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“No” To Review of 1999 Constitution, “Yes” To National Conference of 2014 Report

By our Correspondent.

When the present regime was inaugurated in May, 2015, it went on to operate the 1999 Military Constitution promulgated through Decree No.24 of May 5, 1999. The majority of the people of Nigeria are unanimous that the 1999 Constitution is an illegitimate document, an imposition and defective in many areas. The opening paragraph of “We the people” is a fraud, since Nigerians were not the ones who made the constitution. There was no time Nigerians sat together to discuss and agreed on the constitution that is now in operation.

In response to the criticism, the Federal Government inaugurated the Presidential Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution on 19th October, 1999. In February, 2001, the zonal presentations were made in the six geo-political zones of the country. The report was presented in two volumes – volumes I and II.

The report stated that, the committee received about two million written memoranda and one and a half million oral presentations, according to Otive Igbuzor. An analysis of the report will show that it is “a bundle of contradictions and subversion of the will of the people” as enunciated in their submissions. In the preamble to the report, it was stated that, “Nigeria has never had a really participatory or people-driven constitution or people-driven constitution-making approach.” (Pp.1-2, Vol.1).

There was, no doubt, that Nigerians agreed with the committee’s position. In its bid to leave the 1999 Constitution almost intact, the report argued in Page 34 that, there was “Constitutional-driven strategies for the 1979 Constitution.

The recommendation of the committee was that, “The country should be recognized as a True Federation, with States as Federating Units.” That report never saw light of the day. From what is happening in the present exercise embarked upon by the two arms of the legislature, the committee already has a pre-determined position on all the issues. The members are only rubber stamps of the executive, and are already prepared to preserve the status-quo. What a wasted exercise!

As few as the members of the committee are, they are not representing public opinion of Nigerians, whose population is said to be about two hundred million people. Given fraudulent nature of 1999 Constitution and, as far as the Middle-Belt ethnic nationalities are concerned, their desired objective can only be achieved if the Report and Recommendations of the National Conference of 2014 is implemented because it was participatory, inclusive and devoid of the elitism.

The present government has turned itself into an apparatus of terror and persecuting specific groups of the population. Such groups, therefore, cannot be held obligated to remain loyal to the jurisdiction of the clueless State. It is for the people to determine their destiny, territory, etc.

The people of Nigeria have the right to defend themselves since the government that is supposed to protect them has turned a blind eye to their plight.

The government has not been able to prevent the spread of disorder and militancy across the country. This inaction is deliberate, in order to achieve an evil agenda. The two arms of government – the National Assembly and the Senate – consist of people, who have soiled their names in the bid to get rich, exchanging their integrity for great riches. They have taken the crooked path and cannot make laws to secure the country and the people. Wealth gained by fraudulent practices tastes sweet to the persons, but they will end up with a mouthful of gravel. 

Some scholars defined constitution as “the embodiment of all the political, economic, social, cultural, religious and even historical forces conditioning the perception of a people at any given time and powerful enough to be isolated and accepted as a guide for future action.” It has also been defined as “the totality of the rules and reputations, both legal and non-legal, which ordain order, regulate and sustain the government of a given country.”

A people’s constitution is, therefore, a constitution made by the people themselves. The people will not only participate in the process of making a people’s constitution but that the content reflects the history, wishes and aspirations of the people. It is guided by principles, which include among others, inclusivity, diversity, participation, transparency and openness, autonomy, accountability and legitimacy.

The Forum For Constitutional Reform should, and ought to be, the voices and opinions of ethnic nationality groups, big or small, people from all works of life, must be heard and their voices are reflected. Identifiable groups must be invited, assisted and encouraged to participate in the review process, namely, women groups, students, the armed forces, police and other paramilitary groups, the illiterates, and the disabled. It is necessary that the government ought to have ensured this diversity is reflected. The so-called ‘Committee for 1999 Review Constitution’ has not come near this criterion. It will, therefore, end up in similar way as the previous ones.  

What is realistic in the present circumstance, however, is just a Conference of Ethnic Nationalities. If the diversity is not reflected, the final document cannot claim to be democratic, legitimate, and reflective of popular view of ethnic nationalities of Nigeria. Scholars and Nigerians are in agreement that Nigerians want an inclusive, consultative and participatory process for a constitution. That is the new approach in which the composite parts of the whole called “Nigeria,” can be examined as equals and partners in the process of nation-building and existence (HDEA, 2000:8).

Middle-Belters do not subscribe to the ongoing amendment to 1999 Constitution because it is a FRAUD document and appears to be a secret affair dominated and directed by political elites and conservative elements. It is not guided by inclusivity, participation, transparency, openness, autonomy, accountability and legitimacy. Besides, the Legislature and the Senate are merely rubber-stamps of the Executive Arm of Government.

What a shameful and sorrowful situation! The issue of ethnic nationalities of the country has a chequered history and raises questions of profound significance. Failure to reckon with this reality is a dangerous trend that portends a bad omen for its future.     

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