Thursday, 21 June 2007
Nigeria Needs Constitutional Amendments
and Electoral Reforms NOW!
By Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Nigeria is already a country, and I have no doubt at all, about that.
There is equally no doubt, about the Nigerian-ness of all Nigerians, even the ones, who have just been made by the United Nations’ International Court, join Cameroon from Bakassi Peninsula! They still think themselves, Nigerians! It therefore appears, to be a distraction and a complete waste of time for Nigerians, who have been Nigerians, all our lives, to start engage in useless ambiguities and silly prevarication, about our Nigerian-ness.
Nigeria’s current challenges in the area of rules, have essentially, to do with how we govern ourselves. In my view therefore, Nigeria now, urgently needs a constitutional amendment that will expunge the immunity from prosecution clause, as enshrined in section 308 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999. This amendment to expunge and excise the immunity clause, it will remove and put to rest, the vexatious cloak and shield that some elected officials have turned into impunity of actions and into a sorts of protection racket, for their corruption, pillaging and plundering of Nigeria’s public treasuries, at both local and national levels.
Additionally, Nigeria crucially need reformations in our electoral laws, this should be carried out conscientiously and meticulously, even as speedily and most rapidly, as a national priority, especially, as a consequence of the uproarious outcome of the April 2007 general elections in Nigeria, which were, to say the least, adjudged imperfect by general acclaim and consensus.
A constitutional amendment may also address rotational presidency. A rotational presidency or such other arrangements, that assures, and ensures, that all Nigerians are vested in the outcome of Nigeria. All actions and every lawful actions, that are reasonable, must be undertaken to guarantee a sense of belonging by all Nigerians.
No Nigerian or group of Nigerians or geopolitical subdivision of Nigeria, must be made to feel marginalized, or irrelevant in the Nigerian national scheme of things. All Nigerians therefore, must be assured and reassured, of each and every Nigeria’s geopolitical subdivisions’ substantive, significance or importance, and relevance to the over health, wealth and happiness of the continued corporate existence of Nigeria nation. We must elicit every Nigerians’ continued commitment and dedication to Nigeria.
Having an abiding faith in one Nigeria, with my unflinching loyalty, support and unyielding dedication, I am therefore very impatient with those, who continue to insist on "restructuring" through their adamant insistence on an extra-constitutional, so-called Sovereign National Conference, they seem, in my view to be engaging in exercises in futility.
Nigeria’s current challenges, most of them, are as a result of Nigeria’s past challenges. These challenges can be addressed through vigorous and very robust constitutional amendments and electoral law reforms.
These do not require a "restructuring" or dismantling of Nigeria. Nigerians must endeavor to make Nigeria a nation of laws. This will be accomplished with following, willingly, the arduous, slow and nearly tortuous process of law making, law reforms and the enforcements of such laws. This is like the rule of law and due process debate, all over again. The processes may be slow, but in the end, it is best bet!
Nigeria has a sitting national assembly of representatives of our cities, towns and villages. Representatives of the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Nigerians must let the national assembly respond to the anomalous situations and challenges, in which we have found ourselves and our nation. It is anarchical to do otherwise.
Our national assembly should on their own, immediately proceed to amend the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, so that the current crop of public office holders, would not and cannot, hide under the current immunity clause, to engage in impunities and corrupt practices, similar to the egregious levels to which we are all witnesses, during the preceding eight years!
The functions of sitting national assembly, encompasses, the making of new laws, the reforms of old laws or such other amendments and fine-tuning of statutes, rules and regulations, of how Nigerian entities and our corporate existence are managed.
Any Nigerian or group of Nigerians, are at liberty to raise constitutional issues with their elected representatives, such as House of Representative member, and or through a Senator and the other sundry retinues of elected officials at all levels.
Nigerians who wish for true democracy, must learn to practice democracy. Democracy is a representative government. Nigerians should learn to make our representatives accountable. We must learn to approach our ward councilors, and their colleagues and the chairperson, also known as local government council chair.
We should learn to approach our representatives or members of houses of assemblies. We must learn the distinctions between local, state and federal issues and the laws governing them.
There are many issues that are purely local, and can be resolved through our ward representative councilor, in conjunction with her colleagues at the local council and with the chairperson. Only when and if difficulties arise, then, it may be necessary to approach a house of assembly member of our area.
House of assembly members are scheduled and are therefore expected to deal, primarily, with state issues , in conjunction with other house of assembly members of the particular state house of assembly and upwards to the governor. Nigerians must make house of assembly members and governors, accountable.
Our representatives at all levels, are expected, as a matter of course, to perform their scheduled duties, or we can constitutionally pressure them do or perform their duties and carry out their functions.
At the national level, house of representative members are the members of the lower house in a bicameral system as we have in Nigeria. On national issues, the legislators to contact, are therefore, both the house of representative members and senators, as senators are of course the members of the upper house in our bicameral legislatures arrangements. It is sorts of arithmetical in progression.
The best way to achieve all the things that a proposed Sovereign National Conference can "possibly" hope to and attempt to achieve.... is through vigorous constitutional amendments, intensive and extensive law reforms.
Nigeria's National Assembly Nigeria is law making body! It's functions are primarily, to make new laws and amend or fine-tune old laws etc... so, let our National Assembly engage is series of Constitutional Amendments as a priority or first order of national business. Let there be extensive Law Reforms, instead of the nonsense called Sovereign National Conference! There are many competent Nigerians in our national assembly, who can act as catalyst and positive driving forces, to accomplish the aforementioned, and, desirably necessary amendments and reforms. Why would anyone then, clamor for anything else? Such as National Conferences, sovereign or not? What became of NPRC, anyways? Wasn’t it just another discordant cacophonies of disparate voices, which resulted in nothing?
I have been opposed to a National Conference, Sovereign or not, I remain opposed to it, primarily, because, I believe it unconstitutional or extra-constitutional. And it will be a huge waste of taxpayers money and a colossal waste of time and energy. For starters, how would the advocates and agitators, for such conference or talk-shop, select or appoint members to a Sovereign National Conference?
Would it perhaps be through INEC or some similar organ of government or machinery?
Or perhaps through "royal-fathers and royal-mothers" from all the states of the federation? SNC members, will assuredly, come from the current process, which is the source of distrust even now? What is so constitutional about such a process? And there is nothing democratic in it, either! An SNC is essentially a reduplication of the functions of Nigeria’s National Assembly!
Wouldn’t Nigerians and Nigeria, be better served therefore, to engage in Electoral Act reforms? And have an INEC or its successor, conduct elections that are fraud-free, irregularities-free and thereby producing, elected representatives that are truly so, and, in the truest sense of the word?
Once we have, free and fair elections, we would have representatives that we can trust, as un-compromised and un-mortgaged. Hence, elected representatives that are responsive to the yearnings of the electorate. Representatives who are accountable, willing, ready and able to do the heavy-lifting, on behalves of the entire electorate.
Isn’t that the democracy and the Nigeria we all want?
Why then must some Nigerians waste precious time and scarce resources in their persisting demand for SNC or "restructuring"?
What is the constitutional provision for Sovereign National Conference? How would the result/report from such caucus be implemented?
Nigeria's democracy may be imperfect or flawed now, but, I strongly believe that the best cure for any imperfect democracy, is more democracy! Nigerians must follow the processes to the promised-land
Nigerians must therefore say no to the so-called Sovereign National Conference or any make-shift or any other ad-hoc arrangements, outside the purview of the Constitution of Nigeria
All Nigerians now, must demand, insist and even pressure, our representatives at all levels, sort of hierarchically, to ensure that the enumerated constitutional amendments and electoral reforms are pursued urgently, and as matter of national priorities, so that, the business pursuing and attaining common good, and the greater good of all Nigerians can begin.
After all, it what it is all about, this is what we mean, when we talk of the development, advancement and greatness of our country, Nigeria!