Irked by the continued violence being unleashed on the nation by members of the fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday declared a state of emergency in 15 Local Government Areas cutting across four states.
The councils that have come under the Federal Government’s hammer are Maiduguri Metropolitan, Gamboru Ngala, Banki Bama and Jere in Borno State. Others are Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujba and Gasua-Bade in Yobe State. Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom are affected in Plateau State while Suleja Local Government is the only area affected in Niger State.
Jonathan made the declaration in a nationwide broadcast to Nigerians.
According to him, the affected local governments are where activities of the sect are more pronounced.
The President added that as part of the overall strategies to overcome the current security challenges, he had directed the closure of the land borders contiguous to the affected local government areas so as to control incidences of cross- border terrorist activities as terrorists had taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of law enforcement personnel.
He affirmed that he invoked the state of emergency in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by the provisions of Section 305(1) of the Constitution.
He said, “Details of the proclamation would be transmitted to the National Assembly as soon as members reconvene from their current recess, for their necessary action.”
The president stated that he had directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Oluseyi Petinrin; and the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, to put appropriate measures in place to ensure the protection of lives and properties of residents in the affected parts of the country.
He said the CDS, in collaboration with other service chiefs, had also been directed to set up a special force unit within the Armed Forces, with dedicated counter-terrorism responsibilities.
The National Security Adviser, Gen. Andrew Azazi, later told State House correspondents that the implication of the declaration was that security forces would have extra powers to arrest and conduct stop-and-search in the affected councils.
Azazi said the democratic institutions in the affected areas would still function.
He ruled out the possibilities of criminals relocating from the affected areas, saying it would be difficult for them to start their activities elsewhere.
The NSA said, “Security agents would also work hard to monitor places where reports of possible threat had been recorded, including Lagos State.”
Meanwhile, tears flowed freely on Saturday from the bereaved members of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, which was bombed by members of the Boko Haram sect on Christmas Day when President Goodluck Jonathan visited the scene.
No sooner had the President finished addressing them than the wailing started.
The bereaved members, mostly women and children, rolled on the dusty floor and kept shouting the names of their loved ones who died in the blast.
There was practically no one to console the other as all of them were expressing their grief.
The President almost betrayed emotion with the sight of the wailing mourners and was quickly whisked away by his security details.
Earlier, the priest in charge of the church, Rev. Fr. Achi Isaac, told the President in an emotion-laden tone that the church had forgiven the perpetrators of the crime.
Achi said it was the prayer of the church that such incident would not happen again in Nigeria, even in Muslim places of worship.
Jonathan told the people that terrorists’ attack anywhere in the country was an attack on all Nigerians.
He said his government had decided to take the battle to the doorsteps of “the evil men being propelled by evil thought.”
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State also told journalists that compensation for victims of the blast would commence on Tuesday.
He said the committee set up by his government on the issue had already submitted its report.
The governor said although the church could forgive terrorists, government would not forgive them until they were caught and punished appropriately.