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Nigeria: Constitution Review, an Exercise in Futility, Says Afenifere

The apex Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Thursday described the ongoing process of amending the 1999 Constitution as an exercise in futility. However, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the

Sola Ebiseni

The apex Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, Thursday described the ongoing process of amending the 1999 Constitution as an exercise in futility.

However, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the South-south geopolitical zone and others demanded devolution of powers, fiscal federalism and state police in the new constitution.

Reacting to the decision of the group not to submit a memorandum to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, the Secretary-General of Afenifere, Chief Sola Ebiseni, said amending the constitution would not achieve any result.

He said: “Afenifere advocates fundamental restructuring of Nigeria for the reinvention of a federal constitution as the agreed principles of governing Nigeria and its diverse ethnic nationalities by our founding fathers, which will ultimately replace the imposed 1999 unitary constitution.

“Amending the constitution is an exercise in futility and a waste of time and public fund.

“We cannot claim to be a federal republic and be governed by a unitary constitution. We cannot claim to be in a democracy and be governed by a constitution that does not emanate from the people.

“Amendment will not cure the anomalies. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.

“Every session of the two arms of the National Assembly, since 2007, has embarked on the same jamboree of a constitutional amendment, spending public funds on public hearings, without any result.

“The National Assembly is part of the issue to be determined in the process of restructuring and cannot legitimately be the judge in such exercise.

“This is evident from the condemnation of the declarations of the Southern governors in support of restructuring by both the Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives, while the committees, as agents of the National Assembly, were gallivanting around the country. From nothing, nothing comes. Ex nihilo nihil fit.”

However, Ohanaeze Ndigbo yesterday demanded internal autonomy based on a restructured Nigeria in the proposed new constitution.

The organisation’s President General, Ambassador George Obiozor, spoke yesterday on the second day of the South-east zonal public hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He stated that true federalism must be clearly defined reflecting decentralisation and devolution of power among the federating units.

He said it had become imperative for every part of the country to be given equal treatment in order to effectively address the issue of neglect and marginalisation of some sections of the country.

According to him, when true federalism is entrenched, it will be difficult for federating units to continue their lamentations.

The South-south geopolitical zone also demanded decentralisation of power, resource control and creation of additional states in the region.

Many stakeholders from various ethnic nationalities and organisations, including the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and the Ikwerre People’s Congress (IPC), trooped to the Port Harcourt venue of the programme yesterday to submit their memoranda.

The host Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who declared the hearing open, emphasised the need for the amendments to produce a people’s constitution that would guarantee devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, creation of state police and strengthening of the electoral system.

He said the amendments must allow the states to create and sustain local government councils and ensure the reduction of the cost of governance at both federal and state levels.

The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Ipalibo Banigo, said a better constitution could only be possible if the ongoing exercise was approached and carried out with sincerity of purpose.

Wike said: “Although this is the third time the National Assembly is embarking on this exercise without successfully producing a constitution that will satisfy the generally of Nigerians, the Rivers State Government nevertheless welcomes the exercise.

“A better constitution can only be possible if the exercise is approached and carried out with sincerity of purpose and the commitment to correct the fundamental challenges that have caused deep cracks to the foundation of our country and threatening to tear our dear nation into pieces.

“It is only the blind that may not see that Nigeria is headed for a dangerous precipice unless something drastic and urgent is done to correct the identified flaws in our constitution and the nature of the federal system that has been foisted on this country.”

Presenting the state’s position, the Attorney-General of Rivers State and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, condemned what he described as centre-dominated federalism practised in the country.

He called for the transfer of many matters on the exclusive list to the concurrent list.

Stakeholders at the Sokoto Zonal centre also advocated state police and devolution of power.

According to the sub-committee chairman, Senator Adamu Aliero, a total of 58 memoranda were received yesterday from stakeholders from Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states.

Christopher Isiguzo, Gideon Arinze in Enugu and James Sowole in Akure