Tue. Oct 4th, 2022
Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege

MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO SENATE COMMITTEE

ON REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION, THE SENATE, ABUJA

scrc9nass@gmail.com

September 4, 2020

by Chris O. O. Biose

chrisoobiose@gmail.com

Title: CONSTITUTION REVIEW MUST FOCUS ON POLITICAL RESTRUCTURING

Contents

Problematic Concept of “One Nigeria”

Sovereign National Conference (SNC)

Form of Government

Nigeria’s Republican Status

Structure of Government

Two Tiers of Government

Restoration of Federalism in Nigeria

Imperative of Political Restructuring

Restructuring Through Regionalism

Restructuring Through Parliamentary System

Creation of New States/Boundary Adjustment

Imperative of Regional/State/Community Policing

No Need for Lengthy Constitution

Summary of Submission

For a Patriotic 9th National Assembly

Whatever the form of Constitution may be, it ought to have no other object than the general happiness. When, instead of this, it operates to create and increase wretchedness in any parts of society, it is a wrong system and reformation is necessary. –  Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Once again, the Nigerian Senate has embarked on an exercise to revise the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) 1999, Decree 24. On February 6, 2020, the Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, inaugurated a 56-member Constitution Review Committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege. Prior to this, there have been four exercises that tinkered with that document, cited as Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The amendment exercises dealt with relatively trivial issues. Consequently, their effect on the well-being of Nigerians has been close to zero.

None of the previous constitution amendments touched fundamental issues such as form and structure of government, the nagging problem of protection of rights of minorities, equitable power sharing, creation of new states and regional/state/community policing in the country. \\

Therefore, the first lesson for Senator Ovie Omo-Agege Committee is that it is useless being appointed to a committee if the committee does not make the desired impact on the wellbeing of the country. This brief submission suggests critical issues that the Committee has to address.

Problematic Concept of ‘One Nigeria’

The federalist concept of ‘One Nigeria’ recognizes autonomous federating units or Regions as it was during the First Republic. The problematic concept of  ’One Nigeria’ is the  distorted version of federalism which arose from unitary power structure imposed by military dictators and which some present-day rulers want to continue. The present system of government in Nigeria is effectively unitary and undemocratic but the titles “Federal” and “Republic” are retained, thereby giving a wrong impression of what actually obtains in the country. This deceptive version of federalism is not acceptable to honest citizens, oppressed groups and patriots across the country.

Under this condition, any leader who decides to impose his or her concept of One Nigeria on other nations or significant groups in the country is simply declaring war on those who do not accept such a personalized version. Hence, such a leader can only continue to sustain such posture by pure violence against those who disagree with him. This is the foundation of social tumult that has overtaken Nigeria.

Therefore, for someone to say that “Nigerian unity is not negotiable” is subject to dispute. Unity that is enforced by guns and bombardment is no unity at all. It is enslavement. Even during the period of slavery, slaves were allowed to say: “I want to be free”. But in the Nigerian slave country, to say “I want to go” is treated as treason. Those who say that they want to be free from Nigeria would not even be tried in a court of law, they are simply shot dead by soldiers. What kind of democratic country is that?

What kind of ‘One Nigeria’ is it where free and fair election of a President who was not from a particular part of the country was greeted with riots and mayhem in some parts of the same country? The 2011 post-election riots in some parts of Northern Nigeriais a case in point.

Sovereign National Conference (SNC)

At this juncture in Nigeria’s unenviable political history, the most realistic, beneficial and sustainable option is to convoke a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to redefine the basis of a viable Nigerian state.

The SNC may take the form of a Constituent Assembly of all 371 nations identified by Federal Government ethnographic survey of the country in 1971. As explained by Prof. Ben Nwabueze in 2014, “the Constituent Asssembly is an assembly for just one purpose, the purpose of making a constitution. The people are the constituent power; the constituent power in any country is the people as a sovereign people… In exercise of their constituent power of their sovereignty to deliberate on their constitution and how they are to be governed, that is the whole purpose of the demand for National Conference.”

The SNC will undertake thorough and comprehensive discussion of critical issues delineated in a Draft Constitution and arrive at workable agreement on those issues. This is particularly important after almost three decades of military dictatorship that completely destroyed the country’s federal structure, institutionalized impunity, injustice, inequity, indiscriminate and deployment of official violence to achieve personal interests. The soldiers institutionalised decision by battle in public and private domains of the society.

A conference of ethnic nationalities is also called for in some ethnically plural and volatile states such as Kaduna, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states to outline the proper relationship between component ethnic units and their state governments.

Elected governments at the federal level since 1999 consistently argued that since legislative, judicial and executive powers of the state are vested in the government of the day, the need for a sovereign national conference is obviated as two sovereigns cannot coexist in one state at the same time. This argument does not hold water because sovereignty lies with the people and not the government.

As renowned political scientist and media practitioner, Professor Fred Onyeoziri argued in 2005, sovereignty resides in the citizens. By means of elections, the electorate gives government “a restricted mandate to govern” the country for four years, under the Constitution and party programme. (Fred Onyeoziri, Nigeria: The Fallacy of Two Sovereigns, VANGUARD, January 3, 2005, p 33). In this regard, neither the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) nor incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on writing a new constitution for the country and the electorate never gave the ruling party such a mandate. 

One of the reasons for insisting on a “sovereign” status for any national conference designed to draw up a constitution for Nigeria is to prevent the government in power from altering the decisions of such a conference. For example, in 1979 Nigeria’s 4th Military Dictator, General Olusegun Obasanjo (retd.) inserted the Land Use Decree, 1978, into the Draft Constitution prepared by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and approved by the Constituent Assembly. The Decree was inserted as Sections 274(5) and 276 of the 1979 Constitution and transposed into the 1999 Constitution. The Decree unilaterally divested land from indigenous communities of Nigeria to State Governors without consent of traditional owners of land or their representatives.  

By means of the Decree, General Obasanjo (retd.) did to Nigerians what General Yakubu  Gowon (retd.) did to the people of the Niger Delta through his Petroleum Decree (No. 51), 1969, which dispossessed the Niger Delta of its mineral resources by transferring absolute control of all petroleum resources in the Niger Delta to the military junta. The Decree abrogated the provisions of Section 140(6) of the Republican Constitution, 1963l on derivation principle of revenue allocation, which was operational up to the time of that Decree.

Another reason for insisting on sovereign conference is that Nigerians need a constitution made in accordance with democratic process through representatives of citizens, not one made by a military dictator. Whatever the extent of patch-work or serial amendments to Decree 24, signed by Nigeria’s last Military Dictator, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.) on May 5, 1999, which passes as the Nigerian Constitution, the document still remains basically a Military Decree.

The basic issue is that the document titled Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) 1999 Decree 24 (as amended), is not a Constitution made by the people of Nigeria.  What is germane to the constitution of a country is not the title but the process that goes into its making. A head of government may conceivably ask a professor or assemble a number of professors in a University and ask them to write a beautiful document and call it the constitution of a country. However, if citizens of the country concerned are not consulted, did not participate in making the document and did not ratify it in a referendum, the document may represent an excellent academic exercise but cannot reasonably be regarded by citizens as their constitution. To be brief, the constitution of a democratic state must derive from citizens of the country concerned and that cannot be said of Decree 24, 1999.

Among other eminent Nigerians, Professor Ben Nwabueze provided a framework to guide the National Conference, 2014, mainly in terms of the purpose and modus operandi for such a Conference. The eminent jurist pointed to the modalities adopted in preparing the 1979 Constitution. General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military junta started the process in 1976 when it appointed a Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) made up of 49 eminent Nigerians (the 50th nominee declined), including constitutional lawyers and other experts to prepare a Draft Constitution.

At the conclusion of its assignment, the document was presented to a Constituent Assembly made up of 203 elected members and 20 officials. The appointed members included the Chairman, late Chief F.R.A. Williams, SAN, and six Committee sub-Chairmen of the Assembly. The 203 members were elected by Local Government Area Councils which constituted electoral colleges for the purpose of electing members of the Assembly. The junta had earlier conducted successful elections to Local Government Councils on non-party basis in 1976.

The CDC presented the Draft Constitution in the form of a Bill. In considering and approving the Bill, the Assembly which sat from 1977-1978, followed the parliamentary procedure of passing bills by means of first reading, second reading and third reading. According to Professor Nwabueze, this involved “detailed clause by clause consideration of the bill in a Committee of the whole Assembly.” (Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Between Jonathan’s National Conference and Obasanjo’s reform confab, Vanguard, November 17, 2013, pp 36-37).

Under the present circumstances, instead of appointing a fresh Constitution Drafting Committee, the SNC consisting of representatives of all nations involved in the Nigerian experiment, may reasonably regard Decree 24 of 1999 and its amended version or the result of the Omo-Agege Committee as the Draft  Bill of a new Constitution. The job of the SNC is to consider the Bill clause by clause, and arrive at an authentic Constitution for the people of Nigeria.

The historic duty of the 9th Assembly is to facilitate the work of the SNC by means of its legislative functions.

Unquestionably, a National Conference, preferably sovereign, is required to redesign the battered Nigerian state. However, in the absence of bold leadership, imbued with undiluted patriotism, Nigerians may have to live with the least objectionable option of serial amendments to Decree 24, 1999, for some time to come.

The following are irreducible minimum changes expected from the 9th Assembly.

Form of Government

The first and most fundamental issue to be addressed by the Omo-Agege led Constitution Review Committee is the form of government of the country. The Committee must agree and declare categorically whether Nigeria is a Republic, Theocracy or Monarchy. It cannot be all three at the same time.

The1999 Constitution (Decree 24) embedded conflicting signals by providing in Chapter 1, Part ll, Section 19 (Prohibition of State Religion) that “the government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” The same Constitution then went on to provide for religious courts in Chapter Vll, Section E (The Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja) and Part ll, Section B (Sharia Court of Appeal of a State). Is this not a misnomer?

For much of 2000 to 2002, following official adoption of Sharia as state religion in twelve states in Northern Nigeria, which led to riots during which thousands of people were killed, a vigorous press debate raged as to whether Nigeria is a multi-religious country or a secular republic.  This is abundant evidence that political leaders and significant groups strongly disagree among themselves about the form of government of the country.

If Nigeria is a Republic, religious courts have no place. They were not part of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960 and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963. Theocratic laws were introduced by military dictators and remain, perhaps the most deep-rooted negative vestige of military era in Nigerian public life, having caused considerable confusion since its introduction.

Nigeria’s Republican Status

Before the modern period, the important units of the state were the institution of the religious class and monarchy. These determined what the laws were and gave the values. An examination of the present-day Nigerian situation shows that the country is still unable to extricate itself from these primordial historical forces.

The Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960, provided in Section 1(2) that “Nigeria shall be a Federation comprising Regions and a Federal Territory”. The same section in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963, which came into effect on October 1, 1963, states that Nigeria “shall be a Republic by the name Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th Edition, page 1330, describes Republic as “a system of government in which the people hold sovereign power and elect representatives who exercise that power.” The defining characteristic of a Republic is that sovereign power rests with  citizens who determine how they are to be governed.

This is radically different from absolute monarchy where citizens accept a pre-existing system without any input from themselves. Nigeria is a strange kind of republic where huge chunk of government funds is spent on religious celebrations and subsidising individuals to perform their private religious observances. Nigerian leaders muddle up democracy with theocracy.

Moreover, in the process of his scheming for self-succession from military dictator to elected president in 1998, late General Sani Abacha decreed state funds for traditional rulers. This practice is totally inconsistent with republican constitution.

Either Nigeria is a Republic or it is a Monarchy. If it is a Republic, the question of devoting state funds to maintain traditional rulers would not arise. The anomaly of a republic devoting public funds to maintain traditional rulers has remained ever since because legislators are afraid of being unpopular. The NASS must summon courage to do right in this regard.

Perhaps, the most controversial aspect of the Republic of Nigeria is the attempt in some quarters to define the country in religious categories. The confusion is evident at the highest levels of political leadership in the country. In the heat of the social tumult and killings generated by the Sharia crisis under his superintendence, former President Olusegun Obasanjo hosted a special edition of “Talking Point”, a BBC interactive phone-in programme at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Sunday, February 17, 2002. The programme was anchored by BBC journalist, Robin Lustig and aired on national radio and television.

The interview covered several topical issues in Nigeria including the Ikeja arms dump explosion, corruption, violence and elections. It was during the section of the interview on Sharia in Nigeria that former President Obasanjo made his far-reaching claim that Nigeria is a “multi-religious state”.

Celestine Onwuka from Santiago, Chile, posted the following question:

“Why do you let Sharia Law exist in a secular state?”

Obasanjo:

“We are not a secular state – we are a multi-religious state. That is what we call ourselves in our constitution.”

An email question from Frances Gwandi in Cameroon which Mr. Lustig read to the former President:

“What is your personal stand on Sharia Law and does your administration recognize it?”

Obasanjo:

“Of course, it is in the constitution of Nigeria. Sharia law is part of life and so are the Muslims.

The BBC journalist asked the former President to explore the linkage between religious politics and increased violence, pointing out that “500 killed in just September alone”, the former President refused to concede on the dysfunctional consequences of religion in Nigerian politics.

The confusion between the state and individual citizens holding religious positions goes down the line of authority in Nigeria. At a meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, between August 15 and 16, 2012 attended by former Vice President Namadi Sambo, representing former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs ll, Dr. Nurudeen Mohammed, reportedly described Nigeria as “an Islamic state with a large Christian population”.  For describing Nigeria as an “Islamic state”, some Christian leaders lashed out at the minister and demanded his removal from office. Dr. Mohammed however denied the statement credited to him in the media. In a written statement, he claimed that he only said that Nigeria is the “largest Islamic-Christian country in the world.”

Whichever version of his speech the former Minister acknowledges, the objection to his speech is that a democratic state should never defined in terms of how many Muslims or Christians live in the country.  Whether the Minister was honestly ill-informed or deliberately allowed his private religious persuasion to becloud his perception of the country which he served, his statement was politically sacrilegious and indefensible. No official has the authority to attribute his private religion to the state. The Nigerian state, as a corporate entity, recognized by the international community including the United Nations, cannot possibly belong to any religion and therefore cannot be clothed in religious robes. The seed of discord sown in the Nigerian body politic in 1986 with clandestine enrolment of the country as Full Member of the OIC must be tactfully but resolutely uprooted if peace is ever to return to the country.

Structure of Government

The Constitution Review Committee must state clearly whether Nigeria is a unitary or federal state as well as institutions of government such as the legislature, executive and judiciary. If the Constitution is federal, it must clearly delineate how powers are divided or shared among the component units.

Both the Constitution of the Federation, 1960, and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963, describe each Region as “a self-governing Region” in the Federation of Nigeria and the Federal Republic of Nigeria respectively. Each Region in the country also had its own constitution, cited as follows:

Constitution of Western Nigerian Law of l963

Constitution of Northern Nigerian Law of 1963

Constitution of Eastern Nigerian Law, 1963

Constitution of Midwestern Nigerian Act of 1964

Each Region also had its coat of arms and set up its mission in the United Kingdom (UK). These missions were then headed by Agents-General for the four regions. They were like modern day ambassadors but there was no conflict between their schedules and that of the Nigerian HighCommissioner to the UK.

Executive power in the Regions resided with Premiers and the position of Governor was mainly ceremonial. Each Region had its own Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary was headed by a Chief Justice.

The Regions differed on some issues. For example, the business of the Legislature in Northern Nigeria was conducted in “English and in Hausa” as provided in Section 23 of the Constitution of Northern Nigerian Law of 1963. But other Regions upheld only English in their Legislative houses.  

These Federal and Regional Constitutions effectively made the Regions autonomous political entities and truly represented the aspirations of the Nigerian people. Each Region, including the Federal Government existed as a government, independently from others. No government was an appendage of another, regional or central.

The Regions also had residual powers, i.e., any matter not allocated to regions or federal government in the Federal Constitution. This was the period that the country last experienced genuine economic growth and overall development.

Concentration of power in the hands of one man started in 1966 with central control of the whole country by military dictators. This enabled the 2nd Military Dictator of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon (retd.) and his successors to appropriate the oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta to the Centre. The historical convergence of military dictatorship with the advent of the oil boom led Nigerian leaders into mindless scramble to control oil money rather than to promote productive activities in the country.

The transposition of centralized military command structure into the 1979 and 1999 constitutions is one of the most grievous mistakes of Nigeria military dictators. Indeed, one of the key players in making the 1979 constitution was humble enough to admit the historic mistake that the Constituent Assembly made in 1979. According to Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, who was Chairman of one the sub-Committees that drafted the 1979 Constitution

“Nearly everybody in the Constitution Drafting Committee were so overwhelmed with this feeling, this patriotic feeling that we needed unity and the most effective way to achieve unity of the country is by having a very strong central government… Because of the patriotism in us and we wanted a unified Nigeria, we feel we can achieve unity by having a strong central government.”

Professor Nwabueze explained the procedure by which they achieved what he called their “misguided objective.”

“We took away 50 per cent of the items on the concurrent list and gave it to the centre… We looked at the residual matters, these are matters exclusive to the to the states, we took a large part of it, more than 30 per cent and close to 50 per cent; we took it away from states and gave to the centre. And the result is the almighty Federal Government, but what we discover was that instead of producing unity, we produced disunity because of the intensity of the struggle to control the centre.

“The intensity is so much and it is not just in the political power that was concentrated at the centre, much of the money also went to the centre and so by action, we destroyed what is called the control of the money itself and that has remained the feature of the Constitution up till today. So, when people struggle and agitate for true federalism, for fiscal federalism, they know what they are talking about and they are right, that must be changed and until it is changed, we might not achieve true federalism because the basis of which we did it has proved to be misguided, the unity we thought we will achieve was not achieved and what we achieved was more disunity than unity because of the struggle” (Gbenga Oke, The mistakes Rotimi Williams and I made about Nigeria’s constitution – Nwabueze, VANGUARD, March 22, 2013).

Given honesty of purpose and the political will to do right, it is absolutely simple to return power to states or regions as it was in the First Republic It was probably along the line of reasoning explained by Nwabueze that another eminent Nigerian jurist, Professor Itse Sagay, SAN, earlier in 2010, suggested a simple formula to achieve redistribution of powers among the federal government and federatings units in the country. The eminent Senior Advocate of Nigeria said:

“If I look at the present document, all I need to do is to transfer about 16 powers that are in the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list, and then transfer some powers totally out of the list so that it becomes only for states on the residuary list.” (SAGAY, July 4, 2010, p 66).

The submissions by the two above-mentioned Nigeria jurists, to my mind, summarise issues and answers relating to Nigerian federalism and therefore point the way for the Ovie Omo-Agege Constitution Review Committee. A necessary concomitant to the submissions made by these jurists is fiscal federalism.  

The distorted structure of government in Nigeria, in which some national groups are perpetually at the receiving end of overbearing power, can only be addressed through deliberate political action. On this score, renowned scholar of Leftist political conviction, Dr Edwin Madunagu (1990) argued:

“The National Question is a structural question, not a constitutional one. It can only be resolved the same way it was created, namely, by deliberate political decision, sharply and courageously executed. In other words, structural imbalances are not redressed through the application of constitutional provisions. On the contrary, constitutional provisions are made to legalise and formalize structural shifts that have already taken place through deliberate political action. This is the historically correct line that must be urged on the government.” (Dr Edwin Madunagu, Whose National Conference?, THE GUARDIAN, Thursday, June 21, 1990, p. 9)

Two Tiers of Government

The new Constitution must reflect clear-headedness. In the Nigerian Federation, the Regions or states are the federating units. Local Councils are not federating units. It is dishonest to redefine federating units in the country to include local councils because military dictators sought ways to share oil revenue. Section 7(6) of the 1999 Constitution which enjoins the NASS to “make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils in the federation” must be expunged.

Provision of huge funds to local councils in Nigeria discourages collection of rates and taxes and promotes fiscal indiscipline. Local councils are bugged by the same virus that afflicts states and central governments, arising from steady flow of free funds without need to generate revenue to earn their way. Indeed, the reforms resulted in huge decline in service delivery to local communities as local councils became extensions of waste and misuse of funds in the country.

Local councils come directly under the jurisdiction of states that may create them as they require. The Local Government Reform made by military juntas which made local councils third tier of government constitute structural aberrations unknown in Britain and the USA. Local Government as third tier is also unknown to the Republican Constitution of 1963. Such dysfunctional vestiges of military adventurism into Nigerian politics, the administrative misadventure which they entailed and unbearable cost implications of this illegitimate financial rascality must be jettisoned from the Nigerian political framework.

Imperative of Political Restructuring

The principal mechanism for bringing about social, economic and political justice in the country is political restructuring of the Nigerian state aimed at correcting the deficits that detract from the concept of a federation. The objective of such restructuring is to free federating units from an overbearing and dictatorial Federal Government which consistently create suffocating political environment. Without return to true federalism, Nigeria cannot return to the path of political and economic justice. If the National Assembly shuns restructuring, productivity will remain a stranger and the country will continue to remain the poverty capital of the world in spite of its huge human and material resources.

Nigerians are suffocating under over-centralised controls. Federating units and citizens alike, are crying for release from bondage to a voracious political Leviathan. As various groups struggle for breathing space, the Federal Government tightens the noose of control on citizens which is not conducive to peace and progress.

Pointing to an aspect of the flawed Nigerian version of federalism, former Governor of Rivers State and current Minister of Transport, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi pointed to a ridiculous situation whereby staff employed by state governments came under fiscal control of the Federal Government. Former Governor Amaechi asked rhetorically, “How can I employ workers, yet it is FG that will fix salaries for the workers. I have never seen a federal system where this is obtainable, except here.” (Charles Kumolu, Constitution Amendment: N/Assembly moves to restructure Nigeria, SUNDAY Vanguard, January 13, 2013, pp 50-51)

If there is true federalism the question of the Presidency directing states to provide land in their states for some tribesmen to rear cows, as exemplified in the controversy generated by the RUGA Settlement Scheme in July 2019 would not arise. (Dapo Akinrefonk, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Victoria Ojeme, Joseph Erunke and Chinonso Alozie, RUGA SETTLEMENT: It’s true FG gazette land in 36 states – Presidency, Vanguard, July 1, 2019, pp 5 & 49).

The most recent act of Federal aggression against Nigerian communities and citizens is its controversial Water Resources Bill which was rejected by the 8th Assembly and reintroduced into the 9th Assembly. By means of the proposed legislation, the Federal Government seeks to control water resources in all parts of the country as well as land immediately bordering waterways in the country. What brazen disregard of the federal structure of the country and fascist impudence!

Political justice through political restructuring is a condition precedent for peaceful coexistence, progress, industrialization and life more abundant in a culturally heterogeneous country like Nigeria. In the absence of true federalism, a tiny but deeply entrenched class of power holders would continue to oppress the rest and the country and resist demands for return to the path of peace and prosperity for all.

The danger posed to the country by anti-federalist forces has never been higher. If the 9th National Assembly fails to provide robust legislative enablement for  return to true federalism, present and future generation of Nigerians will hold it substantially accountable for continued descent into extreme poverty, human misery and heightening insecurity in the country.

Bearing the above in mind, the guiding principle of the Omo-Agege Committee would be towards devolution of powers to states or regions as it was in the First Republic.

Restructuring Through Regionalism

At the height of widespread bloodshed in several parts of Northern states of Nigeria brought about by establishment of Shari’a as State Religion in twelve states in Northern parts of Nigeria between 2000 and 2001, a group of concerned Nigerians, on Friday, January 21, 2000, submitted its proposal to the Presidential Technical Committee, set up by former President Obasanjo to review the 1999 Constitution. The group known as The Patriots, which was led by foremost Nigerian jurist, late Chief F. R. A. Williams, SAN, suggested the adoption of six regions in the country, viz:

i) North Central (comprising Kwara, Kogi, Plateau, Nassarawa, Benue and Niger with Jos as Regional capital);

ii) North-East (comprising Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba and Adamawa with Maiduguri as Regional capital);

iii) North-West (comprising Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Akaduna, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa with Kaduna as Regional capital).

iv) South-East (comprising Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, and Abia with Enugu as Regional capital);

v) South-South (comprising, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom with Port Harcourt as Regional capital) and

vi) South-West (comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti with Ibadan as Regional capital).

The group reasoned that “Nigeria’s overall economic, political and social development was fastest and most beneficial to the people of Nigeria, between 1952 and 1962, when Nigeria’s Regions were largely autonomous and there was consequential greatest measure of true internal peace in Nigeria.”

Restructuring Through Parliamentary System

Parliamentary system was the constitutional foundation on which independence was granted to the country on October 1, 1960. The founding fathers of the Nigerian state and their colonial masters recognised that Nigeria is made up of numerous nations conjoined into one country, not merely administrative divisions but definitely different social and cultural realities as part of the country’s historical development. There are about 250 distinct nations in the country. Furthermore, each of them was relatively autonomous before their conquest and colonisation by the British.

Granted this fact, Nigeria became a federation of autonomous nations in 1914. It was hoped that through the democratic process, indigenes of the diverse ethnic groups would evolve into a more perfect union of citizens, equal in their democratic rights in the country.

Chief Anthony Enahoro (1923-2010), arguably the most articulate and consistent advocate of the parliamentary system of government for Nigeria, reiterated his position at the Edo State House of Assembly on May 28, 2001. He delivered a Special Address entitled The Primacy of Parliament to commemorate Commonwealth Day and mark the christening of the Edo State House of Assembly Complex after him.

Chief Enahoro posited that the parliamentary system would better consolidate democracy in a multi-national third world country like Nigeria. Citing the experience of India and English speaking countries of the Caribbean, he argued that the parliamentary system is more efficient historically in resolving problems and more conducive to a stable democracy.

A comparative analysis of the merits and demerits of parliamentary and presidential systems in dissimilar countries shows that “most stable third world countries are parliamentary”.

The presidential system encourages executive dictatorship. It is a case of “winner takes all” as there is no power sharing and the interest of minorities are not protected. To be brief, there is no equity.

The presidential system introduced by military rulers in 1979 is an aberration compared to the workings of the American presidential system on which it is fashioned. Most Nigerian Presidents harbour a misleading sense of power. Chief Enahoro likened the Nigerian presidential system to absolute monarchism.

Moreover, it is inordinately expensive and does not encourage grass-root political development. Many credible people cannot afford election. Hence, the system is exclusionary rather than participatory.

The former Action Group Chief Whip who moved the famous Self-Government motion in the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos on March 31, 1953, recalled how a hand-picked unelected committee rejected the parliamentary system and recommended presidential system for the country. He regretted that up to that date (2001), neither the economic nor political objectives of the founding fathers of the Nigerian state have been achieved. Nigerians have neither the culture nor the temperament to practice the presidential system of government.

Chief Enahoro, reputed as the best parliamentary debater in the Federal House of Representatives in the 1950s and early 1960s pointed out the dangers of absence of official Opposition. As a result, any individual or group that speaks out is seen as an enemy. Opposition is left to the newspapers, pressure groups and tribal unions. He asserted with great vigour “where parliament is effective, there can be no dictatorship”.

Creation of New States/Boundary Adjustment

All that is required is for the constitution to state basic principles and process for creation of new states. One fundamental principle is that no ethnic group should be compelled to live under a hostile neighbor. In a federal system of government which includes fiscal federalism, no state should expect to derive funds to run its affairs from other states or the federal government. These principles were agreed by Nigerian leaders as far back as 1958. As Chief Obafemi Awolowo explained at that time, viability means that each state should live according to it’s means.

Imperative of Regional/State/Community Policing

One of the major challenges in contemporary Nigeria is heightened insecurity which has overwhelmed Federal securitya gencies. Large numbers of citizens are killed everyday by unknown persons. Every responsible government takes protection of the life and property of its citizens as utmost priority.

Solutions to Nigeria’s nagging problems have been on the table since the founding of the country but feudal leaders who do not believe in democracy always created obstacles. In his address to the British and Commonwealth Press at the Resumed Constitutional Conference in London on September 22, 1958, entitled Our Four Constitutional Problems, Chief Obafemi Awolowo presented several logical and factual grounds to support establishment of Regional Police before Independence, but for reasons of space, I cite only three in this presentation.

First, it is “wrong in principle to vest a Government with responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and, at the same time, refuse to provide that Government with the necessary executive instruments for discharging its responsibility.”

 The sage also said that “centralisation of Police … has no parallel or precedent in any part of the British Commonwealth with a Federal Constitution, save Malaya, where a perpetual state of emergency has necessitated an extraordinary policy in police matters.”

On the claim by colonial administrators and their anti-democratic feudal acolytes, which continues to be parroted by some Nigerian politicians, that state police would be politically biased, the late sage averred:

“I consider it a gratuitous insult to Nigerian leaders for high-ranking British officials in Nigeria and British spokesmen in Britain to suggest that, if the Police are regionalized, they would be used as instruments of oppression against political opponents. It seems to me grossly illogical and untenable to maintain, as British protagonists of centralization of Police have done, that while political leaders in the Regions are incapable of making responsible use of the Police Force, these same leaders, if they happen to be in the Central Government, would automatically undergo some inexplicable metamorphosis, which would transform them into new being sufficiently responsible to administer the very subject which has been denied them in the Regions.”

Nigeria is a large country, covering diverse geographical zones and cultural groups  and it has proved to be absolutely impossible for the Federal Police in Abuja to ensure security in all nooks and crannies in all parts of the country. No amount of vain and hypocritical exhortations by politically biased Inspectrors General of Police (IGPs) would bring about the much desired peace and security in Nigeria. By its consistent refusal to facilitate establishment of Regional, State and Community policing, the Federal Government becomes chief promoter of insecurity in Nigeria.

Moreover, it is futile to invite police officers to fight crime one thousand kilometres away in a country that lacks efficient communication and transport system. It is also dysfunctional to post officers from other cultural groups to perform policing duties in regions and states where cultural gaps create difficulties for understanding local issues by those who were acculturated outside those areas.

Decentralisation of policing (Regional, State and Community), as practised in other countries with a federal system of government is the panacea to encroaching insecurity in the country. Constant deployment of soldiers to perform police duties, which has become standard practice in Nigeria, only results in avoidable shooting of unarmed civilians by soldiers who are primarily trained for war or other combat situations and not maintaining peace in civil settings. Widespread military deployment for police duties completely fails to promote security in the country.

Drastic reduction in crime rate in the country will only be achieved when those close to the scene of crime are made to fight it. If there had been state and local policing, it would have been very difficult for Boko Haram terrorist sect to incubate and build up its forces in Sambisa Forest over a period of several years without being detected by the security apparatus in Borno State. Their procurement of arms and ammunition as well as their military training grounds and organizational apparatus would have been nipped in the bud.

Borno State spans an area of 70,898km2 which is more than double the land area of five South-East states put together. Even though most of the land is unoccupied, it is unrealistic to expect the ill-staffed, ill-trained, ill-equipped and ill-motivated Federal Police at Abuja or the state command of the Federal Police at Maiduguri to monitor the vast area.

With state policing, the constant massacre of peaceful villagers in Benue, Taraba and some southern states by Fulani herdsmen militia would be effectively checked. With state police, security lapses would no longer be blamed on the Federal Government. It would no longer be tenable to accuse Nigerian soldiers of colluding with Fulani militia to kill citizens of Benue and Taraba states.

For example, at a public event in Jalingo, Taraba State, on March 24, 2018, former Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt.-General Theophillus Y. Danjuma stated that the Nigerian Army was aiding armed Fulani herdsmen and other hoodlums to kill Nigerians and grab their land. Urging citizens to defend themselves, he said among other things:

“This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba and it must stop in Nigeria. These killers have been protected by the military, they cover them and you must be watchful to guard yourselves because you have no other place to go.”  (Samuel Ogundipe, Military, Police, complicit in killings across Nigeria –  T. Y. Dajuma, PREMIUM TIMES online, March 24, 2018; Olawale Olaleye, Shola Oyeyibo, Gboyega Akinsanmi, Ajayi Okolie, Paul Obi and Wole Ayodele, Danjuma Accuses Nigerian Armed Forces of Complicity in Killings Across Nigeria, THISDAY online, March 25, 2018).

The view expressed by Danjuma represents the general perception among victims in various parts of the country but most people are afraid to say it.

The Nigerian Army later set up a panel to investigate itself and returned a verdict that the allegation by the retired General was not true. (Killings, Nigerian Army releases report on T.Y. Danjuma’s allegation, PREMIUM TIMES online, May 18, 2018).

The Ovie Omo-Agege led Constitution Review Committee is an opportunity for the National Assembly to protect the professional integrity of the Nigerian Army by providing for State Police Force and save the Army from policing duties and accusations against it.

Furthermore, the idea of creating local outposts of the Federal Police under the command of an Inspector-General and ultimately the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and labeling such outposts as “community police”  is misleading, if not outright deceptive. Wikipedia online defines community policing or community-oriented policing (COP) as “a strategy of policing that focuses on building ties and working closely with members of the community.” Citing Betrus Ferreira in The Use and Effectiveness of Community Policing in a Democracy, 1996,, Wikipedia states:

“Community policing is a philosophy of full service personalized policing, where the same officer patrols and works in the same area on a permanent basis, from a decentralized place, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify. The approach is “problem-oriented{“ and “intelligence-led…

“It contrasts with reactive policing strategies.. It does not eliminate the need for reactive policing although successful prevention reduces the need for the latter.”

In its report in 2017, the World International Security and Police Index (WISPI) published by the International Police Science Association (IPSA) ranked the Nigeria Police 127th out of 127 countries evaluated. The ranking was based on four major domains, namely, internal security, capacity, legitimacy and outcomes. Nigeria was ranked as “the worst” police force in the world. The Nigeria Police authorities rejected the ranking. Again in 2019, the world ranking of the Nigeria Police Force did not improve. As the Vanguard rightly noted in an editorial on February 13, 2020:

“No one in Nigeria will argue that Nigeria is heavily challenged by internal security as we are hostages to terrorists, armed robbers, bandits, herdsmen militias, militants, kidnappers, economic saboteurs (pipeline vandals), cultists, human traffickers, ritualists, election robbers and every kind of law-breaking.”

Under this condition, it becomes difficult to understand what the Federal Government stands to lose from genuine state and community policing if not vested interest in promotion of dictatorship, anti-democratic values and anti-federalist disposition of the Nigerian ruling class.

With state police, attention would shift to how well state governors provide security for their states. At that stage, no reasonable person would heap the entire blame on the President for failure to provide security in states. The Nigerian Armed Forces would concentrate on its constitutional duty of defending the territorial integrity of the country. It would secure the country’s porous borders and not to be enmeshed in election squabbles and intimidation of road users to extort money at road-blocks or engagement in menial, if lucrative roles as security guards for politicians and rich people.

Based on the above premises, I submit that the first step in bringing about a socially tolerable level of security in Nigeria is to provide a constitutional basis for establishment of Regional, State and Community policing. There will then be no need for quarells over AMOTEKUN security outfit floated by governors of South-West Region. This will place  enforcement of laws relating to local security in the hands of regional, state and community officers who know the terrain and who are closer to the people.

Granted requisite spirit of patriotism and good faith, the Omo-Agege Constitution Review Committee is duty bound to make specific recommendations/provisions for regional, state and community policing.

Lengthy Constitution is Unnecessary

As the supreme law of the country, the constitution spells out basic principles. It is a mistake to attempt to overload the document with details of the entire gamut of laws requisite in a state.

Every succeeding Nigerian Constitution since 1963 has been lengthier than the preceding one. The Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria,1963, had 108 pages, that of 1979 had 192 pages while that of 199 had 210 pages. Subsequent amendments further elongated it.

The new Constitution must be short, precise and categorical on basic issues. A nation is only possible when citizens carry in their heads some reasonably coherent picture of that state. In contemporary Nigeria, a simple question as to whether the country is a republic or a theocracy evokes considerable dissention, even riots.

The Omo-Agege Committee needs to reverse the trend towards verbose and windy constitutional provisions because the strength or effectiveness of a constitution does not depend on its length. The Committee needs to drastically reduce the 1999 Constitution to basic principles while some sections such as those pertaining to religious courts should be deleted altogether because they create confusion and discord.

The Constitution Review Committee could learn from the Constitution of the USA, the oldest written constitution in the world. According to online sources, the Original Constitution had four pages (less than 5000 words) written on parchment paper. “The current Constitution with the 27 amendments has about 7500 words. At 12-pt, Times New Roman font, that comes to about 19 pages, single spaced on a 8.5×11 page with 1″ margins.”

Summary of Submission

Much of the material needed to review or rewrite the Nigerian constitution so as to return the country to the path of peaceful development is already in the public domain. As outlined in this presentation, these may be summarised under FOUR headings as follows:

(i) Clearly defined form and structure of government (Democratic/Federal Republic);

(ii) Devolution of Powers to Regions and States;

(iii) Fiscal Federalism

(iv)   Constitutional framework for regional, state and community policing.

For a Patriotic 9th National Assembly (NASS)

In a democratic system of government, the role of the Legislature is strategic. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in May 1999, the NASS has not demonstrated robust patriotism requisite for addressing critical issues that conduce to peace and prosperity in the country. Hence, Nigeria is in the doldrums in all significant respects.

All the obnoxious Oil Decrees promulgated by illegitimate military juntas that dispossessed the Niger Delta of just revenue from its oil and gas resources have been left in place. The devastating environmental impact of mindless oil and gas exploitation by multinational oil companies in collaboration with local exploiters that call themselves leaders destroyed the ecology and livelihood of the people and leaves the region in utter despair. Agitation for economic justice by Niger Delta youths is met with massacres, supported by an insensitive Legislature. The survival of vulnerable groups in the Niger Delta and minorities of Nigeria has not received legislative protection by the NASS.

The NASS has not investigated and taken appropriate legislative action to curb serial massacres of Nigerian citizens by state agents, some of which are reported by credible international organisations such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The inhuman frame of mind of some oligarchs in the NASS was once voiced by Hon. Bala Ibn Na’allah (Honourable member that represented Zuru/Takai/Sakaba/D/Wasagu Federal Constituency of Kebbi State, North-West Nigeria) on the floor of the House of Representatives. At the height of the land, air and sea bombardment of Gbaramatu Kingdom in May 2009, the Honourable Member argued that “Nigeria could afford to sacrifice 20 million people in the crisis prone Niger Delta if that would bring peace to the remaining 120 million other Nigerians.” (THE NATION, Friday, May 22, 2009, p 4).The Honourable Member was not sanctioned by his colleagues for that statement.

The Niger Delta is one of several flashpoints of the dysfunctional Nigerian state. The age-long oppression of the people of the Region has been adroitly hidden from the Nigerian public by means of false propaganda, political manipulation and the activities of local agents that derive private benefits from the sufering of their kith and kin. When critical issues are raised or civil protests organized to draw attention to persistent injustice, successive military juntas and Federal Governments simply sharpen repressive tactics. The response often starts and ends with brutal military onslaught against the people of the Region involving extreme human suffering of the masses. This is at times followed with some token palliatives in the form of sharing of money to selected individuals and groups, which often trigger inter-personal and inter-group conflict among victims of state repression.

In the past one year, the NASS has been preoccupied with bills that derogate from democratic freedoms such as Hate Speech Bill and Social Media Bill, designed to suppress free expression of opinion. More recently, Nigerians were bewildered with self-serving suggestions about granting “constitutional immunity” to leaders of the Legislature. These are absolutely irrelevant to good governance and a prosperous state.

After 28 years of military dictatorship (January 15, 1966 to October 1, 1979 and again from December 31, 1983 to May 29, 1999), the unwillingness of the Nigerian NASS to undo the greatest evils against democracy by predatory autocracy of former military dictators, is a betrayal of the dedicated struggle for civil rule for which hundreds of Nigerian patriots and pro-democracy activists paid the supreme price.

If Nigerian leaders insist on continued injustice and oppression, it the Nigerian state cannot resolve basic problem of providing an equitable and peaceful society, citizens cannot be expected to join the rest of humanity in the search for scientific progress for the wellbeing of citizens. Those retarding the emergence of a great Nigerian nation-state and by implication, the Black Race as a whole, are the top-dogs of the Nigerian society, not the much maligned and ill-treated under-dogs and youths, some of who only desire “to be”,  “to be like”, to be like the oppressor.

The stinking rot in all sectors of the country demands of NASS members to step out of their  iron-cast religious, ethnic and class cages and embrace a common Nigerian citizenship and a common humanity. The inordinate desire of some leaders to convert Nigeria into an organ of a religious body or an appendage to an ethnic group poses the greatest existential challenge to the continued existence of Nigeria as one country. Such anti-nationalist designs must not be given space in the Nigerian Constitution.

That history and posterity may remember the Constitution Review Committee and the 9th Senate for good, your Committee must resist pressures to pander to the dictates of feudal lords, religious potentates and political big wigs that have brought this potentially great country to its knees. You must not squander this golden opportunity to salvage the country from the throes of total paralysis. Time is no longer in Nigeria’s favour. For good or for ill, you are at the doorstep of history.

Chris O.O. Biose

chrisoobiose@gmail.com

N.B: In addition to this email copy, I have sent five signed copies which my Secretary will deliver to your office.

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