• Give 90-day ultimatum for talks
Prominent Nigerian leaders have faulted the 1999 Constitution describing it as being skewed in favour of the northern region.
The eminent leaders, which include former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, Second Republic Senator, Prof. Banji Akintoye, erstwhile President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air, Senator Anietie Okon, leader of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, professor of religion, Prof. Yusuf Turaki, among others, yesterday, in a communiqué issued after a virtual meeting held in Lagos, said unless the Constitution was changed, Nigeria may not come out of its present challenges.
To drive home their arguments, the eminent leaders also petitioned the United Nations Security Council, African Union (AU), European Union (EU), United States of America and the British Government, harping on the need for Nigeria to urgently convoke a Sovereign National Conference to discuss Nigeria’s constitutionality and the 1914 Amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Nigeria within 90 days. This, they insisted, is the only means to save the people from oppression, stagnation and squalor.
The leaders, numbering 127, spoke under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination. They in unison described the 1999 Constitution as a fraud; an impunity, hijack and a confiscation of the sovereignties, powers and assets of the South and Middle Belt People by those who clandestinely designed it.
The communiqué read: “We gather here this day as accredited delegates of the Constituent Component Nationalities of Nigeria, under the aegis of Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination, being a Joint-Cooperation Framework for the Self-Determination Initiatives of the Southern and Middle-Belt of Nigeria on behalf of our various peoples and interests, to pronounce an end to our toleration of Nigeria’s Unitary Constitutional Order, Unilaterally Imposed and Forcefully Maintained by a section of the Nigerian country, in negation of the federal basis upon which Nigeria became one political union at independence in 1960, and in brutal subjugation of our collective sovereignties currently being forcefully and fraudulently appropriated by the Nigerian State.
“We gather here today before the global community, to formally proclaim a sovereignty dispute in rejection of the further operation of the imposed, unitary constitutional arrangements of Nigeria and in assertion of our inalienable right to self-determination.
“The history of the colonial beginnings of Nigeria as a commercial venture of some colonial masters is too well-known to admit any further repetitions here but suffice it to recall that the manipulations that went into the flawed foundations laid in the 1914 Amalgamation of the Protectorates of Southern Nigeria with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, created a lopsided union, locking the diverse peoples of Nigeria into one political union with two mortally opposed civilizations.
• That as Independence approached in 1960, the diversities of the various peoples of the Nigerian union dictated the adoption of the Federal Constitutional model by the then three largely autonomous regions, namely Eastern, Western and Northern regions of Nigeria, as the basis of entering into Independence as one Political Union in 1960.
• That amidst the early strains of post-Independence Nigeria arising mainly from the aforementioned foundational and pre-Independence manipulations by the colonial rulers of the Nigerian union, the military coups of 1966 truncated the Federal Constitutional basis and plunged the fledgling union into a catastrophic 30-month war with its breakaway Eastern region between 1967 and 1970, triggered by disputations around the terms of the Nigerian union and leaving in its trail, human carnage in excess of three million people and a fractured union now resting on an unworkable unitary Constitutional order Imposed in 1979, by the fiat of the illicit Federal Government, which emerged since 1966.
• That the prevailing 1999 Constitution, which was a wholesale adoption of the 1979 edition via Decree No. 24 of 1999, revalidated and reinforced the aforementioned hijack and confiscation of the sovereignties, powers and assets of the four erstwhile federating regions by the aforementioned illicit Federal Government.”
The leaders also said there is a countrywide consensus against the unitary constitutional arrangements imposed incrementally on Nigeria by a combination of guile, brute force and impunity between 1966 and 1999, now codified by the 1999 Constitution, saying, the countrywide consensus had manifested in several unilateral regional and joint multi-regional actions in repudiation and rejection of the 1999 Constitution.
According to them, “the first indication was when in 2000, the 12 contiguous states of the far North, simultaneously imposed and began to implement Sharia law in their three domains against the express provision of the 1999 Constitution, which in Section 10, forbids the adoption of any state religion. This translates to a unilateral secession from the secular union of Nigeria.
“Between 2005 and 2006, a Sovereign Conference of the Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria, convened by the Pro-National Conference Organizations (PRONACO), deliberated exhaustively and produced a Draft Peoples’ Constitution 2006, which had the potential of restoring Nigeria to its damaged federal foundations. Though ignored by successive Federal Governments, that draft became the New Federating consensus against the prevailing unitary Constitutional order in Nigeria.
“It is pertinent to note that across all the regions of Nigeria, various socio-cultural and ethnic-interests vanguard organisations have also been vehement in expressing the Constitutional grievances of their people, (some even violently), thus on the Yoruba side, we have the Afenifere, the Yoruba Elders Council (YCE), Agbekoya, the Yoruba Liberation Command, (YOLICOM), YWC and more, including the ILANA OMO OODUA, which now aggregates several Yoruba self-determination initiatives across the world.
“In the Eastern part of Southern Nigeria, we have Ohanaeze, Movement for the Survival of the Ijaw Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND); Ijaw National Congress, (INC); Ijaw Youth Council (IYC); PANDEF, Midwest Movement, the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, (NDPVF), MEND, MASSOB, IPOB, others. In the Middle-Belt, we have the Middle-Belt Forum, (MBF), MBC, SOKAPU, CONAECDA and many others.
“Several notable statesmen in Nigeria including Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Yakubu Gowon, both former Heads of State, have lent their voices to the urgent imperative of the fundamental reworking of the damaged Constitutional basis of Nigeria, warning that any further delay may lead to the catastrophic collapse of the distressed Nigerian union.
“Nigeria’s former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), had also urged the Indigenous Peoples of Nigeria facing ethnic cleansing onslaught of the murderous invaders to defend themselves and their lands in the face of obvious collusion of the Federal Government and its Armed Forces with the Fulani invaders. In the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS protests many, including the Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), now insist that Nigeria needs to be renegotiated.”
The leaders added that on specific constitutional grievances touching on the sovereignties of the constituent components of the federation of Nigeria, the leaders said: “The claim in the Preamble to the 1999 Constitution that ‘We the People’ Firmly and Solemnly Resolved to live in One Political Union and that we Enacted and Gave Ourselves the 1999 Constitution, is self-evidently false as the Decree No 24 of 1999 by which the so-called 1999 Constitution was Promulgated, outlined step-by-step, the Process by which the author of the 1999 Constitution, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, came about the Document it labeled “the 1999 Constitution. This is a criminal usurpation of the sovereignties of the constituent components whose Exclusive Right it is to make for themselves the Constitution by which they will federate and be governed, as an incident of their sovereignty.
“Even by the admission of the 1999 Constitution at Section 14(2)(a), Sovereignty belongs to the People, from whom, Government, through this Constitution Derives all its Powers and Authority.
“This is the fountain from which all other constitutional grievances flow and there is no other remedy to this particular grievance than an autochthonous process by which the constituent components will submit their peoples and their lands into a union, and also stipulate the terms of that union, to be ratified by referendums and plebiscites.”
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