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Nigeria’s president ‘requests’ state of emergency extension Security situation in 3 states remains daunting

ABUJA, May 13, (AFP): Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday asked the country’s parliament for a six-month extension to the state of emergency in three northeastern states driven by Islamist militant violence. “I most respectfully request the distinguished senators to consider and approve by resolution an extension of the proclamation of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by a further term of six months from the date of expiration of the current time,” Jonathan wrote in a letter seen by AFP.

Jonathan’s request, which was widely expected, came on the eve of the first anniversary of the declaration of a six-month state of emergency designed to curb the threat posed by Boko Haram fighters. “The security situation in the three states remains daunting, albeit to varying degrees, in the face of persistent attacks by members of the Boko Haram sects on civilian and military targets with alarming casualty rates,” Jonathan said in the letter.

His request, six months after a first extension, will likely give ammunition to critics who say that the government has failed to tackle the Boko Haram threat effectively. “Emergency rule has not been able to achieve its objective of stopping the Boko Haram insurgency,” said Dapo Thomas, a political commentator from Lagos State University. “In fact, if anything, the sect has become more daring and deadly,” he added. “The government should not further curtail the freedom of the people by an extension.” The initiatives first approved by parliament on May 14, 2013, initially appeared to have been successful, as the militants were pushed out of urban centres. The special measures saw a surge of troops into the northeast region and efforts to disrupt planning of attacks such as cutting the mobile phone networks. But attacks continued and even escalated in hard-to-reach rural areas, particularly in Borno state in border regions, with Boko Haram apparently able to strike at will.

A month ago, militant fighters kidnapped 276 girls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok, Borno state, which has led to global outrage and an international effort to rescue the 223 still missing. Boko Haram analyst Jacob Zenn, based at the Jamestown foundation in the US, agreed that the last year of emergency rule had yielded almost no positive results and a six-month extension was unlikely to improve the situation. “Nigeria would have to totally revamp its security apparatus,” in order to make further gains against the Islamists, Zenn said.

Lawmakers unanimously approved a request to extend the state of emergency by a further six months on November 7 last year after Jonathan said the threat had not been contained. Since then, Boko Haram attacks have increased and largely focused on civilians rather than previous targets such as government, police and military installations. Boko Haram expert Shehu Sani, who has written extensively about religious violence in northern Nigeria, said the Chibok abductions were a further reminder that the state of emergency had proved “useless.”

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