Few days ago, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state suggested a state of emergency in Benue to address the recurring armed conflict in the state which has left hundreds dead, many injured and thousands displaced. As usual, diverse reactions have trailed the call by Gov. Wike as some have supported it while others have rejected it.

Clearly, some of the reactions are politically motivated. However, it must be noted that the crisis situation in the state has assumed a proportion for the consideration of a state of emergency. This is because, as stipulated in the laws, a state of emergency can be declared on a state engulfed in natural and human induced crises. It means the technical reduction of democratic structures in a state and introduction of a somewhat military administration to address the emergency situation. Although, it is not in all cases that democratic structures are dismantled.

 Between 1999 and today, emergency rule has been declared on Plateau, Ekiti, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo announced the declaration on Plateau and Ekiti states, partially setting aside democratic structures. In 2013, Former President Goodluck Jonathan declared emergency rule on parts of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states without any dismantling of democratic structure. One thing that cannot be ignored is the fact that, the above mentioned states went through state of emergency. Whether the aim was achieved is debatable. In the case of Benue, going by the conditions for declaring a state of emergency, the state is due for it. This is because, since 2012, the state has been under a recurring armed crisis involving the herdsmen and farmers. Some pressure groups such as the Vanguard Against Tiv Massacre, VATIM and the Movement Against Fulani Occupation, MAFO have claimed that over a thousand lives have been lost in the attacks around the Benue valley.

 If the sanctity of human life must be observed, then a state of emergency is ripe in the state. This is more so that both past and present administrations have demonstrated lack of political will to protect citizens and their property. On the other hand, given the strategic presence of military bases in the state, yet the state appears overwhelmed with the security situation is worrisome and doubtful of the achievement of a state of emergency in Benue.

Apart from the zonal headquarters and the mandatory state command of the Nigeria Police, there is the headquarters of the tactical air command of the Nigerian Air Force and the 72 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in the state. The security agencies, particularly the Police have constantly rejected being overwhelmed with the Benue security situation even in the face of glaring evidence that they are overwhelmed.

Perhaps, the fears for a state of emergency could be for political reasons. If not, Benue is APC controlled and it voted for the party at the federal level. Given the perceived neglect by the centre in terms of democratic benefits such as appointments and ensuring security of lives and property, those who suspect a conspiracy theory against the state have reasons to reject a state of emergency as it will pave the way for such a perceived agenda to be actualised. While the debate as to what to be done lasts, it should be known that those whom they promised to protect are dying, and innocently dying in droves.


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