• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Constitution review: Nigeria already restructured

Constitution Review: Nigeria already restructured

Fragile State syndrome

A fragile state about to fail betrays four symptoms: First, the ruling elite corner all the wealth and state privileges leaving the vast majority poor. State capture, perpetuated with dubious foreign profiteers, becomes the order of the day as service delivery suffers.

Second, society is polarised into two adversarial camps- the suspicious haves and hostile haves-not. Discontent from the latter soon leads to open rebellion that usually starts outside the capital city.

Third, rather than sanction the predatory rulers, state institutions censor the everyday speeches of everyday people for seditious materials. And fourth, corruption weakens the military’s ability to win war.

Just before the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021, the country was true to the above terminal syndrome. The West thought Afghanistan could be purged of Islamist vestige by drafting and adopting a new constitution guaranteeing human rights and democracy. It sponsored negotiations in a general assembly where grassroots representatives agreed on a new constitution.

The document favoured multi-party presidential system and was signed into law in 2004. In October of the same year, a presidential election was held and Hamid Karzai, 2001-2014, was elected the first president of Democratic Afghanistan; though he had been ruling Afghan since 2001. But democracy thrives only among men and women with integrity and not brutes and bandits. Tribalism, wife beating, political brigandage, etc, flared up once more. But it was under Karzai’s successor, Ashraf Ghani, 2014-2021, that corruption reached a frightening epiphany.

For years, President Ghani, his top generals and their tribesmen in positions of authority stole billions of dollars flown into Kabul in Nato cargo planes. It came to a point where there was no cash to pay the newly recruited American-trained Afghan soldiers. Hungry and demoralised, they simply refused to fight the highly inspired insurgents in remote mountains.

On being sworn in as American president, a realistic Joe Biden announced he was pulling his troops out of Afghanistan. To prove his point, he signed a truce with the Taliban to enable him evacuate. On their part, the Taliban agreed not to allow extremist groups operate in territories under their control till American troops were out.

The final battle between the Taliban and Ghani’s military was decided even before the 6th August 2021commencement of American evacuation. One by one the provincial capitals fell to the insurgents as disgruntled senior civil servants, owed arrears of salaries, simply switched sides. Soldiers threw down their weapons and walked long distances to Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as refugees. Their generals and political leaders, whose families relocated abroad, had abandoned them.

With his capital surrounded, Ghani loaded $145 million into his presidential jet for life in exile. Hours later, and surrounded by family and friends, millionaire Ghani watched on CNN from abroad as the Taliban entered Kabul. His frightened country men hung on taxiing planes only to be swept off midair to an imminent death by powerful air stream. Corruption and official racketeering killed Democratic Afghanistan!

Like Afghanistan like Nigeria

One, a 2024 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRE) claimed that the Nigerian government in 2023 allowed the Boko Haram terrorist group to kill Christians in Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Adamawa and Benue States. Some 8, 222 Christians were killed by the Nigerian military and non-state actors.

Two, the Abuja-based Beacon Security and Intelligence Limited also stated in its April 2024 report that at least 2, 583 Nigerians were killed and another 2,164 kidnapped in the first quarter of 2024. On the average, some 28 persons were killed and 24 kidnapped daily.

Three, the 4th May 2024 Vanguard newspaper published a list of 58 former state governors who stole a total of N2.187 trillion. The looted money was equivalent to the 2024 budgets of Lagos State at N2.25 trillion and the entire South East States at N2.29 trillion. It was more than the N1.89 trillion and N1.60 trillion being the 2024 budgets of the entire states in the North Central and North East. The figure is obtained from the record of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on cases being probed, fully probed, charged and successfully prosecuted from 1999 to the present.

Four, on 26 March 2024, The Guardian editorial titled, ‘That N3.7tr Budget Padding Scandal at National Assembly.’ It condemned the looting of the national coffers by members of the legislature: “The 10th National Assembly’s fraternal efforts to whitewash alleged malfeasance in the 2024 Appropriation Law are shameful in all ramifications. While the routine dishonesty about common patrimony is oddly familiar, the Senate has taken budget buccaneering and heist to an uncommon height.”

The lid was blown open by Senator Abdul Ningi, Chairman of Northern Senators Forum. That N3.7 trillion worth of budget padding was perpetrated by the National Assembly in the 2024 budget. This humongous amount was laundered in questionable projects without locations; to be withdrawn in cash by the patriotic legislators the moment the budget is signed.

On the floor of the Senate, Senator Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe corroborated Ningi’s claim, “We are all culpable. Some so-called senior senators here got N500 million each from the 2024 budget. I am a ranking senator, I didn’t get anything. (Therefore,) No senator has a right to accuse Senator Ningi….” He was not allowed to tell Nigerians what happened as his microphone was switched off mid-sentence.

And five, General Danjuma Ali-Keffi petitioned President Tinubu alleging that on 21st May 2021, some generals sympathetic to the Boko Haram assassinated former Chief of Army Staff, COAS, General Ibrahim Attahiru. That the perpetrators were also arming terrorists with weapons looted from military armouries. This in addition to embezzling the $1billion meant for arms procurement in the fight against terror.

A Board of Inquiry (BOI), headed by Ali-Keffi also uncovered that illegal gold mining in Zamfara State and fuel smuggling were associated with top military officers. This largely explains why the Nigeria military continues to fare badly in the fight against terrorists, insurgents and bandits.

Nigeria already restructured

The 2014 National Conference, organised by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, effectively restructured Nigeria through its resolutions. What is remaining is implementing them. A total of 492 members representing every nationality and interest sat for 120 days and agreed on over six hundred resolutions through consensus.

Professor Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu, member and Deputy Chairman of the Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari-led Foreign Policy and Diasporan Matters Committee of Conference, explains in ‘Nigeria: Averting Paradox of Development:’

“Twenty committees, comprising tested professionals knowledgeable in matters entrusted to each committee, were raised to closely study the problems and proffer solutions. For those asking what restructuring means, a list of the committees could help them; which includes (1) Agriculture and Water Resources Committee (2) Citizenship, Immigration and Related Matters Committee (3) Civil Society, Labour and Sports Committee (4) Devolution of Power Committee (5) Economy, Trade and Investment Committee (6) Energy Committee (7) Environment Committee (8) Foreign Affairs and Diasporan Committee (9) Judiciary, Law, Human Rights and Legal Reforms Committee (10) Land Tenure Committee (11) National Security Committee (12) Political Restructuring and Forms of Government Committee (13) Political Parties and Electoral Matters Committee (14) Politics and Governance Committee (15) Public Finance and Revenue Committee (16) Public Service Committee (17) Social Sector Committee (18) Religious Committee (19) Science, Technology and Development Committee, and (20) Transportation Committee.

The committees worked for six weeks to present their recommendations to the Plenary. It is from these recommendations, adopted as resolutions, that the Final Conference Report emerged. So, Nigeria is already restructured. What is to be done now is to implement the resolutions contained in Conference Report.

Importantly, Conference Report is to be implemented at three levels. First level contains resolutions only the president can implement by just appending his signature to them. Second level contains resolutions only the National Assembly Plenary can implement by a simple majority vote. And third level contains resolutions Nigerians will give effect to by voting in a plebiscite. President Jonathan was stampeded out of office and never given the time to implement Conference Report; which his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, refused to work on.

Conclusion

The latest attempt to review the military imposed Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) appears an exercise in futility. The ruling class is well aware of this hence its liberality in allowing poor Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu to handle it. Kalu is an Igbo man from Abia.

The tribalists who control the mechanics of power will never allow an Igbo man preside over an all-important constitution review, if it is real. The whole truth is that this review is not necessary as the 2014 Conference took care of constitutional defects. Just implement the report.

But assuming what we are seeing is real, will the recommendations of the Kalu-led Committee be implemented at the end of the day? Will Nigeria emerge strong enough to check corruption, punish aliens who buy Nigerian citizenship as license to loot the country, punish generals for arming terrorists against citizens, curb the killing of Christians and enthrone equitable distribution of our commonwealth? What institutions will reform the behaviour of the ruling class or will the review only increase the number of laws? The philosopher would say, the more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the republic.

I am not competent enough to speak for 24 million Ijaws constituting Nigerian fourth major nationality. The leaderships of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, and Ijaw Kings and Chiefs are there to state our stand on important national issues. But going by all indications, this review is a red herring and must never be taken seriously by the Ijaw nation.

Nevertheless, I urge Ijaws and friends of the Ijaw nation to endorse the position of the Bayelsa State Elders Council (BSEC), contained in its memorandum on constitution review, dated 3rd April 2024 and signed by Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd) et al and His Royal Majesty King Alfred Diete-Spiff, the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass Kingdom and First Military Governor of Old Rivers State.

.Akamande is Leader of Thought of Izon Ebe.