On-Going Constitutional Review; Civil Rights Council Rejects Another Effort in Futility
Being Text of Press Released by Civil Rights Council on This Day 1st June 2021
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, we have organised this briefing to lend our voice to and state our position on the on-going constitutional review exercise in Nigeria. The Civil Rights Council is a civil society organization committed to the advancement of human rights, rule of law and democracy in Nigeria. As partner and critical stakeholder in the Nigeria project we consider it a responsibility to unequivocally state that the ongoing constitutional review process is nothing but a distraction and an attempt aimed at achieving nothing but to score cheap political points in a failed attempt to win the heart of the Nigerian masses.
No doubt the state of our nation today calls for dialogue, discussions, consensus building etc across the broad spectrum of our polity. This has become increasingly important in view of the lingering national question of which insecurity and separatist agitation top it all.
In the effort to seek for solutions to this national malaise we should be careful not to reinforce it or embark on mere political exercise geared towards marginal amendments that has no fundamental impact in the political system of Nigeria and contribute nothing to resolving the numerous challenges plaguing the country. Bearing in mind our past experiences as a people especially, our history of constitutional engagement, it will be difficult to accept that engaging in another constitutional amendment at this critical point will lead Nigeria through the path of sustainable progress as history is on verge of repeating itself.
It will be recalled that since the return to democracy in 1999, successive governments have convened either a political conference or embarked on constitutional amendment exercise often with credible recommendations. The recent of such effort was the 2014 National Conference with far reaching recommendations on how to address the lingering national question and the numerous socio-political challenges confronting the nation. However, over and over yet lacking in the political will to implement same with such documents abandoned like some national historical monuments in official quarters.
The nation is in precarious situation, today as a nation, we are confronted with the twin crisis of insecurity and mass poverty and misery, both of which have reached pandemic proportions. No single part of the country is safe and secure. It is also not a coincidence that mass poverty; mass misery; joblessness; collapse of livelihoods means, systems and opportunities; homelessness; levels of collapse of basic social services in education, health, housing etc; rising energy costs – fuel & electricity; and intensifying levels, scope, and degree of violent crimes and insecurity; are currently at their highest levels, not only in living memory, but also in our history. The combined effect of these crises have continued to fuel agitation, ranging from separatism to call for restructuring etc by different segments of the society and with the possibility of the situation degenerating into anarchy if the right approach is not taken.
The various shades of separatism are embedded in the demand for resource control which is born out of the general feeling of alienation and dissatisfaction among the various constituents of the federal constituents of Nigerian federation, a situation that has deepened mistrust, fuel insecurity and incentivized separatist agenda. The body language of the Buhari-led administration towards favouring some sect or tribes (Fulani) at the expense of the rest of the country has resulted in massive breakdown of law and order particularly as Nigerians begin to see the need to defend their territory against Fulani invasion and possible ploy to grab their lands for dominance.
Issues around poor policing has aggravated the stability of the nation. Rather than the police being agent of peace, protecting lives and properties by maintaining law and order, the Nigerian Police has become a tool for oppression and agents of distabilization under the Buhari-led Administration. The Nigeria police has killed more law-abiding citizens in the recent times that the armed bandits. They have suppressed more citizens who were merely exercising their constitutional rights than even under the military. The have violated citizens’ rights than any other state coercive apparatus thereby sliding the country into tyranny. Just yesterday, Omoyele Sowore was shot in a premeditated manner by a police woman who claimed they have judicial order to disperse peaceful protesters at Unity Fountain in Abuja, while other protesters were molested and manhandled for simply gathering to exercise their fundamental right. All of these have contributed to the demand for restructuring, the call sovereign national conference to pave way for self-determination.
Constitutional amendment in our opinion cannot address this myriad of problems confronting the nation, particularly as successive governments in Nigeria have demonstrated zero political will to implement the numerous recommendations of past constitutional review process and National conferences. It is with this reality that we strongly object to the wasting of tax payers’ money on another jamboree of a constitutional review. The alternative is to organise or spare-head a referendum for the creation of a totally new constitution, initiated by Nigerians and acceptable to all the socio-political, religious and cultural constituents.
We also recommend that instead of wasting scare resources to continuous and limitless embark of constitutional conferences and amendment processes, the ruling class should dig out several of our past efforts, examine their contents and recommendations and muster the political will to implement them.
Our nation, though evolving, has shown by experience that the same and similar problems hunt our national dreams at each epoch and time. These same problems could and do possess diverse manifestation but requiring the same answers. In the light of this development we should be proactive to seek for solutions inwardly through credible responses by the Nigerian people in times past.
We call on the present administration to muster the political will and courage to go down memory lane to implement already preferred solutions instead of allowing the nation to go around in circles in a journey to nowhere of seasonal constitutional amendments. That way we must have solved one permanently one problem. The culture of constitutional amendment with corruption and bad politics that go with it.