The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, reportedly sent a memo to President Muhammadu Buhari advising him to declare a State of Emergency because of the increasing insecurity. In the memo, leaked to the online People’s Gazette on 2 June, he also recommended suspending parts of the constitution that guarantee fundamental human rights. He argued that insecurity has reached the point that it cannot be stemmed using the democratic principles. The move would prevent any court challenge to the declaration of a State of Emergency. 

Abubakar Malami – Attorney General and Minister of Justice

On 3 June, Malami called the allegation ‘false and fictitious,’ urged the public to disregard its publication, and noted that he is a strong believer in Nigeria’s democratic principles. He insisted that there was no way that he would advocate this kind of memo. Interestingly, Malami has previously argued that protecting the national interest is more important than guaranteed fundamental human rights. This was when he justified the detention of Sambo Dasuki — former National Security Adviser (NSA) to former President Goodluck Jonathan — despite court orders. The government’s record on not respecting human rights since Malami was appointed suggests that, despite the denial, the memo’s content is probably not as far-fetched as it might seem. 

Some in government, alarmed at the proposed State of Emergency plan, may have deliberately leaked the memo in order to scuttle it. With Buhari’s tenure rolling to an end, his close aides are beginning to panic as their succession plans begin to unravel. A lot of hope was invested in the candidacy of Ekiti State’s Governor Fayemi Kayode, to succeed Buhari with Kebbi State’s Governor Atiku Bagudu as his vice-presidential running-mate. Buhari’s core inner circle is no longer confident that they can trust Kayode to preserve the North’s interests after he recently supported the call by some of the South’s governors for a radical restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. 

The inner circle may believe that a State of Emergency as an option to somehow extend Buhari’s rule beyond 2023. The concern is that Buhari cannot hand Nigeria over in its present state to someone who cannot be trusted to maintain its unity. The other choice is to keep the Presidency in the North if it is impossible to extend Buhari’s tenure. This is the preferred option because it removes the risk of Buhari dying in office which would result in Vice President Yemi Osinbajo taking over. 

To perfect their various options, the ruling All People’s Congress’s (APC) convention, which was supposed to take place this month, has been delayed to an unspecified date. Abuja sources have told Menas Associates that the party’s interim leadership is planning to dissolve all of the State Executive Committees in order to hand the state structures over to loyalists. The convention, which will be held sometime between October and December, will also decide on the zoning of the various key positions in the government. 

This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Politics & Security, our weekly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.