By HUGO ODIOGOR, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & WAHAB ABDULAH
CONTROVERSIES ruled the polity, yesterday, over whether or not Nigeria will cease to exist as a legal entity after 12 midnight today.
A conglomeration of ethnic nationality groups said going by the Amalgamation Treaty of January 1, 1914, which joined Northern and Southern protectorates to create Nigeria with a life span of 100 years, the country will expire at 12 a.m. today.
Professor Akin Oyebode, a lawyer, said Nigeria will not expire because the amalgamation was not put in place by a treaty, but by an order in council by the British Parliament.
Oyebode has a soul mate in legal icon, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), who argued that there was no law that automatically gives a treaty 100 years life span.
However, the ethnic nationalities, which included Federation of Oodua People, Middle Belt Congress, Lower Niger Congress and Oporoza House, which congregated on the banner of Movement for New Nigeria, MNN, insisted that Nigeria would become history after today and urged all Nigerians to embrace the national conference to agree on fresh terms of co-existing.
They spoke at a briefing held at Freedom Park, Lagos. Present at the briefing were Elder Fred Agbeyegbe, Co-coordinator; Tony Nnadi, Secretary-General; Mrs Hilda Dokubo, Timi Kaiser Ogoriba, Chief Dan Ekpebide, Abuka Onalo, Ambah Binaebi, Shade Olukoya and Leye Akinmodiro.
On nat’l dialogue, 2015
They urged President Goodluck Jonathan to speed up the national dialogue, warning that it would be disastrous to hold the 2015 elections without a new constitution emerging from a national conference.
They said: “The mention of 2015 in Nigeria’s political discourse instantly evokes two ominous conjectures. One is the haunt of the US intelligence prediction that Nigeria will disintegrate before 2015.
“The other very bloody prospect swirls around the 2015 electoral round in which a northern politician assumes that there would be trouble if the elections are rigged.”
100 years treaty
Nnadi said: “What the British did in the amalgamation treaty was to consolidate all the treaties that they signed with the different ethnic nationalities they subdued in the process of their conquest.
“By 1914, the various treaties were consolidated so as to be recognised in international law. Under international law, every treaty has a life span of 100 years. The Amalgamation Treaty took effect on January 1, 1914, which means that it will expire on December 31, 2013.
“The second challenge for Nigeria is that the 1999 Constitution, which General Abdulsalami Abubakar gave to Nigeria made certain proclamations that are rooted in falsehood because it was not a constitution drawn up by Nigerians.
“What will hold Nigeria after December 31 is a hope that the national conference will produce another document that Nigerians would accept.”
Former Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dan Mou, said Nigeria is fortunate that there was no separatist movement in the country.
He said that issues such as these were what the national conference should resolve and all the ethnic minorities should wait to see the outcome of the conference, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan acted wisely by putting the conference in place and the outcome should be subjected to a referendum.
No danger,says Oyebode
Countering, Professor Oyebode said Nigeria will not cease to exist legally on account of the 100 years of amalgamation because the amalgamation was consummated through an order in council by the British Parliament.
According to him, the process of amalgamation started in January 1900, when the British Parliament issued an Order-in-Council through which the Royal Nigeria Company, which succeeded the United African Company, ceded its power to the British Crown and resulted in the amalgamation of the Southern protectorate.
He said the British Parliament also issued an Order-in-Council which resulted in the amalgamation of Northern protectorate in 1906. The amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates took place in 1914 through another Order-in-Council.
He said the order was used in British territories, which had no legislature to issue such legislative instrument. He said it was through the order that Nigeria got her independence in 1960.
Professor Oyebode agreed with moves to convene a national conference because the 1999 Constitution, which was foisted on Nigerians by the military, shared the same features and characteristics with the Amalgamation Acts which were enacted without the participation and consent of Nigerians.
According to Oyebode, the 1999 Constitution is nothing but Decree No. 24, which has since been identified as a fraudulent document.
Noting that the 1999 Constitution may be valid but not legal, he said “what we should expect is for the proposed national conference to lead to a constitutional conference through which Nigerians can produce a document that they can respect.”
Amalgamation was not a treaty— Sagay
Professor Itse Sagay said: “I totally disagree with the group that the 1914 amalgamation was by a treaty.
“It was a union imposed on us by the British who were colonial overlords of Nigeria, then recognised by international law, which was a legitimate power to join the Northern and Southern protectorates.
“So, it was not a treaty at all. If it were a treaty, both parties could have sat round the table to negotiate their merger. But there wasn’t anything like that at all.
“The people just woke up one morning and found out that they have been joined together by the superior colonial force.
“Meanwhile, contrary to their belief that a treaty can expire, it can be forever and can be terminated by either party. A party can withdraw from a treaty at anytime, provided certain conditions are met.”