ACF’s proposal gets Ohanaeze, PANDEF, Middle Belt Forum support
Afenifere, ARG give conditions
Previous constitutions for use as guide
The drumbeat of restructuring is growing louder with ethnic nationalities taking up the gauntlet.
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on Monday told North’s lawmakers in the House of Representatives that it will spearhead a bill to reset the polity.
It has proposed a meeting with other ethnic group leaders, such as, Ohanaeze, Afenifere and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to brainstorm on the Bill to propose for the federal lawmakers to consider and pass.
ACF leader Chief Audu Ogbe said he was inspired by President Muhammadu Buhari’s position that he would sign a bill on restructuring, if passed.
Ogbe, a former Minister of Agriculture, told the lawmakers to be on the lookout for such a bill.
Speaking at a retreat for the Northern Caucus of the House of Representatives on the theme “Petroleum Industry Bill and the future of Nigeria”, Ogbe, said: “A lot has been said about the Petroleum Industry bill, but I will not dwell on that. There is something that will come before you very soon. The last time Mr. President met with a delegation from the South, he made a statement, which suggested that it was his body language.
“He said if a bill is presented before the National Assembly on restructuring and the Assembly passes it, he will have no objection than to sign it. It then means that the matter may not be too far away.
“At our last meeting in Kaduna, we extended an invitation to Ohanaeze, Afenifere and the South Peoples’ Congress that we want to engage them and have a conversation on the subject. We believe that we all need to have a conversation across table to solve the problem. However, I will like you, as legislators, to take note of this.
“Many of the people who are clamouring for restructuring are referring to the 1963 Constitution. Somehow, they believe that the constitution gives to every part of Nigeria whatever resources they have. We are trying to get copies to send to all of you legislators to see.
“Item 25, Part One of Section 69 of the first schedule says that mines, minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are on the Exclusive List. The 1963 Constitution, an exact copy of the 1960 Constitution, and a copy of the 1999 Constitution which has now been made to look as if it was written by the government itself.
“Take out these constitutions and read it well. We will meet, discuss and something will be presented to you. It will be up to you to make it work after which, Mr. President will be ready to sign it”.
Ohanaeze, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) three their weight behind the ACF plan.
But Afenifere and the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) gave conditions to support such a Bill being spearheaded by the ACF.
Ohanaeze: ACF’s move patriotic
Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide hailed the move by the ACF.
Reacting to the ACF’s move in a chat with The Nation in Enugu, spokesman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, said Ndigbo were ready to join hands with other ethnic groups to sponsor the bill.
According to him, the bill would receive the utmost attention and go a long way to solving major problems bedeviling the country.
Ogbonnia said: “We are open for such a proposal; we’re ready to join hands with ACF, Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere, PANDEF and other ethnic groups in the country to sponsor the bill on restructuring at the National Assembly. And we have distinguished senators and members of the House of Representatives who can take up the responsibility and are ready to help us achieve that.
“It will be a bill that will receive the utmost attention. We’re glad that Mr. President has already given it a positive nod by saying he will not hesitate to give assent to the bill when passed into law by the National Assembly. So, we’re very happy about that. ACF’s move is a patriotic one and a very good development.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is proving himself to be a democrat by so saying. He will confirm (himself a democrat) by so doing”.
On the insistence by some Nigerians that the country should be restructured through a constitutional conference, Ohanaeze said whichever way the country is restructured does not matter.
He added: “What matters is that the yearnings of Nigerians are met. Anybody who is saying restructuring has to be through the other way round should know it will be a tall order. If the National Assembly can achieve it, what about it?
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo is very happy that already all the southern governors have reached a consensus on the matter. The Middle Belt are in support. All enlightened lawmakers from the core North are also in support.
“It’s a bill that will sail. What we’re looking for in what we call constitutional conference can be achieved through the National Assembly.
“It is true that we have always said that the (1999) Constitution is faulty in the sense that we didn’t come together to make it. It is also true that for about 20 years, we’re getting on with it. If we can achieve that restructuring, it’s a major thing that will solve a lot of problems in this country”.
Middle Belt Forum, PANDEF back ACF to sponsor restructuring bill
National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus said the forum will not ignore anything that will bring about restructuring.
Bitrus said restructuring will address the problems facing the country, especially insecurity.
His words: “We will not ignore anything that will move Nigeria forward. Remember we are part of the proponents of restructuring. Any group has its areas. For example some people especially in the South-south are hammering on physical federalism. Some of us are saying look why not. We can have a period within which there can be interventions to help the federating units to get to the level where they can stand on their own. And restructuring is good for Nigeria.
“Competition always brings the best out of anything. And restructuring is going to bring out competition. Much of the problems we are facing, especially insecurity and restructuring, can address them. If not why would people be attacked and you have the formation of the police and the military and they will just be watching. When those people who were attacked mobilize to fight back, then they will stop them. No, in a restructured Nigeria where we have state police, people will not allow foreigners to come and kill their people the way it’s happening.
“So, devolution of powers is good for Nigeria. The Federal Government is so cumbersome with lots of responsibilities that are supposed to be shared and handed over to the states. So we are going to participate in any programme that is going to move Nigeria forward so that we can have a better Nigeria. When the military were creating states and local governments, there were imbalances and those imbalances are affecting us at the national level, at the legislative houses. Some people have been so favored over others.
“If you come to the National Assembly some zones have been given superiorities over others. We have to address all these things. Our electoral system has to be properly addressed”.
On his part the spokesman of Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ken Robinson, said: “we are also very soon going to meet with the political leadership and cultural leadership of Niger Delta, South south in particular. We are also going to have a meeting with the south west, south East and the middle Belt.
“Whatever that is possible, that is necessary to do for Nigeria to be restructured, PANDEF is ready to be part of it. The truth is that we are the biggest victims of this faulty constitution that Nigeria is working with. And so anything in the positive direction towards ensuring that there is a national consensus on restructuring.
“That is why when we got the outcome of the ACF meeting that they will reach out to other regions for peace, all of us the Afenifere, Ohaneeze Ndigo, and PANDEF welcomes that move and we only said if they will be sincere”.