Constitution Amendment Will Tackle Separatist Agitations, says Senator Aliero

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Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, Senator Adamu Aliero representing Kebbi Central Senatorial District has expressed confidence that the ongoing constitution amendment process will adequately address the root causes of separatist agitations in the country. 

He believes that insecurity in the country is partially traceable to complaints of perceived marginalization and lopsidedness in resource allocation, appointments of political and public office holders and widespread mutual mistrust amongst some Nigerians.

 Describing the nation’s insecurity as worrisome, the thrice-elected senator who was governor of Kebbi State between 1999 and 2007, told reporters in Abuja yesterday that the situation was compounded by the inability of stakeholders to address topical issues in public discourse such as marginalization, injustice, inequity, restructuring, devolution of powers, state police, etc.

He canvassed for increased public support for the constitution amendment process, saying that the insecurity and the general mood in the country had made a review of certain constitutional provisions urgent to restore confidence and forge national unity, harmony and integration. According to him, there is no better time than now to address the current disturbing happenings in the country.

‘’Let’s utilize the ongoing constitution amendment to address all the contending issues to curb separatist and secession calls and let peace reign. It serves us better than allow the country go on fire. War is evil and nobody wants war in this country.

‘’A situation where some people burn public buildings like courts, INEC offices, Police formations, correctional centers, etc, is bad because it sends fear that affects the overall security situation that can lead to total breakdown of law and order in the country. If the attacks on  federal institutions, civil authority, the police, the military, DSS, the courts, prisons, INEC, etc continue, it questions the legitimacy of Federal government that has the responsibility that should maintain law and order. 

‘’The earlier it is handled the better. Preferably let’s use dialogue and I don’t think the situation will get to the level that military force will be used to curb what is happening in the South East. Instead, let’s use the ongoing constitution amendment to address all the issues raised in the agitations by the South East, South West or even the North Central and virtually all over the country.

‘’These separatist agitations are causing very serious security challenges. In the South East are the IPOB and the Eastern Security Network producing Ebubeagu, in the South West are Amotekun and in the North, are some vigilante groups even though they are not equivalent to the Amotekun and the IPOB. 

The senator, who was sub-committee chairman, presided over the recent public hearing on constitution amendment in Sokoto, venue of the exercise in the North West region, emphasized that there was no better time to address the raging issues than now.

‘’ We must use the opportunity of the ongoing constitution amendment to address alleged marginalization and lopsidedness in the appointment of public officers either in the civil service or political appointment. Truly speaking, most of the issues being raised at the constitutional review are issues that, if adequately handled, can really address the agitations whether from the South East, South West or even other parts of Nigeria because it has to do with the issue of true federalism. How do you address this issue of true federalism? This can be done through devolution of powers, revenue allocation, reviewing the formula from the current status where Federal Government is getting close to 60 per cent.  Maybe, we should review it so that a small part of it can go to the states and local governments to boost development at the grassroots and the state levels.

Noting that devolution of powers was the current thinking in the North, the senator said that state governors who attended the public hearing endorsed the idea of devolution of powers. A lot of the presentations supported it there is so much power in the center and that’s why there is so much attraction to the center but if we devolve power to the states, there will be less attraction and there will be more resources to the states to deliver. I only hope that the resources will be judiciously utilized.

‘’For example, Federal Government has no business in providing education particularly primary education. Also, it has very little role in agriculture except conducting research for development as it’s done in India, Brazil and even in China. Agricultural development is left to the states but issues of regulation, research and development are done by the central government. In the US, it is the same thing. 

‘’The issue of health care, apart from very few tertiary health care institutions, maybe some major teaching hospitals that the Federal Government should maintain, all the rest should be left to the states. Let some premier universities go back to the regions where they may even do it better than the Federal Government. If they give resources to the teaching hospitals, they should ensure that the resources are properly utilized.

On agitations for state police, Aliero disagreed, saying that the nation’s recent political history indicated that sufficient lessons had not been learnt.  According to him, while Amotekun in the South West could complement the Nigerian police in curbing crimes and criminality, they should not carry arms and ammunitions since they lack legitimacy and powers. 

‘’My worry is about state police considering our history in the First Republic when state police were used against political opponents is that it is a recipe for danger and anarchy. I will not subscribe to the idea of state police because of the inherent dangers. There is the likelihood that if you allow state police, they can be used as instruments of destabilization of the country. 

‘’A group of states may form a security network and decide to declare their independence because they will be stronger than the Federal Government. If they do that, it could lead to the disintegration of the country. Again, our history of state police is nothing to write home about particularly during the First Republic. The Northern Peoples Congress, for example, used the state police to harass political opponents and muzzle political opposition. 

‘’I’m afraid that the way our politics is, we have not learnt our lesson. If given chance, the state police can be used to suppress opposition, destabilize our democracy and take us back to dictatorship. Instead, I want more recruitment into the police force but instead of centralizing it at Abuja, let us decentralize it to the zonal level so that operational commands can be given to the commissioners of police who will be able to enforce security at the various state and local governments. I think this arrangement is better than state police’’, he said.

He advocated for immediate increase in manpower for the police and the military, arguing a situation where more than half of 300,000 personnel are presently guarding houses of political office holders such as ministers, governors, senators, etc including bank executives, etc portended grave dangers for the nation.

 ‘’It means we have about 180,000 police for 200 million Nigerians. This is grossly inadequate, and they are ill-equipped in terms of weaponry and logistics. Even where they have vehicles, maintenance and fuelling them is a big challenge. In the military that, by convention protects the country against external aggression, has about 160,000 personnel, if it’s up to that. Egypt with 80 million people has over 3 million whereas Nigeria with 200 million people has just about 160,000 personnel. So where do you go from here? Even the small number is over-stretched with fighting bandits in the Middle-Belt, insurgency in the North East, kidnappings in the North West and dealing with militants that are vandalizing strategic national assets like pipelines in the Niger Delta’’, he said.