•Division over roles for traditional rulers
By OUR REPORTERS
The one-day public hearing on the Constitution review took place across the country last Saturday with groups making cases for defined roles for traditional rulers, new states and true federalism, among others. It was a cacophony of voices as reflected in the reports sent in by our correspondents. From Asaba, Delta State, PAUL OSUYI said the Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, at the weekend gave reasons the House adopted the people’s public session initiative rather than a referendum in the review of the 1999 Constitution. Tambuwal said that referendum as a legislative process, is unconstitutional, as it was not contemplated by the Nigerian Constitution.
He spoke in Asaba, Delta State, through the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili constituency, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu at a one-day People’s Public Session organised by the House for the people in that constituency. The House Committee on the review organized the sessions nation-wide. “For referendum to be a lawful legislative or even administrative decision-making process in any jurisdiction, it must either be expressly prescribed in the Constitution of that legal system, or must have become a Constitutional convention by notoriety or a child of necessity arising from constitutional overthrow as in a past revolution situation,” he explained.
The Speaker noted that in jurisdictions where referendum is a process in the legal system, it was rarely used and that it has not proven to be a more credible option in the review process. Tambuwal said the House in adopting the public session was guided by Section 9(2) of the Constitution which provides for popular participation. “We are also persuaded that this process, once successfully carried out should reasonably lay to rest the raging arguments about the autochthony of our Constitution and consequently we, the people… will no longer be a lie.”
He said that referendum was not available to the House, but that the House would be willing to accept a bill proposing the inclusion of referendum in the Constitution in the review process. From Timothy Ola, Maiduguri came a report that Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State has called for the inclusion of defined roles for traditional rulers in the new constitution. Shettima who presented his position on the review at a public session organised by the committee in Maiduguri weekend, called for the recognition of the roles of traditional rulers in the Constitution for the development of the society. “If we feel our traditional rulers are not that important to government, why do we use them to help us in our campaigns against polio and other health challenges. Why do we need their intervention on security issue, why should we consult them on governance and maintenance of peace and order in their domains?” Shettima queried. He said traditional institution had played prominent roles before and during colonial administration of their communities, recalling that “they were highly respected mobilizers of the people in support of government programmes and policies.”
The governor wondered why the traditional institution was given roles in the 1979 Constitution but omitted in the 1999 Constitution. Gov Shettima noted that traditional rulers had made immense contributions to the emergence of a united Nigeria socially, economically and politically. “Presently, traditional rulers and emirate councils are involved in security, tax collection, publicity and enlightenment campaigns in their areas of jurisdiction,” he disclosed even as he proposed that the funding of the traditional institution should come directly from the federation account. Chairman on the occasion and former ambassador to Iran and Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Gazali, lauded the attendance, describing it as impressive. He said anyone who understands the security challenge in the state would not expect a huge turn out at the public hearing. Former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, says states should have their own constitutions, flags, crest and anthem to reflect true federalism.
Speaking at the Constitution Amendment review in Owan Federal constituency in Edo State last Saturday, Prof Ihonvbere said the Constitution should be subjected to a referendum to give it a wider acceptance. He said that every Nigerian should have a copy of the Constitution at no cost, as is done in other African countries. He decried a situation where politicians “Abujarised” the formation of political parties, where one needs to have offices across the 36 states of the federation, including Abuja before one can contest for a councillor in his ward, describing it as “antithetical to genuine democracy.” Facilitator of the conference, Hon. Pally Iriase, says he is buoyed by the resolve of Owan people’s large turn-out on the occasion. He said the beauty of this Constitution amendment is that it is what the people of Nigeria want that will be reflected and not what the political elite desired.
He averred that the wishes and rights of the people will not be trampled upon in the amendment process. However, Nigerians are sceptical about the template set for voting on key issues at the House’s peoples’ public session on the review of the 1999 construction. For instance the people are miffed over the lumping of section 315 (5) (a) and (b) all together – the National Youth Service Corps Act, the Land Use Act, Public Complaints Commission Act, Nation Security Agencies Act – where voters are only oblige to say yes or no for the removal or otherwise of the section of the constitution.
Meanwhile, Gov Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State said he would throw his weight behind the review as long as the amended constitution would ensure good governance and rule of law rather than a legal document to satisfy various agitations in the country. Gaidam in his presentation at a public hearing on the review held weekend at the WAWA Hall of the Government House, Damaturu said, “poverty alleviation, restoration of security to life and property, massive job creation; among other national interests and issues should be the main grey areas to be reflected in the constitutional amendment.” He said the 1999 Constitution was hurriedly fashioned out during the military administration, arguing that it contains some undemocratic clauses. He, however, noted that with the wide consultations going on for the review of the constitution, the country should have a more “democratic and acceptable constitution” for the nation’s diverse religious and ethnic groups. The governor stressed that poverty alleviation, restoration of security, promotion of employment among other national interests, should be the cardinal objectives of the new constitution. But opposing Borno State Gov. Shettima are the people of Anaocha\ Dunukofia\Njokoka federal constituency who rejected constitutional roles for traditional rulers even as they supported six-year single term for President and governors. EMMANUEL UZOR reported from Onitsha, Anambra State that the rejection of the constitutional roles for traditional rulers arose when one of the traditional rulers in Njikoka council area requested that 10 per cent of local government allocation should be given to them. However, the Constitution review witnessed a great turn-out with the member representing Anaocha\Dunukofia\Njikoka Federal Constituency, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife addressing the audience at Abagana, headquarters of Njikoka council area. During the public hearing, the people voted against constitutional roles for traditional rulers, state police and 35 per cent for Women Afirmation Act among others and supported six-year single term for President and governors and financial autonomy for local government system and state legislature. Addressing the people after the public function, Mrs. Ekwunife said the action was to make the people part of the Constitution which would be a working document that will the guide the actions of the people. She said that the review would help bring development to the grassroots and make the people part of the opinion in the country.
Meanwhile, Gov Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State said he would throw his weight behind the review as long as the amended constitution would ensure good governance and rule of law rather than a legal document to satisfy various agitations in the country. Gaidam in his presentation at a public hearing on the review held weekend at the WAWA Hall of the Government House, Damaturu said, “poverty alleviation, restoration of security to life and property, massive job creation; among other national interests and issues should be the main grey areas to be reflected in the constitutional amendment.” He said the 1999 Constitution was hurriedly fashioned out during the military administration, arguing that it contains some undemocratic clauses.
He, however, noted that with the wide consultations going on for the review of the constitution, the country should have a more “democratic and acceptable constitution” for the nation’s diverse religious and ethnic groups. The governor stressed that poverty alleviation, restoration of security, promotion of employment among other national interests, should be the cardinal objectives of the new constitution. But opposing Borno State Gov. Shettima are the people of Anaocha\ Dunukofia\Njokoka federal constituency who rejected constitutional roles for traditional rulers even as they supported six-year single term for President and governors. EMMANUEL UZOR reported from Onitsha, Anambra State that the rejection of the constitutional roles for traditional rulers arose when one of the traditional rulers in Njikoka council area requested that 10 per cent of local government allocation should be given to them. However, the Constitution review witnessed a great turn-out with the member representing Anaocha\Dunukofia\Njikoka Federal Constituency, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife addressing the audience at Abagana, headquarters of Njikoka council area. During the public hearing, the people voted against constitutional roles for traditional rulers, state police and 35 per cent for Women Afirmation Act among others and supported six-year single term for President and governors and financial autonomy for local government system and state legislature. Addressing the people after the public function,
Mrs. Ekwunife said the action was to make the people part of the Constitution which would be a working document that will the guide the actions of the people. She said that the review would help bring development to the grassroots and make the people part of the opinion in the country. From LAYI OLANREWAJU, Ilorin, the people of southern part of Kwara State strongly agitated for the creation of Igbomina State along with their kindred in two local government areas of Osun State. The clamour topped the block response of the people at the well-attended public session held at Omupo and Omu-Aran respectively. The ‘yes’ voting referendum was unanimous by the people who thundered in a charged atmosphere where security was manned by local vigilance groups armed with traditional war equipment The request for the state, as contained in their memo, would consist of the present Irepodun Local Government, Ifelodun Local Government, Isin Local Government, Offa Local government, Oyun Local Government, Ekiti Local Goverbnment, Oke Ero Local Government, all in Kwara State as well as Ila and Ifedayo Local Government Areas in Osun State. However, at the forum, the Ekitii stock in Kwara at a forum opposed to being part of the requested state, but wanted to be merged with Ekiti State as presently constituted arguing that for over a century, they had been agitating to be in the South- West and not in any way be made to be in the North.
The Igbominas had argued in their memorandum that their agitation at a point in 1957 was an issue before a Minority Commission set up by the then Secretary of State for The Colonies, Sir Allan Lennox-Boyed purposely to “ameliorate the dominant group’s marginalization of the minorities in Nigeria. In the memorandum signed by first class traditional rulers from the area in Kwara and Osun states, the Orangun of Ila, Orangun of Oke Ila, the Olupo of Ajase Ipo, Elese of Igbaja, Ôlomu of Omu-Aran and The Olusin of Isin as well as prominent citizens of the areas. They include Chief Yemi Farounbi, Brigadier General David Bamgboye (rtd), Rear Admiral A.A Afolayan (rtd), Prince T.A Oyinlola, Rev (Dr) Adeniyi Babalola and Chief Raimi Oladimeji. Meanwhile, the move for the creation of state police in the country at the weekend suffered a setback as the people of Cross River have unanimously rejected its inclusion in constitution amendment, JUDEX OKORO reported from Calabar. There had been a call for the amendment of Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution to enable for the creation of state police. Making their position known on during session in the eight federal constituencies of the state, some of the stakeholders who contributed to the issue argued that the present federal police structure was good enough to handle the security situation in the country. They, however, said that the governors should be given more powers to control the commissioner of police. Mr Etim Inyang, a legal practitioner from Akamkpa/Biasse federal constituency said that it was unfair for state governors to be called Chief Security Officers without any control: “State governors are not in control of commissioner of police, yet they are called chief security officers; it is unfair and this should not be allowed to continue, ‘’ he said. At Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar South Federal Constituency held at Cultural Centre, Calabar, contributors insisted that the present federal structure of the Nigeria Police Force should remain. The constituencies also voted for amendment to Section 197 (1) of the Constitution to abolish the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and rather suggested that the present Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be strengthened to allow them conduct all elections in the country. They called for the amendment of the Section 162 (1) of the constitution to abolish ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ and to allow Local Government Councils receive their allocations directly. On the the tenure of executive, the people of Cross River State also proposed one single term tenure for presidents and governors and the office of the president should be on merit rather than zoning. T
hey agreed that the Section 135 and 180 (2) be amended to create a single tenure of six years for the Office of President and Governor respectively. They agreed that there should be specific provision in the constitution to take care of the interests of persons with disability. In an exclusive interview with some members of the Lower House of National Assembly, they promised that the new constitution will reflect the views and wishes of Nigerians. From Lagos, OLUWOLE ROTIMI reported that the need to have a constitution that would encompass provisions of true federalism and give local governments autonomy was widely touted in the review held last Saturday.
The session revealed that the people were in dire need of a constitution review to address the grey areas said to be dragging the country back. Fielding questions from journalists, the House of Representatives Deputy Chairman on Finance, Michael Yomi Ogunnusi, representing Ifako-Ijaiye, said the review would lay to rest all the problems currently confronting Nigeria as a country. Ogunnusi who said the review would address some of the pitfalls identified in the 1999 Constitution, added that the House of Representatives would take careful consideration of peoples’ view in the amendment. *GBENGA ADESUYI, reporting from Ibadan said that the people of Oyo federal constituency gathered at the Durbar Stadium in Oyo to reaffirm their commitment to the creation of new Oyo State from the present Oyo State with the capital at Oyo Alaafin. In attendance at the forum was Hon. Kamil Akinlabi, representing Afijio/Atiba/Oyo-East/Oyo-West Federal Constituency. The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi 111, who led his people under 151 various associations and groups in his speech recalled that the prime position Oyo town in the country had historically conferred on it the state capital status. . Oba Adeyemi commended the House of Representatives for the initiative, describing it as the first time such an exercise would be brought to the grass roots and ensure community participation while urging the people to utilize the opportunity brought before them.
Akinlabi, the chief host, who took the copies of memoranda from the various speakers for onward transmission to Abuja told the people of Oyo in the gathering that Oba Adeyemi had on two different occasions visited the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja on the issue of creation of new Oyo State. *OKEY SAMPSON said constituents of Aba federal constituency in Abia State, comprising Aba North and south local governments, want the ‘state joint local government account’ abolished during the amendment of the 1999 constitution. The people voiced their view in Aba last Saturday during the public session on the review of the 1999 Nigerian constitution held at the Aba town hall. They believed that abolishing the state local government joint account would not only stop state governors from interfering with funds of local governments and accelerate development at that level, but would also strengthen local government autonomy being presently canvassed for. *From NOAH EBIJE came a report that political thugs, traditional rulers as well as religious leaders at the weekend took over venues of public session in Kaduna. The public session recorded success in Kaduna North, Igabi and Chikun Federal Constituencies as the exercise ended without hitches. Eager youths as well as traditional and religious leaders stormed the venues of the public session as early as 9am to express their feelings on issues bothering them. The thugs were occasionally chased out of the venues by securitymen made up of mainly policemen and civil defence corps..
However, speaking at the end of the public session, member, representing Igabi Federal Constituency who is also the Kaduna State Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee in the National Assembly, Ibrahim Bello, said out of 43 questions discussed at the session, only five issues were opposed. “We are here for the people and that is what we have just conducted here in the Federal Constituency where by all the 43 questions were properly addressed by the people and they were given the opportunity to speak their minds on the issues because it is the interest of the people that is paramount and they have to be given utmost consideration.
“The steering committee are here with me and we are going to deliberate on all what was discussed for their amendment before we take it back to the National Assembly,” he said. Against the public hearing towards the amendment, Founder and president of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, has described the effort as “exercise in futility.” Addressing a press conference in Lagos at the weekend, Fasehun reminded that “National Assembly members’ mandate is to make laws and not to make the constitution.”, reports RAZAQ BAMIDELE. While stating that “there is a gulf of deference between law making and constitution making,” the OPC boss asserted that “the onus of constitution making lies on the people of Nigeria,” saying “we are the custodians of sovereignty.” Against this background, Fasehun insisted that “the only authentic and acceptable process for constitution is through Sovereign National Conference (SNC), emphasising that “no amount of panel beating of the current constitution imposed on us by the Military can make it acceptable.” The National Assembly has been urged to create a separate office for the Accountant-General for local government areas in the country different from the office of the state or the federation, as part of the proposed amendment. From Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, LAYI OLANREWAJU reports that the member representing Ilorin East/South federal constituency Dr Ali Ahmad assured his constituents of the determination of the National Assembly to produce the people-oriented amended constitution for better development of the nation. Dr Ali, who spoke during the public session held at Royal Shekina Hotels in Ilorin, where participants agreed to the alteration of 24 of the issues in the templates for voting while 19 were not allowed to be changed out of the total 43 clauses presented in the questionnaire for delebration. According to him,” there is no perfect constitution the world over, hence, the need for the review of the constitution.” He said for the constitution to stand the test of time, it must be supported by a vibrant judiciary and executive to make it work better. The lawmaker noted that the 1999 constitution has suffered a lot of amendments and that the people must be ready to make their contributions in the present amendment. *TONY JOHN reported from Port harcourt, Rivers State, also asid, traditional rulers have demanded constitutional roles, as they have been relegated to the background by both the federal and state governments for too long now. The demand was made, by the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Timothy Nsirim, at a public hearing organized by member representing Obio/Akpor constituency Kingsley Chindah, in Port Harcourt. Nsirim said the call was necessary following perceived disparity in the revenue sharing process in the country between the Federal, State and Local governments. He said that the issue of local government autonomy should also include having an accountant-general to represent the local governments in the revenue allocation/sharing platform at the Federal level. “We are short-changed by both the states and the federal government. The local government’s account should be different from that of the state government and we should have our own accountant-general to represent us in Abuja because we do not know what is happening there.” At the event, traditional rulers demanded specific roles, as they had been relegated to the background by both the Federal and state governments for too long now. They particularly queried why the traditional ruler of Omuokiri-Aluu community should be arrested for not being able to stop the recent killing of the four students of the University of Port Harcourt students, when in the real sense the traditional ruler had no constitutional powers to do so.