By Chris Nwosu
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Accounting Education and Research Services, ACCERS, Mrs Morenike Babington-Asaye, in this interview, speaks on the on-going Constitution amendment and restructuring among other issues of national importance.
Why do you think we need a new Constitution?
Nigeria requires a new Constitution, the one that is made by the people themselves. Even though the Constitution was reviewed in 2014, the report should not be used in isolation of the people’s wish on restructuring. The present Constitution has a lot of flaws, which amendments cannot resolve. The structure of the country must first be agreed before a Constitution can be developed along that structure. The present Constitution is flawed and broken because of the following –
It assumed that all Nigerians participated in its making and approval. This was a military decision. I expected that the military should have made the Constitution a temporary document.
It fails to ensure that power was not taken away from the people by those elected to serve.
It fails to organize government in such a way that there would be distinct functions for each tier of government to avoid duplication of duties and costs, misinterpretation, and misuse of power.
It fails to ensure that the resources of any community are retained and controlled by that community, even if activities would be carried out on its behalf by joint governments (the three tier of governments).
There is no organized Constitutional Institution that can supervise the executive, legislative and judiciary. That gives them the power to intimidate and terrorize the people.
It fails to integrate the people and governments. The State creation is causing disintegration among people of the same language, culture, and values.
It fails to recognize that Nigeria is a multi-national society with distinct languages, cultures, and values. The use of our language as lingua franca was ignored and preference was made for a foreign language which has the tendency of disintegrating the people.
It fails to protect the citizens by assuming that those elected and appointed to serve would be men and women of conscience and will govern selflessly, act transparently, and be accountable to the people.
Some people are against restructuring. What could possibly be their reasons?
It amazes me when some people speak against restructuring. Restructuring is a reformation or a rearrangement of anything or people. We restructure our families, our businesses, our selves, and why can’t we restructure our country? Every day or regularly, you examine yourself, your business, your family, and where things are not working the way they should, you restructure. That is the most intelligent way to live peacefully. Presently, the structure laid down in the 1999 Constitution for the nation is not working and no one can doubt that. Therefore, let us do a re-arrangement that will make everybody happy. Ex-President Barrack Obama of the United States during his first inaugural speech said, ‘let us have mutual respect’. We gain a lot through this process and we have nothing to lose by respecting each other for who we are and what we are. Those who are against restructuring are the terrorists in power (directly or indirectly) who will like to capitalize on the loopholes in the Constitution to continue to have access to power and wealth. They are those who are interested in widening the gap between the rich and the poor and those who feel unsafe when we begin to witness an egalitarian society where justice is not for sale and the people are happy.
What do we need to do to achieve democratic success, and reduce cost of governance?
Let us evolve a new Constitution based on presentations from all nations that make up Nigeria as to how they want to be governed. This brings about the restructuring that is inevitable.
Let power belong to the people and be retained by them. Taking power from the people and giving it to their representatives, who are political investors and speculators is a political robbery that denies people of their power and rights.
Let us resolve the ownership of land and its resources. The land and its resources belong to the community that owns them and a Memorandum of Understanding must be reached before any exploitation of the land. This arrangement will bring a lasting solution to peace in our country.
Let us agree on the type of government that will be less costly within the framework of the Federation. A government that will integrate the people having the same language, culture and values will stand the country in good stead. The present system of government is continuously disintegrating the people and making people lose their sense of belonging to one nation. Let us determine how tax laws are to be enacted, and how taxes are administered and expended. Functions of government must be distinct and not duplicated hence let duties be allocated.
Exclusive list and concurrent list are not necessary once functions and powers are defined. Let us consider the welfare of Nigerians as paramount and not negotiable.
Let us make the Constitution binding on everyone by ensuring that we have less legislative matters. Issues that have been entrenched in the Constitution no longer require to be legislated upon. A lot of issues that are now being raised in the National Assembly are Constitutional rights of the people.
Nigeria is a unique country and cannot be compared to others without reflecting on the circumstance. Our democracy cannot thrive on political party system alone. We must reduce the number of Local Government Councils and replace them with self-funding Community Development Agencies or Associations. The structure of government is important to defining the Constitution. Preparing the Constitution before the structure may be likened to putting the cart before the horse.
Resource control is one of the reasons some are supporting restructuring. What are your views?
Resources of any community must be recognized to belong to that community and they must be given a say in how their resources are used or exploited. No amount of compensation can resolve this issue. If the people of a zone want to sleep for 24 hours a day, if that is their chosen lifestyle, and it will generate revenue for them, please let them be if they will not disturb the peace of the country or any other zone. Resource control will make governments of the federation to be resourceful and progressive. The present structure of pooling all the resources together and sharing according to hospital beds, land mark, population and the rest is very regressive, and make governments lazy and unproductive. It is not equitable when those who have no resources will share more than those who have.
How can resources be controlled?
That is why we need restructuring. We must resolve the problems of who is the custodian of the resources and who owns the resources. Presently, the resources of the nation are under the control of the President who is the Head of the Federal government and the government of the Federation (two in one). This is because the Federal Government, according to the Constitution, owns and at the same time the custodian of all resources. Too much power ceded to the Federal government. That structure if not restructured can paralyze the whole nation and that is why corruption is uncontrollable.
So, what do we do?
We need the Constitution to guarantee resource control to the communities, and the establishment of a non-partisan National Constitution Council (NCC) and Zonal Governments. While the NCC supervises the three arms of government – the legislators, the executives and the judiciary, the Zonal governments are the custodian of the resources of their communities. The members of these mandatory Constitutional organs must be non-partisan and whose integrity cannot be challenged. They will be the source of internal controls to achieve the objectives of the Constitution and monitor the activities of the politicians. I have a design for this structure and I am preparing a book on the restructuring the way I see it. Membership of these two organs, I suggest, should be three delegates from each Zone of the Federation for NCC and one member from each State senatorial district for each Zonal Government.
You are worried about peace in the world, how can we have peace in Nigeria?
To create or sustain a harmonious relationship, it must continuously be examined and re-arranged when necessary. To do otherwise is preparing the ground for hatred and war through agitations and protests. We know that democracy is not perfect but one expects to see a better world. In many countries, politicians have turned society against each other. There are too many protests and agitations and people are not happy. We are living in a world of democratized dictatorship. Imagine the amount of money countries spend on weapons of destruction and the amount of money the United Nations and other organizations spend on maintaining peace in the world. The two put together is enough to eradicate poverty in the world. The root cause of protests, agitations and wars is poverty which is a branch of inequity. This is not good for the world. To make sure that Nigeria is indivisible and indissoluble we must put structures to cement those key words, ‘indivisible’ and ‘indissoluble’.
The cost of governance is too high, the gap between the rich and poor is becoming wider every day, social order, especially in the welfare of the people is poorly implemented, the economic order is not in congruent with the needs of the people. The political order is in shamble as the implementation of true federalism has been difficult to achieve. The removal of power from the people through section 14.2 of the Constitution is not acceptable. Let it be stated that sovereignty belongs to the people and their powers are well stated without ambiguity. The people should not be intimidated through the provision of the Constitution. The people must not wait for the politicians who occupy all these three organs or have the power to appoint or select people to positions of authority before they can take actions that are necessary. Therefore, I suggest the National Constitution Council that can act for the people. We don’t want a democratized dictatorship in the world and not in Nigeria.