will bring them to justice.

No matter what it takes, we will win this war against terror," Jonathan said.

He also promised to take all measures in order to provide security to all citizens wherever they decide to reside.

President Jonathan's state of emergency statement came after a raid by Nigerian soldiers in the northern city of Baga destroyed more than 2,000 houses and killed more than 180 people.

He also reacted to a recent attack on a police station and prison in Borno state by a cult group, allegedly not connected to Islamist group Boko Haram. This killed 55 people including security operatives and freed more than 100 inmates.

More effective this time?

It is too early to say whether President Jonathan's new move will be effective in resolving the crisis in the north. Abdullahi M. Inuwa is doubtful. "I look at it as more political than legal," he said.

This is not the first time that President Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in northern Nigeria. In December 2011, he took similar action affecting parts of four states, including Borno and Yobe, after more than 40 people died in an attack on a church. However, militants continued carrying out attacks.

In addition, rights groups have repeatedly accused Nigerian soldiers of committing atrocities including torturing and summarily killing suspects and setting ablaze civilian houses, claims that authorities deny.

In an interview with DW, Thomas Mättig, head of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Nigeria, said, compared with the president's previous statements, Tuesday's announcement was stronger and harder. However he doubted whether it would change anything.

"He left the governors in the three states in power because otherwise he would have probably have paid a high political price in the north where he is not particularly popular. However he has not made full use of the opportunity afforded by a state of emergency and so it is questionable if this will change anything."

A young girl stands amid the burned ruins. Photo: (AP Photo/Haruna Umar)

Recent killings in Baga village left more than 180 people dead and more than 2,000 houses destroyed

Ali Rafkana, president of a civil organisation called "Muryar Talaka" regards Jonathan's move as a wake-up call to Nigerian leaders to "fight this deliberate plan designed to bring the north in its knees."

"I call on the people to be patient, exercise restraint and continue praying for an end to this violence. And to the military, they should stop violating the rights of poor and innocent citizens," said Rafkana.

Amnesty offer rejected

Earlier this week Reuters reported that insurgents in northern Nigeria had regrouped, rearmed and taken control of several areas.

Boko Haram's aim is to eliminate western education which they say is a sin and introduce strict Sharia law throughout the country.

Attempts by the government to bring peace through dialogue have so far failed after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau rejected an amnesty offer by the government.

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