Partial Declaration of State of Emergency
Globally, there are constitutional and statutory provisions on the declaration of state of emergency at the national and other levels. In some jurisdictions, the declaration is at the national and state levels while in others, it is at the national, state and provincial levels.
In Nigeria, we had the Emergency Powers Act1 which was omitted in the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 19902. In the 19603, 19634, 19795 and 19996 Constitutions 7, there are provisions for declaration of state of emergency in Nigeria. Arising from the political crises in the Western House of Assembly, the first state of emergency was declared in Western Nigeria on May 29, 1962. The facts of this case are very interesting. Sometime in 1962, there was a dispute within the Action Group, a ruling political party in the region.
The dispute led to two factions emerging, one led by the leader of the party who was the official opposition leader in the Federal Parliament and the other by the deputy leader of the party, who was the Premier of Western Nigeria. In the circumstances, the Governor of Western Nigeria purportedly dismissed the Premier from office on the ground that he had lost the support of the majority in the Western House of Assembly. As the crisis developed, there was a fight on the floor of the House of Assembly and the Federal Parliament met and passed a resolution declaring that a state of emergency existed in Western Nigeria.
In this chapter, we will examine the powers of the Federal Parliament and/or the President to declare a statement in some parts of Nigeria. We will also examine the practice in other jurisdictions.
Meaning of State of Emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behavior, or order government agencies 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. Justitium is its equivalent in Roman law.8
A period of emergency means any period during which there is in force a proclamation of a state of emergency declared by the appropriate authority in exercise of the powers so conferred.
Generally the declaration of state of emergency has effects on the fundamental rights of citizens and there are usually constitutional and statutory provisions dealing with the suspension of some of these rights especially right to life and personal liberty. Thus an act of the government shall not be invalidated by reason only that it provides for the taking, during periods of emergency, of measures that derogate from the provisions of the constitution or law dealing with right to life and personal liberty but no such measures shall be taken in pursuance of such an enactment during any period of emergency save to the extent that those measures are reasonably justifiable for the purpose of dealing with the situation that exists during that period of emergency. Such derogation does not usually apply to right to life except in respect of death resulting from acts of war.