….we must amend or abrogate it
…South-East asking for equity, fairness
By Our Reporter
Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has described the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as an imposition on the people.
Umahi disclosed this on Wednesday in Enugu during the South-East Zonal Public Hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The event was organised by the House of Representatives Special Committee on Constitutional Review.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Mr Kelechi Igwe, said that the country was in dire need of constitution amendment in order to put the country on a progressive path.
“It is my view that Nigeria at this critical moment must begin to look at the issues that are tearing us apart which the constitution ought to have adequately taken care of.
“The choice a nation-state makes regarding war, violence or dialogue is up to it. Even when nations choose to go to war or take other adversarial positions, most issues are ultimately resolved at the negotiation table.
“Therefore, my understanding and take on life is, why do last, after you must have destroyed yourself, that which would have been done first,” he said.
The governor said that Nigerians who believed that the constitution was not perfect or that the document needed to be thrown away had been given the opportunity to express their opinions.
Umahi said: “It is an obvious fact that the document called the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is fraught with imperfections.
“As the society is growing, there are new paradigms that need to be addressed that may not have been adequately captured in the constitution.
“Therefore, even when we are not disposed to accepting the constitution, we must at least discuss within the confines of available laws for its amendments or even abrogation.
The governor said that he was worried that some provisions of the constitution had not adequately cared for Nigerians.
He mentioned one of such issues as ‘Fiscal Federalism’, adding that it had become necessary to look at the structure of the nation.
“Particularly, Part C of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Section 162 to 168 requires our attention.
“We need to know what the Federal, state and local governments should be getting as Federal Allocation and why they should get that.
“We cannot continue to depend on what is given to us to work with. We are human beings and the laws are made for human beings,” he said.
The governor also made a case for the recognition of state police in the constitution in order to guarantee the security of lives and property in the country.
“It is also my opinion that the Socioeconomic Rights that are captured in Chapter Two of the constitution is a section that must be adopted whole and entire.
“These sections, especially, Section 14 (3 and 4) should be moved to Chapter Four so that these provisions become justice-able in order to make our leaders to sit up.
“If the constitution provides that a child must go to school and the child does not, such child should challenge the parents and state why they are not allowed to go to school,” he said.
Umahi also said that the issues of devolution of power must be addressed “because the Exclusive Legislative List is almost overloaded.
“Some responsibilities should be moved to the state and local governments so that the Federal becomes thinner and have more powers to play a supervisory role.
“What concerns the Federal Government going to our villages to build primary schools?
“ What then is the work of the local and state governments if the Federal Government should stay in Abuja and allocate resources to areas and confines that they do not understand its geography?
“I feel that Sections 34, 39, 40, 41, 45, 49, 50, 51, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61 and 62 are sections in this Exclusive Legislative List that must be moved to the Concurrent Legislative List where the state will take care of them,” he said.
On the disadvantaged situation of the South-East region, Umahi said that the constitution needed to be altered in such a way that all sections of the country would be treated equally.
He said that the South-East region was asking for nothing but equity, fairness and justice.
“I will like the members of this committee to return to the National Assembly with the report that Ndigbo are not asking for too much. We are not asking to be treated better than other parts of the country.
“All we are asking is for equity and fairness because we know that once the field is level, we as a people shall excel,” he said.
Umahi said that no other part of the country was more Nigerian than the South-East, who constituted the highest population and investments outside the indigenes of any part of the country.
The governor said that he hoped that the public hearings across the country would produce an outcome that would become a reference point for Nigeria becoming a nation where peace, equity and justice would prevail.
“I commend the National Assembly for the ongoing public hearing and urge our people to bring our best suggestions.
“This public hearing shall be one of the most outstanding public hearings in the country and my hope is that it will produce outcomes that shall represent the views of the larger population,” he said.
On the current security situation in the region, the governor sued for the restoration of public order.
He said that the greatest asset that the people of the area had was their entrepreneurial skills and prowess which could be eroded by current situation in the area.
“Our greatest undoing as a people will be to allow our business environment to be further eroded or allow the current situation to lead to anarchy,” Umahi said.