Restructuring Nigeria’s constitution to close all gaps of separatism
Nigeria achieved its independence from colonial masters in 1960, however like some other nations that were colonised we have faced struggles economically and politically contrary to the expectations of those that fought for it and the populace today.
The weakness of our institutions, lack of will power from leaders in addition to other existing gaps in the system (executive, legislative and judiciary) have also contributed to the current struggles and challenges.
Recently for instance, Justice Stephen Pam stated that there was no constitutional basis for the Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) to demand for and collect value added tax (VAT ) and other such taxes in Rivers state or any other state of the of the federation, being that the constitutional powers and competence of the Federal Government was limited to taxation of incomes, profits, and capital gains – which does not include VAT and other such taxes is an example of injustice in allocation of resources.
Additionally, Governor Wike also highlighted the injustice in the system saying Rivers state generated N15bn VAT revenue in June this year but got N4.7bn in return, while Kano generated N2.8bn in the same month and got the same N2.8bn, he also said N46.4bn was collected from Lagos state in the same month but got N9.6bn in return.
The Nigerian state has been experiencing several challenges since after the military government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retired) hurriedly put together the 1999 constitution and there has been no commensurate strategy at addressing it.
These challenges surface in the areas of insecurity, poor education, compromised electioneering process, revenue allocation, skewed federal appointments, inadequate infrastructure etc . The Unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigerians have also been affected due to perceived social injustice and discrimination among citizens.
It is also important to note that Nigeria has been greatly affected by injustice, nepotism, marginalization, and oppressive systems handed to us by the colonial leaders that are responsible for our weak institutions as well as the desperation for political positions.
Another major challenge facing the nation is division and political instability because of the 1967-1970 civil war that resulted in violence and counter attacks across the different regions due to suspicion and mistrust across ethnic divide in the Country. Forces generated by the nation’s ethno cultural diversity (about 250 ethnic groups) have all continued to ignite division and separatism with each disadvantaged ethnic groups agitating for greater space for self-expression.
While it is a known fact that political instability in Nigeria started two years after independence, it is very sad to see that recent happenings in the Country has taken us back to the pre independence days and has been a great threat to the peaceful co-existence of the nation.
Additionally, the poor leadership style across boards in the Country driven by selfish interest, unpatriotic desires and poor strategies has worsened the situation. Sadly, the interests of leaders come first before the interests of the nation making the situation to deteriorate.
Also, the era of the military junta which has ruled Nigeria more for the longest period since post-independence continued to suppress freedom of expression and other human rights through brazen force. It is also interesting to note that of the twenty-two (22years) of steady democracy since 1999, fourteen (14years) has been with retired military leaders and this might be why the desired change has not been embedded.
It is also evident that Nigeria has been more divided now than ever before and we have seen increased drums of division and separatism being beaten by several ethno cultural groups across the nation and are strong signs of how divided Nigeria has become.
Interestingly, these ethnic rivalries in the Country were known to the colonial government and that was why the then Secretary of State for the colonies Oliver Lyttleton boasted that the ‘the only cement which kept the rickety structure of Nigeria together was the British…. He also stated that, if Nigeria is left to itself, it would clearly fall apart in a few months.
While we all appreciate the fact that this prediction has not materialised, we must all agree we have never got it rough like this before since after the civil war and therefore it is important, we go back to the drawing board to strategize on better ways of bringing all Nigerians together to discuss as well as restructure the current 1999 constitution being used to run the Country, which is the fundamental challenge facing the of nation.
Measures such as introduction of state police to improve security, upgrade our electoral laws, abolition of quota system will help improve and add more value to the current system.
Finally, some other major solutions to the persistent threats of separatism lies in re-inventing Nigeria’s federal system in line with its underlying principles of devolution of power from the centre to the constituent states. This will help strengthen the states to provide meaningful self-rule, reduce the dominance at the centre and improve service delivery at the grassroots and unify the nation.