Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Nwodo, Momoh tackle Northern elders over opposition to constitution review

Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Middle Belt Leaders Forum, former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, former information minister, Prince Tony Momoh; former Enugu governor, Okwesilieze Nwodo and former foreign affairs minister, Dubem Onyia, yesterday, faulted the opposition of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to the proposed alteration of the 1999 Constitution scheduled to begin at the National Assembly soon.

NEF had berated the Senate over the planned review of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), noting that the initiative was repetitive, waste of time, resources and energy, and would not be beneficial to Nigerians.

The Senate ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, had called for submission of memorandum within two weeks to assist in furthering alteration of the provisions of the constitution to meet the needs of Nigerians.

But NEF’s Director, Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, at a media parley, in Abuja, yesterday, contended that since 1999, the National Assembly had come up with such schemes under the guise of repositioning the constitution to meet the yearnings of Nigerians, but ended up swindling citizens.

Baba-Ahmed called on northerners to reject the mission, adding that funds voted for the scheme should be channelled into tackling poverty, kidnappers and bad governance.

“The North wants a major review of the Constitution, but it is also ready to resist attempts to create wealth for a few while it leaves parts of the country to quarrel and blame each other for the state of the nation.”

He advised the National Assembly to “directs it energy and mandate towards convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to bring an end to the insurgency in the North East and killings in most parts of North Central and North-West and other parts of the country.”

But Wabara, Nwodo, Onyia, Afenifere and others told Daily Sun in separate interviews that the present Nigerian Constitution was at the root of all the major problems plaguing the country.

Therefore, they stated that any person or group opposed to its review did not wish the country well.

They said the fresh move to review the 1999 Constitution should be geared towards a restructuring of the country and devolution of power to the federating units.

Wabara said: “If really we believe in Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution is not a people’s constitution. It was made by the military. And constitution is the highest authority in any nation. So, for the Northern Elders Forum to say it means that they don’t have regard for the South and Nigeria as a whole.  What they are saying is that they should be no restructuring.”

Similarly, Nwodo stated that the 1999 Constitution begins with a lie and the National Assembly should take steps to correct the critical flaws.

“We are expecting the National Assembly to correct the critical areas, which primarily is the restructuring of the country, devolution of power to the federating units. We cannot be answering a federation, when we have a unitary government.  So, there is a reason to amend the constitution.

“I do not even think that the piecemeal arrangement that the National Assembly does from time to time is enough. A lot of work was done by the last national conference.  And what we need is implementation; how to take what was agreed by all Nigerians at the national conference.  Let the National Assembly formalise it. Let us adopt a new constitution based on that conference. “

Afenifere, which spoke through its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, noted that with its position, it was obvious NEF did not want the country to make progress.

“It is because they prefer a backward Nigeria to a working Nigeria. The constitution that we have in Nigeria is not workable. The constitution is the cause of lack of peace and progress in Nigeria. We need a brand-new constitution for Nigeria.  It is only those who are not for the progress of Nigeria that will be against such.

“We need a federal constitution. Nigeria should be a federal republic.  We should have a federal constitution. We should have a constitution where for instance when we have Amotekun in the South and the IGP, who cannot run good police, will be breathing down the neck of the South West and saying that he wants to control it at all cost; that is not federalism.   We need a proper constitution in every sense of it, where the central government and the federating units are coordinates.  Not one being subjected to the other.”

Onyia added: “This country needs to be restructured. The northern people,  if they  don’t want us in Nigeria,  let them tell us.  In a situation where there is no equity in the system, it means some people don’t want a united Nigeria.  We cannot be in a place where we will be subservient. There must be equity.  And the only  way we can do it is to restructure the country.”

Former information minister, Prince Momoh, said NEF cannot go against the constitution amendment, considering the security situation in the country today.

Momoh argued that the constitution right from the days of Lord Fredrick Lugard has always been reviewed to meet the prevailing circumstance at any material time. He insisted that a situation where the president had powers to legislate on 93 areas in the Exclusive and Concurrent legislative lists was too much in a federation of more than 300 nationality groups.

The president of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, said the present constitution was defective and did not address Nigeria’s problems. He said those opposed to its amendment were doing so because they were benefiting from it.

He proposed that the National Assembly revisits the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference and add them to the constitutional amendment.

The 2014 conference has provided and proffered solutions to Nigeria’s problem that would make us move forward.

“They want all the confusion to continue because they thrive on it. There is need for constitutional review and there is need to revisit the 2014 constitutional conference recommendations because it addressed most of Nigeria’s problems and if it is adopted and brought into the constitution, it would be a people’s constitution and we would be better for it”, he said.

But the president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, defended NEF.

According to him, what the group meant was that “reviewing the constitution at this point in time will not serve any useful purpose since the past exercise never produced any meaningful result.” – The Sun.


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