ABUJA – Some delegates to the National Conference on Wednesday in Abuja identified defects in the 1999 Constitution and previous ones as the sources of the existing challenges confronting Nigeria.
The delegates contributed to the ongoing discussion on President Goodluck Jonathan’s speech at the inauguration of the conference, saying the constitution should be cured of its defects.
Representing the South-South, Prof. Kimse Okoko, said the President’s address noted some contending views which bordered on military intervention, constitution and attitude as the causes of Nigeria’s problems.
“ I am saying that it is the 1999 constitution and other constitutions preceding it that have created the massive problems we have.
“A constitution that arrogates about 60 items to the Federal Government and only about 30 to the States and also making them concurrent.
“In other words, the Federal Government can legislate on all the 90 items in our constitution. How can that be a federal system?
“So that has led to the over concentration of power and wealth at the centre and the consequent do-or-die struggle for power in this country.
“And until we stop that kind of system and until we restructure that kind of system, we will not go anywhere.
“The legal framework, we must provide and therefore, I’m suggesting that there should be a committee set up.
“We have eminent lawyers, members of the senate and that they should be empowered to interface with the National Assembly to ensure that the proceedings of this conference constitute the body of the new constitution.
However, Alhaji Adamu Waziri, representing elder statesmen, raised a Point of Order IX 10 which talked about the use of language by delegates.
It reads: “It shall be out of order to use offensive and insulting language during sitting either at Plenary or in Committees”.
“This Nigerian constitution is what the President who convoked this conference swore to uphold and if the speaker could stand up to applaud the speech of Mr President, it is absolutely indecorous to refer to such a document ’ fraudulent’.
“It might have its short coming and we can use this occasion to correct it.
“Other delegates, who spoke on the defects of the constitution and the need to cure them, included Prof Akin Oyebode, representing Ekiti State and Mike Ozhekhome, representing Federal Government Addendum.
“Nigeria is operating a caricature federalism and the Deputy President of the Senate,(Sen. Ike Ekweremadu), two years ago went to my Law School in Toronto and said Nigeria was running a ’feeding bottle federalism’.
“I think part of our jobs here is to reconfigure and reinvent Nigeria’s federalism so that you will not end up in what happened to a federation where I studied.
“I studied in Ukraine and you know what is going on right now in that federation.
“We need to do the needful in order to rescue the caricature we are operating as federalism,” Oyebode said.
Ozhekhome faulted the concentration of too much power at the centre and advocated a return to true fiscal federalism.
“Let us have true fiscal federalism and every other thing shall be added unto us.
“Let us have true devolution of power and strip the federal government of too much power.
“52 per cent of our national income goes to the federal government, all the states 22 per cent, all the 774 Local Government Areas, 20 per cent,” Ozhekhome said. (NAN)