Urhobo Historical Society

Declarartion of Emergency Rule in Plateau State of Nigeria
by President Olusegun Obasanjo

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

FELLOW Nigerians, it is with a grave heart that I address you all today. We have all made personal and collective sacrifices not just to enthrone peace, stability and democracy in Nigeria but also to consolidate our democratic enterprise and cultivate new values. It is therefore very painful when that new collective commitment to democracy, peace and security is compromised, contaminated or mediated in any way or form.

The situation in Plateau State, to say the least, constitutes a challenge to our democracy, negates the norms of national human interaction, contradicts the tenets of civil society, and devalues opportunities for peace, stability, coexistence and social justice.

It constitutes a grave threat to law and order and a great danger to security in Plateau State and the neighbouring states of Bauchi, Nassarawa, Taraba and Benue. It is therefore clearly a great threat to the security and unity of Nigeria. Even if active conflict and killings seemingly subside for now, it is a fa?ade that will erupt again if fundamental actions are not taken now as it had subsided and erupted on and off since September 2001.

As at today, there is nothing on ground and no evidence whatsoever to show that the State Governor has the interest, desire, commitment, credibility and capacity to promote reconciliation, rehabilitation, forgiveness, peace, harmony and stability. If anything, some of his utterances, his lackadaisical attitude and seeming uneven-handedness over the salient and contending issues present him as not just part of the problem, but also as an instigator and a threat to peace. Plateau State cannot and must not experience another spate of violence, killings and destruction of property. If allowed, the crisis will engulf the entire nation.

Considering my constitutional responsibility as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and having exhausted all possible avenues to have and to help the governor of Plateau State to ensure security of life and property generally in that State, and cognisant of the proven inability and incompetence of the Governor to maintain security of life and property generally in the state and particularly in Langtang, Wase, and Yelwa-Shendam in the past few months, I have painfully come to the point that I have to resort to the last constitutional option available to ensure security of life and property of all citizens of Nigeria and non-Nigerians alike residing in any part of Plateau State.

Since 2001 when I first visited Plateau State as a result of the crisis, the situation has steadily deteriorated politically largely due to the failure of governance and the gross inefficiency in managing the rich and robust diversity of the state.

Tension and social differences have been exacerbated rather than building new bridges of harmony, tolerance, inclusion, and accommodation. Political errors have been magnified and politicised by opportunistic politicians that often put personal interest above those of the people and the state. Violence has reached unprecedented levels and hundreds have been killed with much more wounded or displaced from their homes on account of their ethnic or religious identification. Schooling for children has been disrupted and interrupted, businesses have lost billions of naira and property worth much more destroyed. Christians and Moslems that used to live together have become archenemies and the embers of hate have reached totally unacceptable levels.

Visitors and investors have fled or are fleeing Plateau State and the neighbouring states have had their economies and social life disrupted and dislocated by the influx of internally displaced persons. Among leaders and ordinary people, the language of hate, distrust, violence, intolerance has become the norm. Nobody seems to be able to be neutral or impartial as you must either be tainted or drawn to one side or the other. Much more pitiful is the palpable loss of confidence in the political leadership of the state.

The consequences of not reacting to existing realities and failure to put in place the necessary checks is what we are witnessing today at Plateau State and its neighbouring states. The killings, looting and wanton destruction of property in Kano are the direct result of the mismanaged affairs in Plateau State.

Nothing of course should be done or said to justify actions in Kano that must be condemned as the handiwork of manipulated irresponsible hoodlums. As I have advised all governors in their capacity as Chief Security Officers of their states, they are held responsible for breaches of security in their respective states. No excuse will be tenable for such breaches. Henceforth, governors will be held accountable.

Both Christianity and Islam hold life as sacred. Anyone who kills or instigates the killing of another human being except on established judicial judgment is a murderer and must be treated as such. The Federal Government and the neighbouring states to Plateau State are incurring huge expenses in managing the socio-political and economic consequences of the near collapse of state authority and the breakdown of law and order in some parts of Plateau State and elsewhere. Opportunities for building networks and webs of dialogue across primordial lines have been recklessly squandered by a weak and incompetent political leadership, which has allowed discontent to fester into deep hatred manifesting in bitterness, rage and destruction.

What has become clear is that the constituted authority in Plateau State is incapable of maintaining law and order, giving confidence to the people, managing religious, ethnic and social pluralism, and protecting lives and property of all citizens or determinedly unwilling to do so. I have had several meetings with political, religious and traditional rulers and leaders of thought from Plateau.

I have had several private consultations with political leaders and the governor of Plateau State. The Federal Government had even set up at least three all-embracing peace committees charged with finding and using all possible ways and means to restore peace, law and order to Plateau State. The committees have been frustrated by vested interests in Plateau State that are clearly on the side of peaceful coexistence, inclusion, tolerance, and harmony in any personal and official capacities. I have done everything to bring lasting peace in Plateau State. If nothing else, the political leadership in the state has failed woefully to guarantee peace and security and in many instances, it has wittingly and unwittingly encouraged acts that have subverted peace and tranquillity.

At every point, the Governor of Plateau State either made himself unavailable on the ground to take appropriate action to stem the tide of violence or when he was available, he was simply incompetent to take action. His personal conduct and unguarded utterances have inflamed passion.

The latest evidence of gross dereliction of duty, incompetence and insensitivity to the situation on ground in Plateau as well as disregard and disrespect for constituted authority was, when contrary to my advice that governors should inform me before they travel out of the country so that I can deal with their deputies when they are away as well as know where to find them on quick notice in cases of emergency, the governor of Plateau travelled out without notifying me. In this year alone, the Governor of Plateau State has travelled out of the country more than four times without bothering to notify me.

When crises broke out in his state, the governor made no effort to return home immediately, he was away for about two weeks. And when he did return to the country, his first priority was to attend the sports festival in Abuja at a time when his state was burning.

It was not until Tuesday May 11 that, at my prompting, he informed me that he was calling a security committee meeting of the state. At the same time, I suggested to him to visit the areas of conflict and the displaced persons' camps that had flowed out of the state to the adjoining states; he was still making excuses as to why he could not do so.

On Thursday May 13, I took it upon myself to visit the major centres of violence - Langtang, Yelwa-Shendam, and Wase to see things for myself. I also took the opportunity visit displaced persons in Bauchi. Even in my company, the Governor's car was stoned and we did not escape abuse and insults from his own people.

From what I saw and heard, we need to take very serious action to stem the tide of what has now become near mutual genocide in the affected areas of Plateau State and the stream of displaced persons to the adjoining states.

Until I visited the areas of disturbances with the Governor, he had neither visited the locations nor had he visited the displaced persons who had moved to Bauchi State since 2001, let alone make arrangements for their return and resettlement back in Plateau State.

I have briefed the leaders of the National Assembly. One leader each from the Senate and House Representatives accompanied me on my tour of Plateau and Bauchi states. The National Security Council had met and after necessary consultations at the government and party levels, it has become imperative that the bloodshed in Plateau State, which has also reverberated in Kano and is threatening Kaduna, Bauchi, Taraba, Gombe, Benue and Nassarawa, even the Federal Capital Territory, should and must be stopped. The spill over from Kano is already threatening Owerri and Umuahia.

The 1999 Nigerian Constitution foresees the ultimate of emergency in part or all of Nigeria and provides for it as the last resort.

Therefore, by virtue of Section 305 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), I hereby declare a state of emergency in Plateau State. This declaration has been published in a federal gazette of today.

The Governor and his deputy, by this declaration will go on suspension and cease to be in charge of the affairs of Plateau State for six months in the first instance. An administrator to manage the affairs of Plateau State in the person of retired General Chris Ali is hereby nominated.

The Plateau State House of Assembly also goes on suspension as the formal legislative body of the state, with immediate effect. Having a State Assembly in position under a state of emergency is incongrous and may not allow for the expeditious actions that the administrator will need to put the state back into a situation of peace, harmony, security for all, and maintenance of law and order throughout the state. Elected officials below the state level are not suspended. The federal gazette containing the declaration has been forwarded to the National Assembly in accordance with the constitution.

It is hoped that the administrator will not need new laws for the administration of the state. But if he does, it will be in the form of regulations, which he will submit to the President for consideration by the Federal Executive Council and promulgated by the President for the state.

Violence brings no good to any people. It retards development, scares away investors, stultifies creativity and contaminates social relations. At this period when we are all joining hands to carry out far-reaching fundamental reforms to ensure growth, stability, development and democracy, we cannot afford or tolerate acts of violence and destruction, precipitated by poor and incompetent leadership and insensitivity to the conditions of all the people.

The decision to impose a state of emergency in Plateau State was based on the collective desire to strengthen our democratic practice, institutions and values. This decision would without doubt enhance security as well as protect the stability and corporate existence of our nation for which many have died.

It is my hope and prayer that this six-month period will be used by the administrator and all peace-loving people in and outside the state to bring peace and join hands to promote democratic values and enshrine the values of transparency, accountability, social justice, love, good neighbourliness and good governance.

May God bless Plateau State. Long live a united, peaceful, secure and democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria.`

The decision to impose a state of emergency in Plateau State was based on the collective desire to strengthen our democratic practice, institutions and values. This decision would without doubt enhance security as well as protect the stability and corporate existence of our nation for which many have died. It is my hope and prayer that this six-month period will be used by the administrator and all peace-loving people in and outside the state to bring peace and join hands to promote democratic values and enshrine the values of transparency, accountability, social justice, love, good neighbourliness and good governance