Public Lecture on Democracy, Citizen Security and National Development in Nigeria: Reflections, Dynamics and the Way Forward 

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Delivered By
Yakubu Saleh Bawa, Esq.,
Chairman, NBA Jos, Branch

 

Organized By
Law Students Society (LLS) Faculty of Law University of Jos.

 

Y. S. Bawa has this to say with regards to the Existing Constitution of our dear country

“Nigerians are not pleased with the current Constitution that is currently operational. Fundamentally that’s why few weeks ago there were constitutional amendment hearings in all the geographical zones in this country. Nigerians have made several suggestions
through several memorandums. I want to note that, in my candid opinion is not only the content of our constitution that has numerous shortcomings and problems. When we talk about the constitution, the first issue to look at is the process that produced the Constitution. The process is significantly fundamental.

Constitution can be written or unwritten.
When we look at our constitution, we must look at the preamble where is begins
thus: ‘’we people of Nigeria have by our representative here assembled do
hereby declare, enact and give ourselves the following constitution..’’

The questions that beg for an answer are as follows: did we really in the first place
unanimously assembled and agreed to give ourselves the Constitution that is currently operational? Did we come together to produced the document that we now call Constitution?”


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On the Rule of Law, he opined that

“It is a basic component or ingredient for actualization of leadership for the common good of all. We already have the framework which is enshrined in the Constitution. The difference between Nigeria and United States of America for instance is respect for the rule of law. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in the
case of; MILITARY GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE & ORD VOJUKWU & ANOR (1985) 5NWLR (PT 10) espoused the doctrine of the rule
of law in the following words:
‘’The Nigerian Constitution is founded on the rule of law the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It means also that government should be conducted within the frame-work of
recognized rules and principles which restrict discretionary power…’’
Rule of law doctrine is the chief cornerstone upon which other features of democracy are built upon. The rule of law is the fulcrum upon which other features of democracy rotate on. It also includes equality before the law. Citizens
must be equal in the eyes of the law. No individual is above the law. Citizens
must be treated equally under any circumstance.”

On Electoral Reform, he stated categorically

“Nigeria must develop an electoral system that will ensure that, the process of electing
leaders into public and political leadership space is transparent and credible. This
is to ensure that the vote of every Nigerian must count at every election. The wishes and aspirations of the electorates must be reflected on the ballot papers.

There is no doubt that our current and extant electoral laws need a serious
overhauling. We have to jettison all sentiments and embrace truth and objectivity
in order to address this issue. Some areas that we must be addressed are as
follows:
a. TECHNOLOGY
The global trend now is technology, automation and digitalization. Our
current Electoral Act is grossly inadequate to meet up with the global trend
and practice. Our Electoral Act must accommodate or incorporate technology
in order to measure up with the current development. The issue of electoral
voting must be encouraged and enhanced. We must remove every form or
semblance of ambiguity as we address the issue of technology in our Electoral
Act. The typical example to cite in order to underscore this point is the recent
debacle or imbroglio that unfolded in the just concluded presidential election
petition at the Court of Appeal on the issue of Server. Based on the current
electoral law regime it is an acceptable norm globally for a body that is
saddled with the responsibility of conducting an election to conform to the
practices and ethics that are in tandem with information and communication
technology.
b. ELECTION JURISPRUDENCE
The Electoral Act is very unfair to the Petitioner as far as
election jurisprudence is concerned in Nigeria. The mode and procedure of
adjudication in election matters or proceedings must be changed in order to
have a semblance of justice. A new legal frame work must be developed
urgently. When a candidate contests an election and loses and later
complaints of irregularities in the said election and consequently approaches
the election tribunal in order to ventilate his grievances, he becomes the
Petitioner. In my humble view, the burden or onus of proving for instance,
electoral malpractices, irregularities or non compliance with Electoral Act,
e.t.c it should not be on the Petitioner. Rather, it should be on INEC who is
saddled with the responsibility of conducting the election. It is my humble
view therefore that, INEC should appear at the tribunal and prove before it
that indeed the election was conducted in total compliance with the Electoral
Act and not otherwise.

c. INTERGRITY OF THE SYSTEM
Independent National Electoral Commission must be overhauled and
revamped so as to inject and instil integrity and confidence in the electoral
system and processes. To instil integrity in the system, both the leaders and
the electorates must be actively involved. There is need for mass literacy
campaign regarding elections, electioneering, and election funding, general
guidelines on election. This campaign for mass education and enlightenment
must begin with the political gladiators and actors themselves. There is need
for a nuanced understating of what democracy and democratic ideals and
principles are all about as well as the philosophy and ideology related to
election generally entail.”

On the issue of Control of Resourse by the State, he pointed out

“It is important as we consider restructuring as one of the panacea to Nigeria’s under development not to forget to develop a legal frame work that will allow the State or regional Governments to manage their own natural resources but subject to payment of revenue to the Federal Government. The culture and practice of the Federal Government allocating funds and revenue to the States must be discouraged. From records and history, Nigeria experienced highest and greatest economic prosperity and development when regional governments were in operation.
At that time regions were allowed to manage their resources. The current arrangement of resource control by the Federal Government only promotes social injustice and encourages indolence and laziness by the State
Governments. Every State relies on Federal Government as the only source of revenue for survival.”

He also touched the issue of National Security, where he clearly stated that

“It is instructive to note that without national security it is highly impossible to experience national development and economic prosperity. It is fundamentally crucial to state that our national security architecture needs
to be overhauled, re-organized and re-strengthened. State Governments must step up and be active in the business of providing security to their people. Over dependence on Federal Government on security matters must
be addressed. Security is pivotal to national growth and development and it is the fulcrum upon which economic development, wealth creation and industrialization rotates.”

On Restructuring, he opined “that the issue is no longer an option and for it to be possible and feasible we must initiate constructive
amendments in the Constitution. Some areas must be looked at in restructuring Nigeria.

Looking at this topic holistically and within the legal and constitutional prism, I make bold to submit that we have to develop a legal frame work that can produce effective, efficient, visionary leadership that will engender national development and prosperity. We need to initiate a process of genuinely amending our Constitution to reflect regional government arrangement.”

On the issue of State Police, according to him
“There is no gain saying, for Nigeria to ensure the security and the safety of the entire citizens, a legal frame work through the constitutional amendment must be developed. It is necessary to establish State Police.

However, there is a need to put a mechanism in place to ensure that the rights of the minorities are adequately protected in that regard. The fact remains that without mechanisms to ensure checks and balances there is great propensity that with the State Police people or citizens especially the minorities, less- privileged and downtrodden may face the monster of police brutality, arbitrariness, and highhandedness. A legal frame work must be put in place to deal with the issues and potential danger areas.

He concluded by saying that
“We need systems change and the need for us to build strong institutions to be manned by men of strong will and character. We must develop political, legal and governmental foundations. Nation building and societal transformation can
only be possible through leaders that purposeful, visionary and God fearing.”


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