Southern ‘Leaders of Thought’ seek negotiated restructuring via new constitution

*Assures of lPOB cessation of demand for Biafra, disruption of 2019 General elections if demands are met

For the umpteenth time, a group of some eminent Nigerians led by renown constitutional Lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze and under the ageis of the Southern ‘Leaders of Thoughts’ yesterday demanded for negotiated re-structuring, implemented through a new constitution for the country.

The group also known as the Project Nigeria Movement said the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu has declared his intention and that of his command to cease demand for Biafra and planned disruption of the 2019 General Elections if progressive restructuring is vigorously pursed.

Addressing a World Press Conference in Lagos, the Chairman of the group, Prof. Ben Nwabueze said the group conceive the type of restructuring that goes in line with the kind of federalism that existed under the 1960/1963 constitution which he noted is the central object or purpose of restructuring.

He declared that the essential purpose of restructuring is to enable the component ethnic nationalities, grouped together by affinity of culture, language and territorial contiguity, to govern themselves in matters of internal concern, leaving matters of common concern not overwhelmingly extensive in their range to be managed under a central government constituted in such a manner as to ensure that it is not dominated by any one group or combination of them and above all, ensure justice, fairness and equity to all in the management of matter of common concerns.

He pointed out that what the type of restructuring assures an optimal measure of self-government determination consistent with the territorial sovereignty of the country.
“Self determination connotes essentially, not independent government, but the right of each group, within the territorial sovereignty of the country as one state, to govern itself in matters that concerns it alone, for example local government matters which is an example par excellence of a matter of local concern in a village in Haysa land should not be the business of a Igbo man, the election of elective public functionaries in a region or zone governors and members of legislative assemblies and local councils. Self government connotes therefore true federalism”, he explained.

Prof. Nwabueze posited that the factors that impair the objective of true federalism include the most crushing of it, which is the over-concentration of political power and financial resources in the Federal Government far beyond what they were under the 1960/1963 constitutions.
“The result of the accretion of power to the centre either by direct grant by the constitution or by perverse interpretation of its provisions, is to alter the power relations between the centre and the states so significantly as to change the character of the system quite substantially from the federal to a unitary system. The system remains federal largely in name”.
“Revisiting the exclusive and concurrent legislative lists under the 1963 Constitution we think that the powers of the Federal Government there under should be further reduced in the several respects”, he said.

On financial resources, he positioned that:” The over-concentration of financial resources and relations in the federal government affronts true federalism in no less a grievous degree. An arrangement whereby every month officials of the state government go to Abuja for the share of the money in the federation account disbursed to them by officials of the federal government as paymaster is a negation of true federalism; it is simply caricatures of true federalism”.

According to him, restructuring is not a matter that could be implemented by amendment of the 1999 constitution, rather it requires a new constitution adopted and approved by the people at a referendum.

On the National Assembly position on restructuring, he declared that:” It is sad that while clamour for restructuring is reaching a crescendo and sweeping across, the National Assembly is still regaling us with talks about constitution amendment and its position by the erroneous assertion that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended but cannot be abolished and replaced by a new Constitution”

“By taking this untenable position, the National Assembly makes itself a big obstacle in the way to re-structuring. The view that the 1999 Constitution can only be amended is erroneous because it fails to take account of the fact that the 1999 Constitution is only a Schedule to a Decree, Decree 24 of 1999, the decree can be repealed by the National Assembly and Upon the repeal, the 1999 Constitution completely disappears from existence”, he said.

The elder statesman said,” We think the way forward for Nigeria and the people in the exercise of the power inherent in them as a sovereign people, to make, through a referendum, new constitution constituting a new political order. The process must be led by a President as the elected leader of the people imbued by an ardour for change”, he explained.

The meeting was attended by; Professor Kimse Okoko, Mr Chigozie Ubani, Professor Sola Ehindero, Professor Tony Killa, Mr Elliot Ugochukwu-Ukoh, Mr Olawale Okunniyi – Secretary/Member, Professor Akin Oyebode, Solomon Asemota (SAN) amongst others.

Reacting to the broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari where the president stated that it is only the National Assembly that has the power to move for re-structuring, Nwabueze said:” They are bodies elected by the people with certain powers but the power the power to decide on restructuring remains with the people who elected. The people have constituted power. The National Assembly does not have the constitute power to decide fro the people, the constitute power reside with the people”, he said.

The Constitutional lawyer disclosed that the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu has assured him that himself and his command were ready to drop agitation for Biafra and the disruption of 2019 General Election if progressive re-structuring is pursued in line with the position of the Southern Leaders of Thoughts and other genuine groups calling for the return of Nigeria to true federalism.

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