From left, resource person, Mrs Maria Okwor, first republic minister, Chief Mbakwe Amechi, founder Igbo youth movement (IYM), Mr Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah, former secretary general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya during the 20th anniversary celebration of IYM in Enugu

OBINNA EZUGWU

The Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) has said it supports the position of Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on the planned review of the 1999 constitution, noting that the proposed exercise will be a waste of time and resources.

Recall that NEF had in a statement at the weekend by its Director of Publicity, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, opposed the proposed review of the 1999 constitution by the Senate, accusing the lawmakers of spending huge amount of money to fund the constitution review process since 1999 without any meaningful impact on the lives of the people.

The forum instead, called for a national conference where the various stakeholders in the Nigerian project would come together to discuss the kind of country they wish to have.

“The Northern Elders Forum recommends the alternative of leaders of thought, elders, groups and professional organisations and representatives of government to freely discuss every element of our co-existence as a country under principles of voluntarism, genuine representation mutual respect and integrity of the process,” NEF had said.

“A Nigerian Peoples’ Conference on Review of the Constitution will benefit from past work in this direction in addition to contemporary challenges, which the country needs to address in a context that allows free and productive engagements without pre-determined ends.

“The outcome of this conference should be submitted to the two arms of government, which should provide for a referendum in the constitution so that Nigerians can directly decide on how they want their nation to be structured and function.

“The North is willing to discuss other options that will do justice to the current constitution and the future of our great country.”

While some groups disagreed with the forum even as the Senate has since vowed to proceed with the amendment, the ECA in a statement on Wednesday by its secretary, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, threw its weight behind the northern elders, arguing that the country needed a conference where its stakeholders will meet and reach agreements on the way forward.

The ECA recalled that previous attempts to review the constitution ended up being waste of time and resources, even as it called for the total discarding of the “unitary constitution.”

“Truth they say, is unpopular. But truth remains the only road to peace and salvation. The constitutional amendment project embarked upon by the National Assembly, aside serving as a conduit pipe to siphon scarce national resources, will not, in all sincerity, serve any useful purpose whatsoever.

“The (Ike) Ekweremadu and (Emeka) Ihedioha constitutional amendment rigmarole, is still fresh in our memory and the report is still there. The plan to repeat same excersice at this time, does not make sense one bit, except if someone or a cabal is bent on altering a particular or particular sections of the constitution to suit his or their hidden agenda.In that case, such conspirators will only find themselves stoking trouble,” the ECA said.

“The unitary 1999 constitution ought to be discarded and replaced with a people’s constitution. The confidence of the people needs to be restored in our constitution, only when the people feel part of the making of the constitution. The military crafted, supritended and supervised the 1999 unitary document, that has proven deficient and faulty through practice.”

The assembly said only a people’s constitution produced through a referendum can move the country forward, and that Northern Elders were very much in order.

“Lovers of Nigeria believe that only a people’s constitution affirmed at a referendum can and will move Nigeria forward.

“Accordingly, we agree with the Northern elders forum, that a gathering of committed Patriots is needed at this time, to begin the needful process of drawing up and designing a new people’s constitution that will replace the unitary military constitution of 1999. Such a people’s constituent assembly is actually long overdue,” it said.

“Events in the country confirm our constitution needs a revamp and an overhaul, not piecemeal amendments. A decades-old insurgency in the North east, that not only won’t go away, but is gradually spreading to other regions as well, seccesion agitation in the east, that is so deep rooted, yet grossly misunderstood and mishandled, violence and banditry, the kind never experienced before and certainly not experienced by any nation in history.

“Economic problems that have defied solution, unemployment and hunger reigning all over the land. Mistrust and suspicion that has sadly raised regional, ethnic and religious faultlines to frightening levels. Loss of faith, anger, poverty and fear for tomorrow, that turned millions of marooned compatriots into gambling and pool betting as the only means of solace and keeping hope alive. Sad.

“In spite of all these dangerous signals, even as oil prices slide down, we regrettably choose to pretend that piecemeal amendment of the contentious 1999 constitution remains better option to a wholesome reengineering of our union, genuinely addressing our fears and granting every region a sense of belonging that would engender faith and trust in the fatherland, through a new people’s constitution.

“The termites that are eating up the foundation of our union are busy at work weakening our union, while we choose to ignore the truth.

“Addressing the fears of every constituent part of Nigeria, cannot be effectively achieved by constitutional amendment at the national assembly. Nepotism and discrimination has clearly created and established a mindset of the oppressor and the oppressed in minds and souls of compatriots.

“Only an opportunity to air their grievances at a conference, can assuage their fears and anger at the painful feeling of domination and dichotomy terrifying their souls and their beings. Refusal to allow them express their fears and pains at a constituent assembly, gives them the impression of a hidden agenda to deny them justice.

“Refusal to collate the reports of past National conferences and summon a constituent assembly that will save Nigeria, gives the impression of a predetermined and deliberate agenda by the people in power today, to use a rubber stamp National Assembly to create a Nigeria along their whims and caprices. This will certainly be stoutly resisted by sections who feel oppressed and marginalized. A constituent Assembly will carry every body along. That is the truth.

“This particular government of 97%/5% fame, and their nepotistic style of appointments, together with her equally suspicious rubber stamp National Assembly leadership, does not inspire trust and faith to amend the disliked 1999 constitution. Insistence on obstinately following that route, will only deepen the fears in the land, embolden and find more sympathizers for the secessionists and confirm the existence of an unfriendly hidden agenda of the rulers of today, to enslave, dominate and oppress others in perpetuity.

“In conclusion, this government had already provoked fear and distrust with the CAMA law that empowers Government to disband the leadership of churches and others and appoint trustees for them, embarked on the contentious national water resources law that seeks to empower Fulani herdsmen to part-own all the rivers and streams in Nigeria.

“When you remember that this same Government has tried and attempted severally, to cage, gag and paralyse the free press. Declared war on the same social media they effectively used to hound Jonathan out of office, tried to merge religious studies in schools, same government tried to seize and annex ancestral lands in all the 36 states and hand same over to Buhari’s kinsmen in the name of RUGA, a Government that is comfortable with skipping the South east in all the projects covered by external loans the same excluded South east will repay. Same government totally schemed out the South east in the headship of any of the military, paramilitary and security agencies and organisations, same government excluded the South east from the ongoing railways mordernisation project,same government woefully failed to rein in the rampaging herdsmen slaughtering citizens all over the land.

“When such a sectional government embarks on constitutional amendment through a perceived rubber stamp national assembly, it arouses great premonition, trepidation and tension in land. Nobody knows their true agenda.

“Difficult to understand why reconstruction of the polity into a truly federal structure, through devolution of powers and true federalism seems offensive to some people. Raising fears if those opposed to restructuring Nigeria truly want Nigeria to survive.

“We stand by the Northern elders forum on this: piecemeal amendment of the constitution is a waste of time and resources and will achieve absolutely nothing. Only a constituent assembly that would agree on a people’s constitution that would be affirmed at a referendum is needed now. Time is running out.”