Constitution Amendment, the Ruling Class and the Rest of Us – by Theophilus Ilevbare @tilevbare

Published:24 Nov, 2012

Constitution Amendment, the Ruling Class and the Rest of Us – by Theophilus Ilevbare @tilevbare

Reports says certain proposals to the ongoing Constitution review, to redress the flaws inherent in the 1999 constitution handed down to the country by the military, was welcomed by overwhelming majority of Nigerians, civil society groups, professional bodies, regional socio-cultural groups and organisations have been resisted by some political office holders, their disposition and scepticism on critical issues militating against the growth , peace and stability of the country has become questionable, unpatriotic, anti-national, self-serving, short-changing the interest of the people they claim to represent. The roots of Nigeria’s myriad of problems can easily be traced to the flaws inherent in the 1999 constitution handed down to the country by the military.

Capital Punishment for Corrupt Leaders

The cancerous plague of the hydra-headed nature of sleaze that has brought the nation to its sorry state requires a more decisive and deft approach to solve the catalogue of unresolved scams. The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) has vehemently resisted this proposal and they now canvass for punishment in line with international best practices. Making it seem like a good argument, we all know that such recommendation is covered in hypocrisy so the looting patrimony can continue. In Nigeria, it’s an open secret that justice is for the highest bidder, laws are dubiously bent to give protection to criminals. The same laws are susceptible to criminal manipulations by the corrupt. We can take a cue from some Asian countries where death by hanging is the penalty for looting and embezzlement of public funds, the effect of such measure on all indices of economic growth is crystal clear for everyone to see. It is however interesting to see their uneasiness at the thought of capital punishment for corruption. Introduction of such punitive laws in the constitution will serve the best interest of the Nation.

Removal of immunity clause


Another reason why the ruling class of Nigerian politicians is afraid of the constitutional amendment is the clamour by Nigerians for the immunity clause to be expunged. This ‘clause’, for many years, has opened the floodgates for incumbent political office holders to loot the treasury without blinking an eyelid and even enough time to sort for ways of cleaning up their mess just before leaving office. Of high priority also should be the redefinition of the scope of the immunity clause against the backdrop of the constitutional logjam which arose when the former Governor of Bayelsa state was arrested in Britain. While the British authorities insisted he had no immunity in Britain, some international constitutional lawyers maintained that his immunity extended beyond Nigeria’s jurisdiction.


Creation of State Police


State Police is the hallmark of true federalism; it is surprising that it has continued to generate so much debate. More alarming is the recent stance by the Northern Governors’ Forum to distance themselves from their counterparts in the south from canvassing for the introduction of state police even with the rising spate of insecurity occasioned by Boko Haram attacks. Nigeria is yet to join the rest countries in Africa and beyond who have long adopted state police and in some cases local police. Let’s face the truth and be honest with ourselves, If the creation of state police will address the security problems facing the country, why can’t we do that? To those who argue that the state governors will turn it to a witch hunting tool against perceive political enemies is the federal police as presently constituted any better? Can we all not remember the impasse involving Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambra State, now a senator, who had a bitter experience in the hand of the police even as a serving governor, when he was kidnapped by the police on the prompting of his political opponents in High places?

In the U.S for instance, their constitution gives the Federal Government the power to deal with foreign affairs and inter-state affairs. For policing, this means if a non-federal crime is committed in a state, so long as the offender does not flee the state, the Federal Government has no jurisdiction. Once the fugitive crosses a state border, he or she violates the federal law of inter-state flight and is subject to federal jurisdiction, at which time federal law enforcement agencies may then be called upon. The result for the American society is there for all to see that such a robust working relationship between the federal and state police should now be articulated in the constitution amendment

The Southern Governors opined that since in terms of equipment and allowances which make up to 70 per cent of police activities in their respective state are funded by them so as to motivate and boost the morale of officers and men in their states it would be logical too to have a force that will take orders from state Governors and respond more promptly to security challenges.

Gov. Amaechi queried that while a country like Kenya has decentralized down to local government police and other countries in African and around the world have long embraced this effective style of policing, critics in Nigeria continue to raise unfounded argument against it

He continued “The constitution should allow states that have the capacity to build their own police to have it and those that lack the capacity to have state police to continue to rely on the federal police.

“If I have state police in my state, it is because I want to pursue particular offences. The federal police should also be there to ensure that I don’t cross the boundary.

“In fact, if I were the Federal Government, I would either reduce the number of policemen I have, where there are state police, and give it to where there are no state police or focus more on states with a high crime rate.”

It is my opinion that insecurity of lives and properties will be greatly reduced if state police is created. The present set-up is an anomaly, where the Governors are the chief executive of their states without commanding control on the police within their jurisdiction.

The ongoing review of the 1999 constitution should be disassociated from issues such as state creation, tenure elongation for political office holders, constitutional role for monarchs, rotation or zoning of elective positions and political power tussle about who gets what, when and why.

The Federal government, amusingly has become big business, a passport to loot and acquire instant wealth it has become, people are preoccupied in the jostle and desperation for juicy political appointments at the centre instead of contributing their own quota to national growth from the units. In contrast the world over, countries operating federalism grant legal rights to federating units to have ownership of their affairs, resources and culture. True federalism recognizes that units are different, religion and cultures are different and manpower is unevenly spread; so are resources and means of development amongst the federating units. It also seek to bridge the unevenness in society not by assuming that all federating units must be at par but by throwing a challenge to each federating unit to develop at its pace using fiscal instrument such as taxes collected from the richer unit to mitigate, assist, and support such weaker units. Nigeria is operating a federal principle which is rather close to unitarism. Federalism ensures that powers be devolved and not centralized. Governance at the central level must be made less attractive as it has created huge problems for the units. The feeling that pecuniary interest is the raison d’être for federal jobs must also be de-emphasized. This can be achieved by shifting attention of governance and economic production to the federating units, thus making the units stronger where economic and political powers can be exercised particularly as it concerns the day to day lives of the citizens as obtained in advanced democracies.


Theophilus Ilevbare

Join me in charting a new course for Nigeria on twitter @tilevbare


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