While many in Nigeria are strongly of the understanding that ethnic nationalities have the ultimate legal right to break away from the country drawing on comparison from other countries, this is not entirely accurate. In fact, the Nigerian Constitution does not back secession, Article 2 of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria is clear on this which firmly states; Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the federal Republic of Nigeria.
International Law does not encourage separatist agitation either. It is a trite in International Law that cases of self-determination are totally an internal matter of states and international legal instruments further recognize the creation of new states, only when it transpires through nonviolent means, most especially when the existing state approve of it. This presupposes that the internal constitution of a sovereign country is the guiding principle on the question of secession.
At the height of economic and political crisis in the 90’s, Boris Yeltson, the Soviet Union President dissolved the Union in to 15 states after the Soviet Union itself recognizes that these countries are illegally annexed in opposition to the desires of their people and immediately withdrew its occupation forces from the countries starting with the Baltic states after granting them independence. The point here is that these states gained their independence not through secession but by peaceful agitation and negotiation and the parent state (Soviet Union) recognizes it.
Arguments of referendums in other countries leading to secession have also been a subject of debate in Nigeria, prompting separatist groups like IPOB to demand for referendums to be conducted not minding that the Nigerian constitution has no referendum clause.
Referendum was organized in Sudan in 2011 simply because the country’s constitution has a referendum clause which permits South – Sudan to leave if they want to. Article 219 of Sudan’s constitution of 2005 states; the people of Southern Sudan shall have the right to have self determination through a referendum to determine their future status. After the referendum was conducted, over 98% of South – Sudanese people voted in favor of independence, and they rightfully splinted from Sudan.
In the case of Canada which operate a confederacy government and tolerate the right to separation in its constitution after referendum, the French-speaking Quebec side of the country has been historically seeking for independence and referendum has been conducted twice for them in 1980 and 1995 to break away which failed with majority opting to remain in the Union.
The rule is clear in the situation of secession, both in Nigerian law and International law including how separatist groups are successful in other countries.
It is therefore advisable for IPOB and other pro-independence assemblages in the country to toe the path of political solution and constitutional amendment, rather than resorting to violence and attacking government infrastructures.
Olajide can be reached via