Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu
, has made a radical call for a new Nigerian constitution, which will evolve from the will of the people and not be foisted on Nigerians like the present 1999 Constitution.
According to Ikpeazu, the new Constitution will restructure the country and devolve more powers to the federating units, entrench resource control by the states, establish federal, state, and local government police formations and be more responsive to the protection of the rights of all citizens, as well as provide a level playing field where all Nigerians will be treated equally.
He also stated that the major fundamental flaw of the present constitution is that it lacks the ownership of the people, which is a key ingredient that clothes constitutions with the requisite legitimacy.
While elucidating on the sources of Lawmaking, the governor noted that the road to a proper constitution involves processes through which the voice and views of the people can be found, which he said could be through conferences, referenda, Acts of parliament, Judicial precedents, customs of the people, conventions, etc.
Drawing inferences from constitutions of other countries like the USA, Argentina, South Africa, Tanzania, amongst others, he added what we currently have is a constitution handed down by military fiat, complete with all the nuances of totalitarianism with a very powerful President, Governors and even Local Government Chairmen across the country.
“This military mindset is the reason for the unduly concentration of powers in the federal government in areas where it ordinarily has no business with.
“This needless concentration of powers in the federal government especially in the areas of security, revenue generation, and allocation, resource control has stifled growth in the states and local governments, making them “parasitic appendages of a powerful federal government.
“A situation where states look forward to monthly receipts from Abuja has killed hard work and initiatives, recalling the first Republic when the regions thrived well when they were quasi-independent,” he said.
On Security matters, the governor decried a situation where a state Governor in Nigeria cannot take actions to manage an urgent security issue because by virtue of the proviso to Section 215 (4) of the Constitution, adding that the commissioner of Police in a state may request that a matter be referred to the President or minister.
According to him, the existence of a single national Police outfit is at variance with a federal system of Government and has led to the establishment of vigilante outfits by different states across the country and other forms of security and traffic management teams.
Commenting on the resource control in Nigeria, Ikpeazu that some offices of Federal Government in Abuja, hand out licenses to people to exploit mineral resources in states without recourse to the states; and even the local communities where these sites are located, after which the communities are abandoned with grave environmental problems.
He also faulted the provisions of the present constitution for failing to provide proper qualification for leadership in Nigeria, wondering why a modern constitution in the 21st Century, would prescribe a School Certificate as a qualification for the office of President.
“Our present constitution, the Governor noted, is not autochthonous and as such is incapable of commanding the requisite quantum of social mobilization required to move forward, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country like Nigeria,” Ikpeazu added.
Governor Ikpeazu further suggested that young Nigerians between the ages of 20 and 35 be invited from both the diaspora and locally, drawn from different professions – engineering, law, security, arts, education, architecture, economics, artisanship, etc to sit down and craft a new vision for the country, explaining that their inputs can be inculcated into new efforts towards a people’s constitution.
The event attracted an array of dignitaries like; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who joined virtually while Acting Canadian High Commissioner, Ambassador Nicolas Simmard delivered the opening address.
Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke was also a speaker at the event which also featured panel discussions.