THE NIGERIAN FEDERATION:
The Position of Ndi Igbo
Adopted at the Igbo Summit organized by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide,
21st May, 2018, at the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, Anambra State.
THE EKWUEME SQUARE DECLARATION 2018
The Nigerian project is at a crossroads. It does not command universal acceptance at home and it is much diminished abroad. For some sections of the population, the promise of Nigeria: peace and unity, faith and progress are becoming broken dreams. The capacity and objectivity of the Nigerian state, its leadership, critical institutions and agencies are questioned by many. On the global stage, Nigeria is rapidly fading from any serious reckoning. It cannot secure and fend for its citizens at home; neither can it project power to protect its citizens abroad. Despite its abundant potential and promise, most Nigerians agree that Nigeria as currently structured and governed is not sustainable.
In the run up to Nigeria’s independence and after independence (in the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions), our founding fathers like the Rt. Hon. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and their compatriots from all the then Southern and Northern minority ethnic groups, negotiated and gave us truly federal constitutions which embodied the basic principles of federalism, namely, autonomy of the federating regions, fiscal federalism, devolution of powers, citizenship/indigeneship rights, etc. Under these constitutions, freely negotiated by the Nigerian people, there was a consensus that a truly federal structure was the best for a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious society such as Nigeria; to guarantee justice, fairness, equity, freedom, liberty as well as a balanced and competitive political and economic structure to give every citizen and section of the country a framework to maximize their God-given potential.
The present 1999 Constitution foisted by the military regime (falsely dubbed a federal constitution) unhinged all the structures of true federalism and bequeathed a de’facto unitary system with concentration of powers and resources at the centre. With the choking unitary system and all its dysfunctionality for a diverse country, Nigeria has remained relatively unstable, oscillating unpredictably between the flickers of hope and despair.
Most Nigerians agree that this system cannot survive and endure for much longer. The genius, Albert Einstein, said that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. For several years, many organized groups, intellectuals, statesmen and women have persistently called for a re-examination of the structure of the federation, to make it work for all Nigerians. It started first as calls for a Sovereign National Conference. In recent times, the calls have become even more strident and desperate: the Yoruba nation has held a rally at Ibadan in September 2017 and published its agenda for restructuring Nigeria; the South-South geopolitical zone held its own summit in Yenagoa in March 2018 and endorsed its template for restructuring; the All Progressives Congress (APC) set up a Committee on restructuring and its recommendations are public knowledge; the 19 states of the former Northern Region have also set up their own committee on restructuring and its report is expected; the Middle Belt zone is scheduled to hold its own summit on restructuring, while several political parties have made ‘true federalism’ the centre piece of their manifestos for a better Nigeria. At no time in Nigeria’s recent history has there been broader support for restructuring the federation than now.
For the estimated 57 million Igbos scattered in all villages, towns and cities of Nigeria as well as around the world, the demand for a restructured Nigeria that guarantees security of life and property, freedom and liberty, equity, justice and development, has a unique significance. No other ethnic group has a greater stake in the Nigerian project than Ndi Igbo by virtue of tens of millions of Ndi Igbo who live and invest everywhere in Nigeria outside Igboland. But they are also victims at every turn: every now and again, threats to their lives and properties as well as brazen discrimination and marginalization in critical areas underscore their general treatment as unequal citizens of Nigeria. Consequently, there is a segment of Igbo society that has lost hope in the Nigerian dream; believes that Nigeria will never work for the Igbos and hence agitate for an exit from the union. But a preponderance of views among Igbos is that a restructured Nigeria that works for all remains the best option.
The Agenda presented here distils from accumulated years of work on the subject by successive regimes of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, various Igbo think-tanks especially the submissions of the Igbo Leaders of Thought for the 2014 National Conference; various Igbo positions for the 1994 Constitutional Conference and 2005 and 2014 national conferences; the report of the Committee set up by South East Governors on the review of the 1999 Constitution; the report of the World Igbo Summit by the Igbo Renaissance Centre, Uturu; various submissions/reports by Aka Ikenga; Izu Umunna; Nzuko Umunna; the Igbo intelligentsia; the World Igbo Congress; reports of various meetings and conferences of Igbo stakeholders and leaders; etc. The Ohanaeze Planning and Strategy Committee and the Organizing Committee for the Summit on restructuring also embarked on town hall -style consultative meetings in Abuja, Lagos, and Enugu to collate inputs from major segments of Igbo society. Memoranda and inputs were also received from over 40 pan-Igbo groups, NGOs, and individuals. A draft was presented and debated at the National Executive Committee and the Imeobi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
What is presented is a summary, and the issues remain work in progress. The position of Ndi Igbo is to seek a transformed Nigeria that works for every Nigerian citizen, a level playing field for all Nigerians to enjoy freedom, liberty, fairness, equity and justice to maximize their fullest potential. Ndi Igbo are uniquely positioned, by virtue of their huge stake in Nigeria, to join hands with every willing party to champion a pan-Nigeria agenda. We do not seek any preferential or differential treatment from Nigeria. Ndi Igbo want a Nigeria that works—to maximize their security, prosperity, and happiness. Igbos also want a Nigeria that allows every part of Nigeria the latitude and opportunity to develop at their own pace. We want a national conversation to create a new and better Nigeria for all Nigerians. The outline below seeks to achieve this objective..
Section 1: A New Constitution of Nigeria.
We demand a constitutional conference, backed by a law enacted by the National Assembly, where the people of Nigeria will agree on a new, truly federal Constitution. A Constituent Assembly should be constituted to agree on a new Constitution for a new Nigeria. Such a Constitution—the People’s Constitution– should be approved by the people of Nigeria through a referendum to give it legitimacy and validity. Thereafter, the National Assembly should repeal Act 24 of 1999 (of which the 1999 Constitution is only a Schedule), thereby effectively voiding the 1999 Constitution.
Section 2: Form of Government
a) The presidential system of government should continue to operate at the federal level, with a bicameral legislature. The Regions or States have to determine the type of government to operate at that level as enshrined in their respective constitutions (whether parliamentary or separate Executive and Legislative organs). It would be desirable however for the same form of government be adopted at the regional levels for comparability and ease in transaction of government business in the federation.
b) The tenure of office of the President will be a single term of six years. There will be five Vice Presidents, one from each of the geopolitical zones or Regions except the Region/Zone of the president, and each also to serve for a fixed term of six years. Each of the Vice Presidents will be assigned supervisory responsibility over two or more ministries such as Defence, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Infrastructure/Works, etc. This is to give every Zone/Region a sense of belonging and a strong voice in major decision making. The office of President will rotate among the six Regions/Zones of Nigeria.
c) The Governor and Deputy Governor of the Region/State should have a single term of six years only. The office of Governor will rotate among the senatorial districts, or among such other configurations as may be enshrined in the Constitution of a Region/State.
Section 3: Federating Units and Structure of the Nigerian State
a. Nigeria will remain a federation with the existing six geopolitical zones forming the federating units or six regions of the country. There will therefore be six regional governments, each comprising the current States within each zone and any other State(s) that may be created within the Zone from time to time.
b. Each Region will have its own Constitution, for the good governance, peace and development of the region. Such Regional Constitutions have to clearly delineate levels of authority between the Regional Government and the component States (that is, defining powers that are exclusive to the Region and powers that are residual to the States). The Regional Constitutions will not be inconsistent with the Constitution of the federation, and will be invalidated to the extent of its inconsistency with the federal constitution.
c. If the national consensus is that the states as currently constituted remain the federating units, the existing six geopolitical zones will be enshrined in the constitution as the basis for sharing national political, economic and social amenities, offices and opportunities in an equitable manner among the zones.
d. In such a situation as in (c) above, Ndi Igbo demand that Nigeria give effect to the recommendation of the 2014 National Conference which states that “in the spirit of reconciliation, equity, fair play, and justice, there shall be created an additional state for the South East Zone; and all other requests for state creation shall be considered on merit”. One additional State in the South East should be the irreducible minimum.
e. But if States remain the basis for sharing resources and opportunities in Nigeria, Ndi Igbo demand an equal number of states per geopolitical zone or region.
f. Local Governments should be scrapped from the Constitution of the Federation. Local Government should be in the Exclusive List of the Regional/State Constitutions.
g. If States remain the federating units and some States wish to merge to be viable in the absence of distributable resources from the centre, they may do so provided that:
(I) A two-thirds majority of members of the Houses of Assembly of each of the affected states support the merger by a resolution, and;
(ii) A referendum is conducted in each of the States proposing to merge, and 60% of registered voters in the States who vote are required to approve the merger.
h. Any group of people or communities that wish to belong to a contiguous Zone other than the Zone in which they currently belong, may do so provided that 60% of registered voters who voted in the affected area approve the merger in a referendum.
Section 4: Equality of Regions or Geo-Political Zones
Whether the Regions or States become the federating units, and whether or not equal numbers of States are created in each Zone, Ndi Igbo demand that equality of the six geopolitical zones should be enshrined in the Constitution. Politically, representation at the federal cabinet as well as the twin chambers of the federal legislature should be based on equality of Zones/Regions. Furthermore, sharing of revenues, distribution of infrastructure by the Federal Government, and federal character principle will be applied on the basis of equality of zones.
Section 5: Citizenship/Indigeneship Rights
a) Nigerian citizenship is acquired through the criteria for citizenship as provided in the Nigerian Constitution.
b) The concept of State of Origin should be scrapped from the Constitution of the Federation, and replaced with State of Residence.
c) As an alternative to (b ) above, minimum residency and civic rights and responsibilities should include the following two conditions:
1) Any child born of Nigerian parents anywhere in Nigeria will acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area at birth.
2) Similarly, any Nigerian citizen who has resided in any part of Nigeria and paid taxes there for a period of ten years can acquire the indigeneship (residency) rights of the area, except for the right to their traditional stool.
Section 6: Internal Security
a) There should be a two or three-tier police structure with defined responsibilities as follows: a Police Force for the Federation and controlled by the Federal Government, and the Regional/State Constitutions to establish separate Police Forces for each region and each state.
b) The Police Force at every level will be headed by a non-partisan professional. The power to appoint and remove such a head of police will be vested in an independent body.
Section 7: Sharing of Financial Resources: Fiscal Federalism
a) Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution is a negation of the principle of federalism. It should be abrogated. In its place, a truly federal system that gives control of resources to the component units and replaces the current system of unconditional transfers with conditional transfers from the centre as follows:
b) The States will have control over all the natural resources within their territory. Fiscal federalism presupposes the revocation of the Land Use Act of 1978, the Solid Minerals Act, as well as the various Petroleum/Gas Acts and amendments since 1969. The right of ownership, control and exploitation of these and other assets should be returned to the States and/ or federating units.
c) The taxation powers of the various tiers of government should be reviewed to give the federating units greater flexibility and scope to generate revenue internally.
d) States within the federating units should collect and keep 50% of rents, royalties and profit taxes on minerals derived from their States; pay 20% to the Regional Government, and 30% to the Federal Government; provided that each tier of government will save at least 5% of the receipts from natural/mineral resources as Future Generation Fund.
e) The Federal Government should set aside 40% of revenue collected from the States/Regions as a Distributable Pool Account (DPA). The balance of 60% plus 60% of its own independent revenues such as customs duties, federal VAT, federal income tax, etc. will be deployed to its diminished responsibilities. The sharing of DPA should be equitable and should replace the present unconditional revenue allocation to the states and local governments. Among other things, the DPA should be deployed to the following:
I) Emergency transfers from the DPA made only to distressed States/Zones consequent upon natural and environmental emergencies, such as, floods, erosion, earthquakes, desert encroachment, man–made disasters – conflicts insurgency and war.
ii) Distributable Capital Account (DCA) – The balance in the DPA would serve as distributable capital (DCA) from which conditional grants are made to the federating units for capital projects only, on the basis of accountability subject to project performance
monitoring. The DCA would replace the current unconditional monthly allocation, and operate almost as matching grants.
f) The States within a region should collectively decide what percentage of their consolidated revenue they will allocate to the Regional Government for its operations provided that such contributions will not be less than 10 per cent of the respective States’ gross revenue.
Section 8: Merit and Federal Character Principle
a) Nigeria must maintain an appropriate balance between merit and affirmative action in the conduct of national and regional/state affairs, and the distribution of appointments, amenities, opportunities and privileges among constituent parts. For example, while 60% should be reserved for merit, 40% could be reserved to ensure federal character principle or affirmative action.
b) We recommend that the Federal Character Commission be replaced with Merit and Equal Opportunities Commission.
Section 9: Elections
a) Elections into the office of the President and the Federal Legislature will be conducted by the electoral body of the Federal Government. Elections into Regional/State offices will be conducted by electoral bodies set up by the Regional/State Constitutions or laws.
b) It is believed that the current system of simple Plurality System (with a simple relative majority as winner) encourages minority governments and is considered out of date. We hereby propose a majoritarian system whereby a winner must score at least 50% of the votes cast to win an election.
c) Independent candidates serve as a form of protest to political parties and should be allowed in the electoral system provided that such candidates meet the minimum criteria to be on the ballot.
Section 10: Judiciary
a) Each federating unit will have its judicial system with courts of first instance, Appellate Court and Supreme Courts to adjudicate on matters that are in the concurrent and residual lists as well as matters exclusively preserved for the federating units.
b) Where the states are the federating units, there will be state high courts, and Zonal/Regional court of appeal and Zonal/Regional Supreme Court on matters pertaining to the states and zones/regions.
c) It is the states or regional courts and their appellate courts that will have jurisdiction over electoral matters in their respective states or regions except matters pertaining to the presidential election or federal elections.
d) There shall also be the federal high court, federal appeal court and federal supreme court— to deal with matters on the exclusive list of the Constitution, as well as constitutional matters or conflicts between the federating units and the federal government.
ANNEX A: DEVOLUTION OF POWER
a) The long list of items on the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution should be considerably reduced to the basics required of the central government in a federation including but not limited to: defence, immigration, currency and monetary policy, customs and excise, foreign affairs.
b) Under the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government controls both the Exclusive and Concurrent Lists in the Constitution because federal legislations on matters in the Concurrent List supersede the state legislations. It is proposed that on matters on the Concurrent legislative list, the Federal Government should be concerned with regulation to ensure minimum national standards, and leave the Regions/States to be innovative and competitive in the design of their policies, programmes and regulations relating to such concurrent items.
c) Where conflicts arise between the federal and regional/state legislation with regard to matters on the concurrent list, such conflicts will be resolved through ‘mutual consent’.
Federal Exclusive Legislative List
Accounts of the Government of the Federation and officers, courts and authorities thereof, including audit of those accounts.
Archives, other than the public records of the Governments of the Regions or States
Bills of exchange and promissory notes.
Borrowing of monies outside Nigeria for the purposes of the Federal Government or of any Region, other than borrowing by the Government of a Region/State on the security of any funds or assets of that government held outside Nigeria or borrowing that is not the liability of the Federation
Borrowing of monies within Nigeria for the purposes of the Federal Government.
Currency, coinage and legal tender.
Customs and excise duties, including export duties.
Deportation of persons who are not citizens of Nigeria.
Prescription of minimum standards of education at all levels.
Immigration into and emigration from Nigeria.
Legal proceedings between the Government of the Federation and any other person or authority or between the Governments of Zones or States.
Prescription of standards with respect to maritime shipping and navigation, including:
Shipping and navigation of tidal water
Shipping and navigation on the River Niger and its effluents and on any such other inland waterway as may be declared by the National Assembly to be an international waterway or to be an inter-Regional waterway;
Lighthouse, lightships, beacons and other provisions for the safety of shipping and navigation;
Such ports as may be declared by the National Assembly to be Federal ports (including the constitution and powers of port authorities for federal ports), provided that where such ports belong to the regions/states, the declaration as a federal port willl be with the consent of the region/state.
Museums established by the Federal Government
Naval, military and air forces.
Passports and visas.
Patents, trade marks, designs and merchandise marks.
Pensions, gratuities and other like benefits payable out of the Consolidated Account
Revenue Funds or any other public funds of the Federation or Federal Government.
Posts, telegraphs and telephones, including post office savings banks.
Powers, privileges and immunities of each House of the National Assembly and its members.
The public debt of the Federal Government.
Public relations of the Federation.
The public service of the Federation, including the settlement of disputes between the Federation and officers in the public service of the Federation.
Tribunals of enquiry with respect to all or any of the matters mentioned in this list
Trunk roads, that is to say, the construction, alteration and maintenance of such roads as may be declared as federal trunk roads.
Water from such sources as may be declared by the National Assembly to be source affecting more than one territory.
Weights and measures.
Wireless, broadcasting and television other than broadcasting and television provided by the Government of Regions or States; allocation of wavelengths for wireless, broadcasting and television transmission.
The matters with respect to which the National Assembly is empowered to make laws by provisions of this Constitution.
Any matter that is incidental or supplementary:
To any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list; or
To the discharge by the Government of the Federation or any officer, court or authority of the Federation of any function conferred by this Constitution.
The Concurrent Legislative List
Arms and ammunition.
Bankruptcy and insolvency.
Chemical services, including analytical services.
Commercial and industrial monopolies, combines and trusts.
Control of capital issues.
Control of the voluntary movement of persons between territories.
Such drugs and poisons as may with the consent of the governments of the Zones or States be designated by the President by order.
Fingerprints, identification and criminal records.
Higher education, that is to say, institutions and other bodies offering courses or conducting examinations of a university, technological or of a professional character.
Incorporation, regulation and winding up of bodies corporate, other than cooperative societies, native authorities, local government authorities and bodies corporate established directly by any law enacted by the legislature of a Region or State.
Insurance other than insurance undertaken by the Government of a Zone or State but including any insurance undertaken by the Government of a Zone that extends beyond the units of that Zone.
Labour, that is to say, conditions of labour, industrial relations, trade unions and welfare of labour.
The legal and medical professions and such other professional occupations as may with the consent of the governments of the Zones be designated by the President by order.
All marriages, customary and statutory.
National monuments, that is to say, such monuments in a Zone as may with the consent of the Government of that Zone be designated by the President by order as national monuments.
National parks, that is to say, the control of such areas in a Zone as may with the consent of the Government of that Zone be designated by the President by order as national parks.
Prisons and other institutions for the treatment of offenders.
Promotion of tourist traffic.
Railways, including ancillary transport and other services
Taxes on amounts paid or payable for the sale or purchase of commodities except: produce; hides and skins; motor spirit; automotive gas oil sold or purchased for use in road vehicles; AGO sold or purchased for use other than industrial purposes.
The maintaining and securing of public safety and public order; the providing, maintaining and securing of such supplies and services as may be designated by the President by order as essential supplies and services.
Registration of business names.
Scientific and industrial research.
Service and execution in a Zone of the civil and criminal processes, judgments, decrees, order and other decisions of any court of law outside Nigeria or any court of law in Nigeria other than the Supreme Court, the High Court of that Zone or State or any court of law established by the legislature of that Zone or State.
Traffic on Federal trunk roads
Tribunals of enquiry with respect to all or any of the matters mentioned elsewhere in this list.
Trigonometrical, cadastral and topographical surveys.
Water; Energy; Electricity.
The matters with respect to which National Assembly is empowered to make provision
Any matter that is incidental or supplementary to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.