Chairman, Southern Leaders of Thought (SLT), Prof Ben Nwabueze, on Thursday said it is sad that the National Assembly has constituted itself into a big obstacle in the way of restructuring the country, declaring that the exercise was not a matter that could be implemented by amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
Nwabueze said this in Lagos at a press conference he addressed on behalf of SLT and attended by prominent Nigerians, including Prof Akin Oyebode, Prof Anthony Killa, Chief Solomon Asemota, Chief Tola Adeniyi, Prof Sola Ehindero, Kimson Okoko, Mr Wale Okuniyi, among others.
“Re-structuring is not a matter that can be implemented by amendment of the 1999 Constitution. It imperatively requires a new Constitution adopted or approved by the people at a Referendum.
“It is sad that, while a clamour for re-structuring is reaching a crescendo and is sweeping across the country, the National Assembly is still regaling us with talks about constitution amendment, and is buttressing its position by the erroneous assertion that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended or altered (Sections 8 and 9) but cannot be abolished and replaced by a new constitution.
“By taking this untenable position, the National Assembly makes itself a big obstacle in the way of Re-structuring,” Nwabueze stated.
According to him, the view that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended or altered but cannot be completely abolished and replaced by a new Constitution is erroneous.
He said this was so because that stand failed to take into account the fact that the said document was only a Schedule to a Decree 24 of 1999, pointing out that decree was an existing law under Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution and like all existing laws within Federal competence, could be repealed by the National Assembly.
“Upon the repeal of the Decree, the 1999 Constitution completely disappears from existence,” he declared.
“We think the way forward for Nigeria is for the people, in the exercise of the power inherent in them as a sovereign people, to make, through a Referendum, a new Constitution, constituting a new political order. The process must be led by a President, as the elected leader of the people imbued by an ardour for change,” Prof Nwabueze said.
Speaking on factors that had negated the objective of true Federalism in Nigeria, Nwabueze said the “most crushing” among them was “over- concentration of political power and financial resources in the Federal government far beyond what they were under the 1960/1963 Constitutions and the over- concentration of financial resource and relations in the Federal Government.
According to his, this is an affront to true Federalism in no less a grievous degree, saying “an arrangement whereby every month officials of the state governments, including quite often the state governors himself, go, cap-in-hand, as it were, to Abuja for their share of the money in the Federation Account disbursed or paid out to them by officials of the Federal Government as paymasters is a negation of true Federalism; it is simply carricatures of true Federalism.”
“In our circumstances as a country, with a vast expanse of territory, comprising a great diversity of ethnic nationalities, with divergent interests and outlooks, it seems generally agreed that a Federal system, truly so- called, is the system appropriate to our situation.
“We, therefore, conceived re-structuring as requiring, modified as necessary, the restoration or re- establishment of the kind of Federalism that existed under our 1960/1963 Constitutions. That is the central object or purpose of Re- structuring,” Prof Nwabueze reiterated.