• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s constitution: Matters arising (Part 1)

The henchmen’s henchmen

Saying that Nigeria’s constitution is long overdue for overhauling and that it did not come into existence through the people’s consent is platitudinous now. And today, calling for the jettisoning of Nigeria’s constitution is a singsong in our dear country. So let us bear this in mind: vox populi vox dei. It means that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

But to say that our country’s constitution is long overdue for change is to say the whole and incontrovertible truth. So, in this context, the right thing to do is to discard our constitution. That is why it has become imperative for us to discard the current Nigerian constitution and make a new one as soon as possible.

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Among the things said against the Nigerian constitution is that it is more unitarian than federalist. Yet Nigeria is believed to be a federal nation-state. Given Nigeria’s heterogeneous nature, federalism is the type of government that is suitable for our country. And it needs a truly federal constitution to take care of its complexities and diversities. So the strident calls for the discarding of our constitution should be heeded based on the arguments and reasons, which I have adduced below.

Nigeria, as it is currently constituted, is too big to be ruled from the centre. Therefore, the sub-national governments should be strengthened and empowered, constitutionally, to perform some of the functions listed in the exclusive list. This will enable them to play big roles in our national development and in the maintenance of law and order in the country. The sub-national governments’ existence as mere appendages to the central government does not augur well for our country.

The true practice of federalism in Nigeria will hinge on our having a true federal constitution. And that will lead to the devolution and decentralisation of power, with local governments and state governments having greater autonomy.

The state governments will, then, have the power to execute some matters that were previously on the exclusive list. And the state governments will be constitutionally empowered to control the natural resources that lie beneath their soil. And they should engage in economic activities that will yield money to them to prevent the occurrences and scenarios of state governors going cap-in-hand to beg for financial assistance from the federal government.

So now, the agitations for the creation of more states in the country, which are borne out of the agitators’ self-interests, should not be heeded. Most states in the country are not economically viable; they are always financially insolvent. So why should more states be created?

The creation of more states in Nigeria will cause problems with boundary demarcation and adjustment, the sharing of jointly owned assets, and the creation of more senatorial zones, which will lead to a burgeoning number of National Assembly members. A bloated national legislature will further drain our financial resources.

Rather than create more states in Nigeria, local government areas should be created so as to bring the government closer to the people, who are at the grassroots level. An efficient local government system is a flip to national development. And the local governments should be given autonomy to run their affairs instead of the state governors administering them through political appointees. Sadly, today, the state governors have appointed their cronies and lackeys to perform the functions of local government chairmen on an interim basis. This is, in itself, a democratic aberration or misnomer.

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More so, the matter of the creation of state police should be speedily resolved. Policing Nigeria from the centre is a gargantuan task given the humongous population of Nigeria and her large landmass. Today, Nigeria is grossly under-policed. So having state police forces in Nigeria will be a magic bullet as well as the panacea for our security challenges.

When we have state police forces, police personnel will be deployed in areas with which they are familiar. Those state police personnel can effortlessly gather information and intelligence reports from the locals because they have the same cultural affinities and beliefs as the locals. In today’s world, information and intelligence report gathering is central to the prevention of the perpetration of crimes by hoodlums and the arrest of criminal elements.

But the constitution of Nigeria should, first, be holistically amended or discarded in its entirety before we can execute the measures I advocated and listed above. We need a constitution, which has emanated from the people. And such a constitution should address our national problems and our country’s complexities and diversities.

 

Chiedu Uche Okoye; Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State. 08062220654