State of Emergency: Legal and Political Implications in Nigeria

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INTRODUCTION
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 accordance with the provisions of subsection (4) of the section. In Nigeria, the President draws the authority to declare a state of emergency from his Emergency Powers which are inherent with his office and this empowers him to do whatever he deems necessary to restore peace and ensure the security of life and property for citizens of Nigeria and non-Nigerians alike residing in the areas affected by the crisis. This runs for a period of six (6) months but can be extended by the National Assembly alone with a two-thirds majority vote of approval. For instance, the situations where these emergency powers have been exercised include the violent ethno-religious crisis in Jos, Plateau state in 2004 which resulted in the total break-down of law and order. Also in Ekiti state in 2006 as a result of the impeachment of both the Governor and his deputy for gross misconduct by the Ekiti State House of Assembly. Recently, there have been calls by the Nigerian people to the President to declare a state of emergency due to the electoral violence that erupted in Bauchi and Kaduna states, but it was not declared. In the United States of America, the President in time of crisis uses his emergency powers which allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bypass normal administrative and jurisdictional rules. Declarations of emergency can also provide special federal aid such as during the Flood of 1993 along the Mississippi River or in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. President Abraham Lincoln used his emergency powers to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland during the American Civil War. In the United Kingdom, Section 1(1) of the Emergency Powers Act 1920 empowers the Monarch to declare a state of emergency. It states that: "If at any time it appears to His Majesty that any action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and...
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