Senator Ike Ekweremadu
By Olaolu Olusina
Leaders of the 17 Southern States, under the aegis of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA), have faulted the National Assembly over the ongoing process of reviewing the 1999 Constitution.
Rising from the second general conference of the Assembly which held at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel in Enugu last Tuesday, the leaders described the ongoing exercise as an usurpation of the sovereign power and authority of the people to give to themselves a truly peoples constitution.
The conference, which was attended by political and opinion leaders across the 17 southern states, reviewed the state of the nation, particularly the issues of corruption, national security, infrastructure development, ecological disaster and the on-going efforts of the National Assembly to undertake a wholesome review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It was held in continuation of the resolve of the people of Southern Nigeria to build solidarity and common understanding in strengthening the bonds of national unity and cohesion.
A communique jointly signed by former vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who is the coordinating chairman and leader of the South-east; Chief-Edwin K. Clark, Co-chair and leader of the South-south and Rt. Rev. Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi, Co-chair and leader of South-west, read in part : “While we recognise the powers of the National Assembly to amend provisions of the Constitution, the right and power to review and give to Nigerians a Constitution is vested in the people of Nigeria who remain the sovereign authority to do so. The constitutional right to amend the Constitution bestowed on the National Assembly by the 1999 constitution of ‘the Federal Republic does not amount to and confer on it the right and authority to review wholesomely the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“The present exercise by the National Assembly amounts to usurping the sovereign power and authority of the people to give to themselves a truly peoples constitution.”
The leaders also resolved that “the challenges of inequitable states distribution, skewed federalism which has continually exposed the structural imbalance of our country, the basis of the federating units for our federation and the place of local governments in a truly federal state are critical issues that Nigerians must and can only truly and genuinely address in a National Conference.”
In a speech read at the occasion, the leader of the Yoruba Unity Forum delegation, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, said “at our inaugural meeting at Uyo, we, the Yoruba delegation, expressed deep concerns over the challenges of the elimination of corruption in the polity, the threats posed by the level of insecurity of lives and property and the problems associated with our present inequitable and problematic constitution.”
According to him,” It turned out that these concerns were shared by most members, and our joint resolutions on finding solutions to them thus formed the core of our communique, which we later went to present to Mr. President.
“We wish we could say at this meeting that those resolutions and our visit have subsequently had an impact on governance. Sadly, they have not. Our country continues to be bedeviled by ever mounting scales of corruption whose flames are constantly fanned by the near certainty of the enjoyment of impunity by the culprits.
“ The entire society has become totally enraptured by corruption such that our youths today believe that corruption is the only path to success and simply thumb their noses at any exhortation to a higher morality. Yet, they are our future leaders. It is clear that by the legacy that we, today’s leaders are leaving behind for our youth, we are guaranteeing a succession of corrupt leaders for the country.
“In the same manner, the security situation has continued to deteriorate. Kidnapping for ransom has become a rapidly blooming business as our cities and villages swarm with armies of unemployed youths.
“People are no longer shocked when dozens of their citizens are gunned down and bombed out by the Boko Haram. The massacres have become routine. It is not clear what the government’s policy is towards the Boko Haram. Is it dialogue or is it the use of force? It has become unconvincing to call the terrorists faceless because recent developments show that they are known by our rulers.”