/RESTRUCTURING: EMINENT ELDERS FORUM CALLS FOR ADOPTION OF 1963 CONSTITUTION

RESTRUCTURING: EMINENT ELDERS FORUM CALLS FOR ADOPTION OF 1963 CONSTITUTION

EMINENT ELDERS FORUM (EEF)

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

4TH DECEMBER, 2020

PREAMBLE :
The Eminent Elders Forum (EEF) comprises of very top ranking senior citizens that have transversed all spheres of human endeavours including the very high politically exposed; high ranking fellows in the executive, legislative, judiciary, police, military, civil, public and private sectors of our country, Nigeria.
Many of the members of the Eminent Elders Forum are far into their retirement from active service but came together to offer elderly advisories, to reminisce, share experiences and contribute to the well being of humanity.
The Eminent Elders Forum is apolitical, non religious, non tribal/ethnic, non racial and non discriminatory body with current listed membership of over 300 of highly cerebral, accomplished and diversely distinguished eminent elders across the country.

Recently, the body had a two-day online Meeting/Discussion, precisely on
21st and 22nd of November, 2020 on the topical national issue of restructuring the polity and constitutional amendments.
The subject matter, as stated above, was whether:
1. To amend the 1999 Constitution or replace it with the 1963 Constitution?
2. To continue with the presidential system or revert to parliamentary system?
3. What system do we prefer? Unitary, Federal with strong/weak federating units? Or confederation?
4. What type of legislature should we operate at the federal level from 2023 – unicameral or bicameral

As expected of high level discussions on national issues, the deliberation was highly tasking, well debated and fruitful. At the end of the two-day meeting, it was resolved to advice the Federal Government, especially the executive and the legislature as resolved below:

DISCUSSIONS:

1. Discard 1999 Constitution and replace it with the 1963 Constitution with Amendments to reflect the current realities in the country.
2. Adopt Confederation with Bicameral legislature.
3. Draft a completely new constitution that meet the aspiration or truly representative of the people of Nigeria.
The above imputs were informed by the fact that:
1. The1999 Constitution is found defective in many aspects and gave the centre an unfettered power while reducing the states to mere appendages, hence the clamour for re-structuring and amendments to the said 1999 constitution. Therefore, the best option is to have our elected representatives to redesign a constitutional document that can be subjected to a referendum by the people of Nigeria.
2. The 1999 Constitution, premised on presidential system is considered too expensive for the country. Therefore, we cannot continue to operate it as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
3. The 1960/1963 Constitution is a parliamentary system that guarantees true Federalism and devolves more power from the center to the states (Federating Units).
EEF is therefore of the opinion that Nigeria should return to the 1963 Constitution with appropriate modifications.
We advice that Constitution alignment should begin with totally independent systems that throw up best leadership for totally independent federating states, units or agreed structures. We advocate for:
1. Strict commitment and compliance to the rule of law, equity and discipline with the fear of God.
2. Electronically transparent electoral protocol/process.
3. Fairness, equity and justice to all regardless of religion, ethnic or cultural considerations in all aspects of governance.
4. A parliamentary system with a redefinition of the regions/zones with the old Mid-Western region being part of it.
5. A unicameral legislature with members working part time and entitled to sitting and transport allowance especially in this age of technology advancement.
6. Abrogation of the unitary system which is a command system only fit for the military. The state/regions as federating units should be strengthened and given more responsibilities/power.
7. Reduce the items in the exclusive lists to the advantage of the concurrent.
8. Although we have political imperatives, the rational for urgent change is now economic. Nigeria is dead broke (in recession) and bankrupt. As a result, the administrative cost of governance should be reduced drastically i.e. we can no longer afford the salaries or remunerations of the followings:
774 Chairmen and their councilors of Local Government Councils.
36 State Houses of Assemblies and 36 State Governors, Deputies with scandalous and outrageous security votes.
42 Ministers and Permanent Secretaries and over 700 MDAs at Federal Level. There is need to drastically reduce the recurrent expenditure especially now in the face of recession.
9. Given the many defects of the 1999 Constitution and the many challenges of amendments, the best option in the circumstance is to draft a new constitution or simply adopt the 1963 Constitution with amendments to reflect the following:
A) A truly federal system of government composed of semi-autonomous regions and less attractive central government.
The Federal Government will handle its statutory duties such as defense, customs, immigration, foreign affairs etc while the federating regions will handle internal securities (Police, prisons, lands, Local taxes etc); each region will also evolve its own laws in consonance with local traditions and in line with its core values.
B) The new arrangement will include a national referendum which would be an instrument required to ratify and legitimize the recommendations of the constituents assembly.
C) The general consensus here is that, there must be structural changes in our constitution before the next election.
The contention is that the four regions that informed the 1963 constitution – Eastern, Northern, Midwestern, and Western Regions should constitute the minimum base for the establishment of regional governments.
That for the purpose of equity, the Midwest region should always be taken as equal to the other regions regarding any restructuring. The six geopolitical zones should be incorporated in the 1963 Constitution. The geopolitical zones can be the kernel for the incorporation of regional governments.If the six (6) geopolitical zones are to constitute regions, the uniqueness of the Midwestern region should be taken into consideration in which case there should be seven regions not six.
The seven suggested regions are as follows:
1)Midwestern Region shall consist of Edo and Delta States in the present South South geopolitical zone.
2) The South South Region shall consist of Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Akwa Ibom State and Cross Rivers State in the present South South geopolitical zone.
3) The North Central Region shall consist of States in the North Central geopolitical zone
4) The North East Region shall consist of states in the North East geopolitical zone.
5) The North West Region shall consist of states in the North West geopolitical zone
6)The South Eastern Region shall consist of States in the South East geopolitical zone.
7)The South West Region shall consist of states in the South West geopolitical zone.

CONCLUSION:

1. Replace 1999 Constitution with 1963 Constitution with Amendments to reflect today’s realities in Nigeria.

2. Revert to parliamentary system of government because it is cheaper and the burden of governance is lighter with less corruption and more development oriented.

3. Adopt a Federal system of government with strong federating units but with right provisions to make it difficult for any of the federating units to pull out of the Union.

4. Adopt a unicameral legislature which is cheaper and with less internal party crisis.

5. Consider the adoption of seven regions as stated above or more.
The present states in each of the proposed regions shall serve as provinces in the region.
Each province shall be headed by a Provincial Administrator.
The mineral resources and VAT in each region shall be under the control of the Regions/States. The Region/States shall however pay an agreed percentage of the revenue and VAT to the federal government.
For effective and efficient, effective and workable security architecture, the Police shall be decentralized to reflect the federal, regional and provincial administration that would eventually emerge”.

6. There is a strong argument and recommendation to revert to our 1963 Constitution.
Instead of the recurrent ritual and wasteful efforts in attempts to amend the present comatose 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly should simply delete the schedule that incorporate the 1999 constitution into military decree that created it (which is now assumed to be an act of the National Assembly) and replace it with the 1963 Constitution for the concurrence of the States House of Assembly, to become operational come 2023 at the expiration of all the current elective positions as an act of the National Assembly.
This new act of the National Assembly that incorporates the 1963 Constitution should then become the basis for all elective offices come 2023.
By this act, we would have achieved the followings:
I. Restructuring of the polity and
II. A cost effective, time saving and easy to operate constitution that reflects truly “WE THE PEOPLE”

The 1963 Constitution holds the ace. A one page bill that substituted 1999 constitution with 1963 Constitution is a neat way to pass and proceed.
The addendum to the proposed bill would be guideline and procedures for transition in a period of 2 to 3 years, that is, the remaining life span of the present government and before next election in 2023.

Signed:
1. His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Ibrahim Nasiru Mantu CFR – Chairman, EEF Interim Steering Committee (ISC).
2. Dr. Akin Fapohunda – Secretary, EEF Interim Steering Committee (ISC).
3. Professor Chukwuemeka Eze Onukaogu – Chairman, EEF Resolutions/Communique Committee.
4. Elder Muyiwa Ayo-Vaughan – Secretary, EEF Resolutions/Communique Committee.
5. Elder Smolette Adetoyese Shittu-Alamu – Chairman, EEF Media and Publicity Committee.
6. Chief Anayo Arinze – Secretary, EEF Media and Publicity Committee.
7. Professor Echefuna’ R. G. ONYEBEADI – Convener/Coordinator.