“If we fail in finding a solution to our political and constitutional problem, then anybody can say that Nigeria will soon come to an end. Everybody will go on his own way.”
-Late Chief FRA Williams (SAN).
The rationale behind the above view expressed by the late legal luminary while presenting an amendment bill proposed by a group of eminent Nigerians under the aegis of PATRIOTS in the year 2001 still subsists till today. This is because the 1999 Constitution is fraught with many inadequacies and contains some ambiguities and rough edges which need to be straightened and sharpened.
And since 1999 when the constitution came into operation, it has generated a lot of controversies among Nigerians, especially among the six geo-political zones of the country. But for the judiciary which has helped to illuminate some of the grey areas and dark alleys of the constitution, Nigeria perhaps would have been throw into deep constitutional crisis.
In a book written by Chief Omowale Kuye, former permanent secretary and Director of Budget during the Babangida regime titled “A review of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Chief Kuye stated that the 1999 Constitution is the strangest federal document ever produced anywhere in the world. It was in realization of this that several attempts have been made to review the 1999 Constitution. The first attempt was in 2001 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the presidential committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution. This exercise was, however aborted.
Another attempt was made in 2006 when the Senator Ibrahim Mantu led Constitution Review Committee gallivanted around the six geo-political zones in the country collating peoples’ views on the areas of amendment in the 1999 Constitution. Sadly, the zonal presentation of what later appeared as an orchestrated amendment turned out to be a grandiloquent deception, while the Mantu led review committee itself was a fool’s errand, or better still a carrot used to keep politicians busy and perpetuate Obasanjo’s government in power under the guise of ‘third term.’
Recently however, another constitution review committee headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu was inaugurated by President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. The brief of the committee was to look at the 1999 Constitution, and with a tooth comb, fish out grey areas that require amendment for the good governance of the country.
Two weeks ago, the Ekweremadu led Senate committee embarked on the zonal public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution. At the two day South-South public hearing in Port Harcourt on December 14 and 15, some of the issues that generated public concern and discontent include electoral reform, system of government, power succession, inequitable number of States, power and revenue sharing, resource control, Land Use Act and the problem of militancy in the Niger Delta, among others.
In the submission of the government and people of Rivers State, they faulted Nigeria’s system of governance, describing it as unitary. In the submission presented by the Rivers State governor, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the Rivers people contended that the present system of governance concentrates enormous power on the federal government to the detriment of the State governments. They hinged the thrust of their position on the need for Nigeria to practice true federalism whereby the federating units would be controlling their resources and pay taxes to the central government. They therefore urged the constitutional review committee to amend section 44 (3) and the proviso to section 162 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which vest the control and management of every resources under or upon any land in Nigeria, or in, under or upon the territorial waters on the federal government.
Delta State in its own submission also argued that the overbearing unitary provisions of the 1999 Constitution diminishes substantially the spirit and letters of the federalism, as envisaged by the founding fathers of the country; and that it has left the States of the Niger Delta prostrate and appendage of the federal government. The State therefore demanded for the radical review of the 1999 constitution, especially sections 4, 5 and 6 and all obnoxious laws such as the Petroleum Act and the Land Use Act, etc to enthrone true federalism and fiscal federalism.
Resource control in particular has been a major source of disagreement between the Niger Delta States and the federal government, and for which many indigenes of the area including the reknown environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wia have paid the supreme price. The 1999 Constitution does not provide enough autonomous for State governments and their people to control their natural resources. There is also insufficient legal framework to promote and sustain the socio-economic aspiration of the people and environment.
Another issue that generated concern of the South-South people is the Land Use Act. Section 315 (5) of the Constitution puts the Land Use Act as well as other laws mentioned therein, on the same level as the Constitution such that they can only be amended in accordance with the provisions of section 9 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
In a presentation made by the Ijaw National Congress (INC), it demanded the expurgation of section 315 (5) and the Land Use Act from the 1999 constitution.
According to the INC president, Dr A. W. Obianime (JP), it was undemocratic to dispossess Nigerians of their lands through the instrumentality of what he described as a “wicked Land Use Act.”
The Rivers government in its own views proposed that the saving provisions of section 315 (5) as it relates to the Land Use Act should be amended, by deleting section 315 (5) (d) of the Constitution.
On the local government reforms, the South South contends that since the local government areas (LGAs) fall within the territory and control of the States, the State governments should have powers to create local government areas as they dim fit without recourse to the National Assembly as is presently provided for in the 1999 Constitution. The Rivers State government therefore urged the Constitution Review Committee to amend sections 3 (6) and 162 (3), while section 162 (5 & 7) be deleted.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) anchored its own submission on electoral reform. According to the NLC, the 1999 Constitution should be amended to ensure transparency of the electoral process, right from the composition of the electoral commission, the registration process, voting procedure, custody of the electoral materials after election, among others. It said that because the composition of the electoral commission is “crucial to the conduct of a legitimate, credible, acceptable, free and fair election,” the commission should be genuinely independent and autonomous, while the commission’s financing should be charged to the consolidated revenue fund.
This position was supported by a non-governmental organization, Coalition for Change. The coalition said that the INEC should be made a national body, (and not a federal executive body) that would not be subject to manipulations, whims and caprices of either the president or the political party in power.
The NLC added that because the existing voting procedure is fraught with many inadequacies and open to fraudulent manipulations, the modified open-secret ballot system should be adopted, where voters would be counted to ensure that the number of voters do not exceed the accredited voters.
The Delta State in its own views on the electoral reform, posited that sections 178 and 179 of the constitution be amended such that the election of a governor would be conducted by the Electoral Commission, while electoral disputes relating to the election of State governors would be resolved by State Electoral Tribunal, with the High Court as the appellate and final court to determine electoral disputes.
Other identified shortcomings in the 1999 Constitution include sections 68 (1) (g) and 109 (1) (g) which provide for cross-carpeting to another political party after a person had been elected on the platform of a political party. The Coalition for Change, in its proposal said it is immoral and unconscionable to transfer the mandate given to one political party to another party that was defeated in an election. It contended that the mandate given by the electorates belongs to the political party and not the individuals and therefore cannot be transferred.
According to the coalition, the hopes, ideals and aspirations of the electorates would be dashed when the persons elected on the platform of a particular political party decamp to another party. It therefore sought the amendment of sections 68 (1) (g) and 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution.
The clamour for the federal legislature to address the shortcomings in the Nigerian constitution has been a growing one dating back to the inception of the current democratic dispensation. And the Deputy Senate President accepted that previous attempts by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution had been unsuccessful. The just concluded zonal hearings across the six geo-political zones in the country therefore were to give the Nigerian people, especially the people at the grassroot a renewed platform to once again ventilate their views on the 1999 Constitution.
But wouldn’t the Ekweremadu led Senate committee fall into the pitfalls of past exercises? This is a question only time can answer.
What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?
As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met. So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.
By: Calista Ezeaku
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria
In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim, according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan, explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area – career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him, it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency, points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should have courage and confidence in taking risks within organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population – mainly women – economically unviable.
A First Bank customer, Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN – benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
“If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to enhance gender parity.
By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
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