Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan last night declared a state of emergency across three states in the north of Nigeria in response to “Islamist rebellion”.
The declaration was made on state radio and television networks with the president saying extra troops would be deployed and had orders to “take all necessary action…to put an end to the impunity of terrorists and insurgents”.
The emergency measures will come into effect in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa following a spate of attacks by the Islamist group, Boko Haram.
Earlier in the week, over 50 people were killed and thirteen villages destroyed. Since 2010, Boko Haram has been blamed for more than 1,600 deaths. The group has demanded Islamic law be imposed over Nigeria, which is a multiethnic and multi-religious nation with a population of 160 million.
In recent months, Boko Haram has reportedly become more militarised, with Nigerian security forces claiming that they even use anti-aircraft guns mounted on trucks to attack state troops. It is thought that the group would like to establish a separate Islamic state in the north of Nigeria.
Previously, the position of Nigerian officials had been to play down the significance of the threat posed by Boko Haram, but in the face of more attacks against security forces the president made the admission that parts of Borno state had been “taken over by groups whose allegiance are to different flags than Nigeria’s”. He went on to say that this amounted to a “declaration of war”.
Exactly what emergency powers will be enacted currently remains unclear, though the president gave assurances that the democratically elected officials in the states affected would remain in office.
There are fears that a state of martial law would only lead to more civilian deaths amidst reports that the Nigerian security forces are themselves responsible for many of the casualties. Human rights activists have persistently accused police and the military of torture and the killing of civilians in retaliation to insurgent attacks.