Mr. President, Stop The Killing Now! Restructure Nigeria! -By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Some weeks ago, Chief Olu Falae cried out for help from criminals who invaded his farm. He had been attacked in the past, once kidnapped and at another time, his farm was set on fire. Not long thereafter, the Olufon of Ifon, a first class traditional ruler near the boundary of Edo and Ondo States, was murdered in cold bold. The Abuja-Kaduna highway has become a no-go area for travelers, as kidnappers, armed robbers and bandits have taken over the road. The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, has been a target of some attacks. On Sunday, November 29, 2020, he led a procession of mourners to the mass burial of forty-three rice farmers that were butchered by the insurgents. From Zamfara to Delta, Niger to Rivers State, it is all bloodshed across the land. Nobody is spared again, as even the President’s State of Katsina has been overpowered by bandits and criminals, such that the Governor had to embrace a disjointed amnesty package for them, at least to save his people. A confirmation of the growing insecurity in the land came last week when the Sultan of Sokoto cried out that the North has become the most dangerous place to live in Nigeria. Perhaps His Eminence is only just feeling the heat, as most parts of Nigeria have become unlivable for a very long time since the advent of this administration. But this cannot continue, when we have a sitting President, who himself is a renowned combatant. Something has to be done, and done urgently for that matter. The President has held several meetings with the service chiefs, with no appreciable result. It is now clear to all and sundry, at least from the comments and contributions of lawmakers across party lines, from prominent Nigerians and indeed the masses, that Nigeria is approaching a failed state. Is the pogrom going on in Southern Kaduna or the genocide in Borno beyond some definite response? Do we talk about the daylight massacres in Benue or the mass decapitations in Niger? The total collapse of security across the land should be a cause for concern to all of us. The President has a duty to act fast, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Nigeria became a State formally in 1960, with sovereign powers transferred from the British colonialists to the representatives of the people. By law however, section 2 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and by section 2 (2) thereof, “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. So, in the real sense of the word, Nigeria is created as a sovereign state consisting of federating units. Fair enough, the same Constitution that created the Nigerian Federation also specified the kind of powers that it should exercise and the functions it should perform, for its citizens. In this regard, Chapter 2 of the self-same Constitution, comes to bear. I will limit myself for this discourse however, to section 14 of the Constitution.
Under and by virtue of section 14 (2) (a), “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution, derives ALL its powers and authority” (emphasis supplied). In very simple terms therefore, the sovereignty attached to the entity known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, resides in the people of Nigeria. In essence, all our leaders hold power in trust for the people of Nigeria and they cannot go on acting as if it is the other way round. To break it down more, there is no President who should claim to be in power, there is no Governor who should assert any authority and there should be no legislative house or even a court of law, that should rule over and above the people and be lording policies and decisions over them. Power belongs to the people, pure and simple. The fact that the people of Africa and especially Nigeria, have been living in the opposite of civility and modernization, whereby those elected into office by the people turn around to arrogate power to themselves, cannot be an excuse to obfuscate this simple truth.
Now to section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, wherein it is stated expressly and without equivocation, that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” A community interpretation of section 14 (2) (a) and (b) respectively will show clearly that the Nigerian State was created for the people of Nigeria, that the focus of the entity called Nigeria is the people and that the target of power and existence of that Federation, is the people. It is good therefore, to sound it loud and clear, that the very existence of government, the totality of the exercise of power, by all and sundry, is for the security and welfare of the people and anything outside this, anything done that cannot achieve this, means a failure of governance. America came some weeks back to rescue its citizens and Lake Chad displayed bravery when it routed the insurgents recently.
Security connotes freedom from danger, freedom from fear or anxiety or a situation that guarantees protection or where measures are taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime or attack The priority of security in governance is better illustrated by section 4 of the Police Act, wherein it is stated that the police shall be “… employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.” What stands out in this section is the phrase “protection of lives and property”. According to the data released by the police itself, in the first quarter of 2019 alone, 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country. It stated further that between January and April 2019 alone, 685 persons were kidnapped. Amnesty International has a higher figure of deaths and casualties. In 2018, it was estimated that about 6, 562 persons died from crime-related cases whilst generally, an estimate of about 13,000 persons are said to have died from the insurgency going on in the land, whilst about 1.1m people have been displaced thereby. Just in one year! This is surely frightening, to the extent that no one can claim to sleep with even one eye closed, any longer. It may well be that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, but this remains to be seen by all and sundry, in terms of security and safety, in the real sense of the word. The summary now would seem to be that those in authority have not been able to rise up to the challenges posed by insecurity.
In welfare matters, the government is not faring any better, at least in the provision of basic infrastructure. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is setting the record as the longest road project in human history. Yet, there is no specific target or date for its completion. Whilst we heaved a sigh of relief that the railway has come to rescue us, the coaches broke last week. The ever unstable national grid collapsed this week again. The list of frustrating occurrences is endless. Generally, welfare is the state of doing well, especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity, but this is not the lot of Nigerians presently, as most people have either lost their jobs or are just working from hand to mouth.
The present circumstance of Nigeria is that many people have become beggars of some sort. Even as businessmen and women, professionals and even as manufacturers, the bulk of the little profit margin is spent on infrastructure, whereby you are forced to generate your own electricity, provide your own water, build your own road, employ your own security, train your children in private schools or send them abroad, if they must excel, provide yourself health care if you must live, and maybe buy your own car, if you must move around. It is that bad, that the government seemed to have shifted all its responsibilities to the citizens. And how exactly is anyone expected to survive in such hostile environment, where you spend most of your valuable time in traffic, you get home to sleep in intense heat and darkness and you eventually manage to make it to the office the following day, only to be confronted with power outage, all day long, draining all human capacity, productivity and usefulness? Can we truly say that we have a nation or that any form of governance is in place?
From the above frightening scenario, how do you describe the entity created as Nigeria, if it is agreed that the two critical responsibilities of government are the security and welfare of the people? I have called out the President in this piece because the buck stops at his table, being the chief security officer of the nation. We have certainly had enough excuses. Something drastic has to be done and done urgently too. It would seem that those in authority do not well appreciate the enormity of the situation that we presently face in Nigeria or that state propaganda has so prospered and become the art of governance, that some of them are totally ensconced from the reality of present day Nigeria. For me, the inevitable conclusion is that we are gradually moving to a failed state, as things stand now. Part of the solution to this is for the President to yield to the yearnings of the people of Nigeria for restructuring, in order to achieve true federalism, resource control, state police and autonomy for the federating units.
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