Views from the North: What we want in Nigeria’s new constitution —Northern states

By Umar Yusuf (Yola), Marie-Therese Nanlong (Jos), Charles Agwam (Bauchi), Femi Bolaji (Jalingo), Ibrahim HassanWuyo (Kaduna),  Musa Annabi (Sokoto), Peter Duru (Makurdi) & Haruna Aliyu Usman (Bernin-Kebbi)

AS a new window opens for Nigerians and states in the country to make their inputs into a brand new Constitution being packaged by the National Assembly, stakeholders across the length and breadth of Nigeria have been brainstorming on what they want changed or to be included in the current Constitution.

In other words, the ongoing stakeholders’ consultations across the country have become the major platform through which Nigerians can actually change or make a new Constitution of their dream if their views as expressed at the different locations across the country, are taken into cognizance.

The views expressed by key Northern politicians and stakeholders are captured and presented here as the Views from the North!

When they assembled in selected states in the North to galvanize their views, it was generally assumed that the North would speak with ‘one voice’ as has always been the case but that did not happen. Many of the stakeholders rather spoke about issues considered as ‘personal’ rather than drop a ‘bombshell’ as the position of the North

Bauchi: We want Katagum State, true federalism – Bauchi people 
The people of Bauchi State led by their Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, said they wanted a new state and some local government as a catalyst for the development in the area. Mohammed in galvanising the demands of his people said: “This indeed is a marked difference between the unelected constitutional assembly that drafted the 1999 Constitution and the elected National Assembly that we now have in place.

“There is the need for a workable and acceptable Constitution. There should be a clear change in the command structure of the military which concentrate enormous powers at the center as manifested in the 1999 Constitution. The constituent units of the Nigerian federation represented by the current 36 states and the FCT and 774 LGs that are nearer to the people that must be given enough powers with concomitant resources to discharge their responsibilities so as to positively impact the lives of the people at the grassroot.

“The state must be seen to be a truly autonomous entity with powers to run their affairs that is what is called true federalism in all ramifications.”

“With the landmass of 49,919 square kilometres and population of about 10 million, and because of immigration and population explosion, the population of Bauchi State has risen to this number because of the influx of IDPs from neighbouring states due to ethno religious crises and the Boko Haram insurgency.

“In order to address this unjust and unfair treatment, we as a state and a people know we have the respect and the sympathy of corporate Nigeria, that Katagum State should be created out of Bauchi state and additional LGs should also be created so that we can be at par with other states that are having more LGs than us”.

The governor also requested for a role in the constitution for traditional rulers in the new constitution being packaged.

Plateau State: with views from Nasarawa Benue and the FCT
In Jos, which also hosted stakeholders from Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa states as well as the FCT, the people came out enmass requesting for specific things of their own interest, among them: The establishment of state/community police, devolution of power, active inclusion of traditional institution in governance, comprehensive judicial reform, prohibition of open grazing, autonomy of local government, inclusion of more women in decision making processes among others were the dominant demands made as diverse groups made presentations.

The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who declared both events open said: “We have to realise that there is no constitution that will ever resolve all our challenges as a people who are diverse in ethnic, religious, political and tribal affiliations.

“What is important at the moment is to ensure that we work towards building national cohesion and stability. As a government, we have canvassed for policing that is grassroots-oriented which we believe will better address the current insecurity in the country.

“We hope that this particular exercise will not go the way of previous ones which failed to address some key issues affecting the governance of the nation and in some way even threatening the peace, security and unity of the country.”

He also stated: “My advice to the members of the National Assembly and indeed all Nigerians is to put in place strong safeguards in the new Constitution to avoid the abuse of power.

“The situation where people flagrantly disobey, discard and ignore the provisions of the Constitution should no longer be tolerated. We should ensure that those who tamper with the provisions of the Constitution are seriously punished. No matter how frequently we amend the Constitution, there may not be any difference if we fail to subject ourselves to its provisions.”

Representatives of Governors of Nasarawa and Benue states described the public hearing as a golden opportunity for all grievances to be ventilated and all thorny national issues to be thoroughly discussed to arrive at a people’s constitution.
It was gathered that so far, over 500 memos were submitted by the different groups across the three States and the FCT.

Among the positions presented, NULGE stated: “The demands of NULGE are simple: local government should be given autonomy, they want fiscal federalism, separation of joint account with state government.

The Plateau Initiative for the Development and Advancement of the Natives, PIDAN, believes that women’s performance in leadership positions has surpassed that of men in numerous instances, a justification for the inclusion of more women in governance.

On Federal structure, PIDAN stated thus: “The federating units should be states with three additional states created in each geopolitical zone to cater for the ethnic minorities.”
Other demands are: A national court to adjudicate on election matters to free the regular courts of such cases and to enhance dispensation of justice
Provision for independent candidates. FCT should be accorded a state status with an elected mayor governing it, while any Nigerian living in the FCT is allowed to contest elections into FCT. At least 50% of appointive positions should be reserved for indigenes of the FCT.

This provision should apply to all metropolitan areas to preserve indigenes rights to participation in governance in the face of overwhelming migration of other persons to cities that may jeopardise participation of indigenes in governance.

*The disbandment of House of Representatives in Nigeria and the retention of the Senate.

*Traditional rulers should have quasi-judicial and administrative powers to govern their domains and should have powers to constitute different advisory councils by leveraging on professionals in their communities to advise on security matters, adjudicate on land and cultural matters and provide certain level of sanctions that may be ratified by lower courts.

The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria, CLASFON, through Solomon Maren, recommended that the Constitution should bring clarity and emphasis on recognising and affirming 18 years as the age of maturity and that for sexual consent.

Guaranty for the rights of women and girls, females, to contest or seek appointment based on equal opportunities that secure their active participation in politics and other legitimate engagements.”

Benue: We stand on fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, state police, local government autonomy, creation of new states and constitutional roles for traditional rulers.

…demand 5 more states
Fiscal federalism, devolution of Powers, state police, Local Government autonomy and constitutional responsibilities for traditional rulers topped the demands of Benue State at the National Assembly Constitutional Amendment Public Hearing holding in Jos the Plateau State capital.

In a presentation by the President General of the Tiv Youth Organisation, TYO, worldwide, Chief Timothy Hembaor, the state picked holes with the concentration of so much power at the centre and demanded effective devolution of powers.

The state held that devolution is positively achieved only when the Federal Government gives the states their due in form of authority coupled with financial muscle to achieve the aim of governance and this trickles down to other tiers of government. Like a wheel, all spokes are important  in the spin of development.”

On local government autonomy, the state insisted that autonomy to the local governments must begin with the guarantee of free and fair elections at that tier of government. “That is the first thing to do to deserve any shed of autonomy. With that, people would be responding to what they choose  and deserve.”

The state also insisted that fiscal federalism was key to stability and mutual trust in the country because “if the wealth distribution is done candidly, there will be less suspicion and if development spreads across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria equitably citizens will rather concentrate on living the good life instead of agitating for the provision of basic needs of survival.”

Benue also canvassed the creation of state police. The state in its presentation noted that “the chain of command of the police leans towards the federal needs and a governor being the chief security officer of his state is meaningless if he does not have control over the policing of his state.”

On indigeneship and residency, the state held that indigene-ship should be defined and accepted by a constitutional provision which states the number of years spent in the new environment for that privilege to be activated. “It should not be based on ethnicity but a desire to live among the people as a member of that community.”

On state creation, Benue demanded the creation of five states from the present Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states.

“As it is the present States of Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States can be split into five States with some local governments from Nasarawa like Keana, Obi and Awe excised to join the present Benue State because of an indigenous population and cultural affinity.

“The present Benue South with nine local governments of Otukpo, Agatu, Okpokwu, Ohimini, Ado, Ogbadibo, Apa, Oju and Obi should be given their Apa State with the headquarters at Otukpo.

“There is also the Dan Anacha State, which will comprise Ussa, Takum, Donga, Wukari and Ibi Local Governments from Taraba State to join Katsina-Ala, Logo and Ukum Local Government Areas of Benue State to form a new State that would create a sense of belonging to those people.”

The state also canvassed the strengthening of institutions like the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Auditor General of the Federalism, and office of the Attorney General of the Federation to protect them from external influence and manipulation by a sitting government to suit the purposes of that government.

Benue also demanded a reorganization of the National Assembly to make it more responsive and less expensive to run by opting for part-time legislators as against the present arrangement.

“So the Nigerian democracy must re-organize and make it constitutional that the Legislative arm operates on a prudent budget like it is done in America, limiting their functioning to be on a part-time basis and stripping them of all such big money dimensions as constituency projects.”

A case was also made for a constitutionally recognized responsibility or function for traditional rulers in the country. In the state’s presentation on the matter it argued that since the traditional rulers are closer to the people in the rural communities they should “be given constitutional powers to effectively govern their territories and their decisions given the strength of law to bring order to local communities.”

Kaduna:  With echoes from Katsina, Zamfara
In Kaduna, there was a strong request for the creation of additional state to take care of the Southern part of the state, which has always been at loggerheads with the northern part of the state.

Expectedly, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, led the pack in presenting the position of the people at the stakeholders’ meeting with participants drawn from other nearby states.

SOKAPU President, Jonathan Asake ,said the Southern and Northern Kaduna, infamous for incessant inter-ethnic and religious clashes for decades, have agreed that creating new state from the present Kaduna State would go a long way at solving the age long problem.

The former lawmaker said bluntly: “It is the wish of Southern Kaduna to have a brand new constitution, not an amended one. But in the absence of that, we are here to make our inputs as a people who have suffered suppression and oppression for a long time.”

“Southern Kaduna is made up of 67 ethnic nationalities spread in 13 of the 23 local government areas of Kaduna state. It has a land mass of 26,000kmsq with an estimated population of 5.1 million. We are endowed with an educated population and with abundant natural resources,” Asake said.

“Our land size is greater than that of Kano state which has a land mass of 20,000kmsq. Yet Kano is a state of its own with 44 LGAs. Our population is greater than 21 other states of the federation. Therefore, we are demanding for the amendment of the provision of section 8 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which makes it almost an impossible task for the creation of a new state.”
Asake recalled that they have been demanding for a state of their  own for over 30 years and Gurara state was among the 18 states proposed in the 2014 Confab report. “We are demanding for the creation of the Gurara state after the amendment. This will help in solving the incessant conflicts between our people and the other divide,” he said.

SOKAPU also asked for the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution and its amendment as a law, so that communities and families can have larger control of their ancestral lands.

Submitting before the committee also was a similar request for the creation of a state for the Northern part of Kaduna .The request was articulated by a group under the aegis of Kaduna Development Elders Initiatives ,which submitted a memo signed by the Senators Representing Kaduna North Senatorial Zone, Sen. Sulieman Abdu Kwari; the Senator Representing Kaduna Central Senatorial zone, Senator Uba Sani; all the House of Reps members from the Northern Part of Kaduna; all members of Kaduna state House of Assembly from northern part of Kaduna ,their Chairmen of LGAs and Councillors.

Abdulkadir Ahmed, while defending the memo of the group, said: “We are canvassing for the creation of New Kaduna State from the present Kaduna State and we want the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria amended to make this possible.

“Kaduna South has been complaining of marginalisation ever since, even though chiefdoms have been given to them and they occupy 60% of the workforce of Kaduna state,” he said.

For Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, each state of the federation should  decide the model of democratic local government that best suits it because Nigeria is a federation of the 36 states and the Federal Government.

The Governor argued that listing  the 774 LGAs in the Constitution and trying to establish for them direct relations with the Federal Government violated  the spirit of federalism.

“ Each  state should decide what typology of local governance fits its historical, cultural and administrative circumstances, but the resulting framework must be democratic, with periodic elections at no longer than four year intervals,” he said.

He argued that devolution of powers is necessary because the current structure overburdens the Federal Government with too many responsibilities which it cannot efficiently handle.

The governor said that the APC Committee on True Federalism which he headed had identified legislative interventions that the National Assembly can more easily undertake to achieve a truly balanced, equitable and fair federal structure.

  “We also drafted bills to alter the constitution and amend or repeal existing legislation to achieve the overall objective of true federalism.”

The governor proposed ten items that should be shared between the state and federal, saying “the reality of our security situation today requires that Nigeria must strengthen its military and security agencies. This includes decentralizing the police to enable the states to exercise effective control in securing their residents and communities.”

‘’ We need to have federal, state and community police, with each granted sufficient powers to make them effective in securing the areas assigned to them and cooperating closely with each other”, he  further said.

“Those expressing concerns about the ability of the states to bear the cost of policing should realize that apart from the payment of salaries by the federal government, most of the operational and capital costs of the Nigeria Police are borne by state and local governments.”

The governor argued that fear of abuse of State Police by sub-national governments is misplaced because a constitutional or statutory framework can be enacted to ensure federal intervention in cases of such abuses.

El Rufai also said that the constitution should be altered to remove the Police Service Commission because it is an unnecessary hindrance to effective policing in Nigeria.
The power to hire and fire police officers should revert fully and totally to the Inspector General of Police, under the supervision of the National Police Council, as envisaged by the Constitution,” he advocated.

The governor recommended that all ‘’mineral resources, including oil and gas and solid minerals in the states, which will, in turn, pay royalties and taxes to the Federation Account.”

‘’States already control land within their territories, courtesy of the Land Use Act, which is incorporated into the Constitution by reference,”  he argued.

“One of the reasons why mining has not quite taken off in our country is because of the dichotomy and total disconnect between the federal institution that issues licenses for mining and the state agencies that ultimately control not only the land and title thereto, but any approval to undertake any development on the land. ‘’

The governor also argued that states should be empowered to establish staff and run their own judiciary up to appellate level.

‘’It is an anomaly to have a National Judicial Council appointing high court judges for states. This should be the responsibility of State Judicial Councils.

‘’The remit of the National Judicial Council should be limited to the federal high and appellate courts. The constitutional amendment should clarify that the states can establish courts to exercise jurisdiction at first instance, or on appeal on matters for which the states can make laws.

‘’ In essence, I am suggesting that judges of State High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal should be nominated by the State Judicial Council, subject to confirmation by the House of Assembly,” he said.

El Rufai further said that states should also be enabled to establish State Courts of Appeal, similar to what we used to have at the regional level under the 1963 Republican Constitution.

‘’The State Court of Appeal will entertain appeals from State High Courts, Customary and Sharia Courts of Appeal, on matters on which the State House of Assembly is empowered by the Constitution to make laws.
 Taraba State: with views from Gombe, Adamawa
  Wukari Native Authority Indigenes Demand Kwararrafa State
… Wants  Amendment  to Section 8 of 1999 Constitution on Creation of New States, LGs

Key players from Taraba State converged at the venue of the North-East Zonal Constitution review stakeholders meeting and made their feelings known regarding what they want in the new constitution of Nigeria.

But one of the memos that stood out,    is the resolve of the entire people of the former Wukari Federation Native Authority, which is today broken into Wukari, Takum, Donga, Ibi, Ussa, Kurmi Local Government Areas, and Yangtu Development Area in present-day Taraba State.

Their prayers which were presented in a memo at the public hearing on the proposed alteration on the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, sought for the creation of Kwararrafa State out of present-day Taraba with Wukari as its capital.

They also sought an amendment of Section 8 of the 1999 constitution for flexibility to allow the creation of more states and local government areas.

Dr. David Agbu, who spoke for the group, advanced various reasons why their proposal should be considered based on current realities.

In the memo presented, he said, “The desire for a new state of our own is informed by our historical background and the need for rapid development. Ancient KWARARRAFA Empire was on the same pedestal with Borno Empire and Sokoto caliphate in the North; Oyo and Benin Empire in the South caliphate in the accorded the status of two or more states except KWARARRAFA Empire, which is still part of another state.

“We the peaceful people of the proposed KWARARRAFA state are asking for the restoration of our past status (our earlier rejection of the proposal to include us in Katsina-Ala state in 1996 still stands).”

Some of the arguments advanced by the group and why their proposal should be considered include its population, landmass, economic viability, natural resources, and industrial development potentials among others.

Having outlined their request and observed possible pitfalls to achieving their dream State, the group further requested that Section 8 of the 1999 constitution be altered to allow the process of additional states and local government areas creation to be made less rigid.

“We submit a request for the creation of KWARARRAFA STATE out of the present-day Taraba State with its capital city at Wukari and/or at least 13 more local governments should be created from the present Wukari, Takum, Donga, Ibi, Ussa, Kurmi Local Government Areas and Yangtu Development Area of Taraba State herein again as before requested.

“Given the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, particularly Section 8 which gives the National Assembly the powers to create more States and Local Governments in Nigeria; this position paper is agreeing for the amendment of the said Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution to simplify the procedure of the creation of more states and local governments due to the yearning and aspirations of Nigerians more particularly the former Wukari Federation.”

Adamawa: Give us Gongola State out of Adamawa-stakeholders
Of all the issues tabled in 25 memos submitted by stakeholders in Adamawa, the call for the creation of a new Gongola State topped the list of demands.

The Chamba Cultural Development Association (CCDA), which tabled the request for the new state, also asked for three additional local government areas to be created for them.

The protagonists of the new state said it should encompass the Southern Senatorial District of Adamawa State made up of:    Ganye, Toungo, Jada, Mayo-Belwa, Demsa, Numan, Lamurde, Guyuk and Shelleng Local Government Areas.

He said if created three additional local governments need to be created; Gangdu from Ganye, Yelli from Jada, Nasarawo-Jereng from Mayo-Belwa, Barrong from Demsa.

According to him, they have over two million people in the areas based on the projection of 2006 population census.

“Creation of state with accompanying new local government councils has the potential of accelerating development of the affected communities    especially in agriculture and mining” he said
Sokoto: No to state police so that governors don’t use it against opponents during polls

…140 memos received with LG creation, autonomy, revenue-sharing formula and state police top agenda in Northwest of Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara

The memorandum received here centred on the demand for local governments autonomy, judicial independence, local government creation, review of federal revenue sharing formula among the three tiers of Government and creation of state police.

Most of the speakers in their presentations government creation described the current state of insecurity in the country as the product of non availability of administrative mechanism at the grassroots level. 

According to the speakers, some council areas in Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara are large enough to be states rather than local governments. They named some of those oversize LGAs to include: Bagudo, Koko/Besse, Tureta, Tambuwal and Kebbi local governments. 

They strongly supported granting autonomy to the local government to make way for even development at the grassroots.

“How can you say you have three tiers of government when the third one is being controlled by another, determining its future and fate when it comes to executions of development projects?”

States Governments operates joint accounts a system whereby resources of local governments are teleguided by governors of individual states to the detriment of elected local governments executives and their people. 

On the creation of state police, some presenters vehemently opposed the idea of creation of state police, saying it would be used against opponents during elections.

A serving senator Eng Ibrahim Abdullahi Gobir, argued that the establishment of state police would lead to the breakdown of law and order as most of the governors would deploy state police against their opponents and use same to humiliate citizens generally.  

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