State of Emergency: Legal and Political Implications in Nigeria

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Emergency in ordinary parlance means a time of crisis, a moment of danger or suspense. A state of emergency therefore is a governmental declaration that recognises the existence of this peculiar situation and takes some necessary actions to restore the peace and governmental stability of the society. During this period, the maxim, salus populi suprema lex has a special force and to that effect, some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers may be suspended. Citizens are alerted to change their normal behaviours, or government agencies are ordered to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending rights and freedoms, even if guaranteed under the constitution. Such declarations usually come during a time of natural or man-made disaster, during periods of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war or situation of international or internal armed conflict. In Nigeria, the constitution provides for the declaration of a state of emergency by the President alone on the whole country or in a state, on request by the State Governor, in the following instances: a. when the Federation is at war;

b. when the Federation is in imminent danger of invasion or involvement in a state of war; c. when there is actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof to such extent as to require extraordinary measures to restore peace and security; d. there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger; e. there is an occurrence or imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity, affecting the community or a section of the community in the Federation; f. there is any other public danger which clearly constitutes a threat to the existence of the Federation; or g. the President receives a request to do so in...
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