- Ndigbo take a stand on restructuring of Nigeria
By JAMES EZE*
The Igbo ethnic nationality of Nigeria rose from their “Summit on the Restructuring of Nigeria” in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, on Monday with a 10-point wish-list seeking a balanced federation that would meet their needs and the needs of other ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The Igbo position on restructuring, which has been re-christened ‘The Ekwueme Square Declaration’, is a tightly knitted 10-point demand for a better Nigeria which opens with a demand for a constitutional conference backed by a law from the National Assembly that would provide a unanimously accepted platform where the diverse peoples of Nigeria would hammer out a new constitution that would be known as “The People’s Constitution.”
Delivering the Declaration at the hugely successful ceremony, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who is the chairman of the organizing committee, stated that the second item on the Igbo demand seeks a slight amendment to the current system of government as it recommends the retention of the presidential system only at the federal level, leaving the regions or states to choose the type of government that is best for them. But perhaps the most audacious demand under this point is that the tenure of the office of the president should be a single term of six years with five vice-presidents representing each of the geopolitical zones except the zone that produced the President. The demand prescribes the same tenure for governors and deputy governors which would be rotated among the senatorial districts.
The third demand asks for six geopolitical zones forming the federating units or six regions of the country. There would therefore be six regional governments, each comprising the current states within each zone and any other state that may be created within the zone from time to time. Each region will have its own constitution, for the good governance, peace and development of the region. Such regional constitutions have to clearly delineate levels of authority between the regional government and the component states (that is, defining powers that are exclusive to the region and powers that are residual to the states). The regional constitutions will not be inconsistent with the constitution of the federation, and will be invalidated to the extent of its inconsistency with the federal constitution.
It seeks a review of the current revenue sharing formula based on local governments to a new structure based on regions. Consequent upon this, the Ekwueme Square Declaration therefore demands an additional state for the south-east zone in line with the 2014 National Conference which states that in the spirit of reconciliation, equity, fair play and justice, a new state should be created in the south-east.
The fourth demand is for equality of all the regions or states that become the federating units, while the fifth insists on the scrapping of the concept of ‘state of origin’ from the constitution to be replaced by the ‘state of residence’. Expounding this concept, the Ekwueme Square Declaration recommends that ‘any child born of Nigerian parents anywhere in Nigeria should acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area at birth. It also recommends that any Nigerian citizen who has resided in any part of Nigeria and paid taxes there for a period of 10 years can acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area, except the right to their traditional stool.
The sixth demand makes a solid case for a two- or three-tier police structure with defined responsibilities that would be controlled by the federal and state or regional governments respectively while the seventh seeks the abrogation of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution which vests control of resources in the federal government. It recommends a truly federal system that gives control of resources to the federal units, vesting ownership rights, control and exploitation of resources in the states. It also argues that the federating units should keep 50% of rents, royalties and profit taxes on minerals from their lands while paying 20% to the regional government and 30% to the federal government.
Demand No. 8 makes a strong case for the replacement of the Federal Character Commission with ‘merit and equal opportunities commission’ to ensure that merit is entrenched in the conduct of national and regional affairs, prescribing that 60% should be reserved for merit and 40% for affirmative action.
The ninth item demands that elections into the office of the president and federal legislature should be conducted by the electoral body of the federal government while elections into regional/state offices should be conducted by electoral bodies set up by the regional/state constitutions or laws.
Finally, the 10th declaration seeks the latitude for federating units to have their own judicial systems with courts of first instance, appellate courts and supreme courts to adjudicate on matters that are in the concurrent and residual lists as well as matters exclusively preserved for the federating units.
Earlier in his welcome address, the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, had recounted that, for 58 years, Ndigbo had worked tirelessly with other Nigerians to lay a foundation for a better federation and a more perfect union.
Also speaking on the occasion, the 91-year-old leader of the Ijaw ethnic nationality, Chief Edwin Clark, observed that Ndigbo had been treated very unkindly by the federal government and wondered why Igbo youths who bore no arms and hurt nobody had to be branded as terrorists.
Chief Clark also blamed the federal government for not giving Ndigbo an additional state as recommended in the 2014 Constitutional Conference and insisted that such denials and deprivations were behind the spate of separatist agitations from the region.
The event also featured moving speeches from the leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; leader of the Middle Belt, Dan Sulaiman; chairman of the occasion Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; and former Nigerian ambassador to Spain Bianca Ojukwu, among many others.
* Eze is the chief press secretary to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State (firstname.lastname@example.org)