The task of reviewing the constitution that the National Assembly (NASS) faces now is daunting and vital. Because of the tough nature of the task, a lot of knotty issues await the members of the NASS. Such are the issues Senator Sunny Ogbuoji, representing the Ebonyi South Senatorial District discussed in an interview with Daily Sun.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, is the operational law today. It was made by the military before their exit in May 1999. So, it might be apt to call it militarised because of the people that made it. However, that is not the reason Senator Ogbuoji tagged it so. The militarisation, according to him, is the provision and inclusion of some clauses that create inequalities among citizens and seem to provide some others the latitude to commit offence and get away with it.
He is miffed by the fact that the immunity clause is still alive and well in the constitution of the nation and he asked: “In what normal society would the constitution provide that some citizens, no matter how highly placed, should commit an offence or even offences without being punished? It is that immunity that has created impunity in our system and lawlessness is gradually becoming part of us. I don’t know what the immunity clause for the president, governors and their deputies is still doing in our law.
It creates inequality and breeds impunity and it is one of the clauses that should be weeded out in the present review.” “We have seen from history that most of the people that enjoyed immunity abused it and after they must have left office, it becomes almost impossible to have them come back to answer to the charges against them. That is not fair to a system that needs order.” In order to purge the ultimate statute of the military factors, the lawmaker says the constitution needs whole scale tinkering, but he is of the view that piecemeal review of selected provisions from time to time will do the magic.
To him, the major problem about the leadership of the nation is not even the constitution. “Yes, the constitution is problematic, but it is not the major problem of the nation because even the provisions that are okay and straight have not been implemented properly. There could be lapses in the document, but the major problem is the human being that puts the constitution to work. The major problem Nigeria has is the lack of enforcement of the law. In a society where those that do wrong or offend the law are not punished, there is no way order will reign.
That is why I earlier pointed out the immunity clause that separates some citizens from punishment, and apart from that, many who run foul of the law are spared and we punish offenders selectively. That does not help a society.” The issue no Nigerian overlooks today is insecurity. And the senator had so much to say on the security situation and describes it as the worst the nation ever had. “We are at our lowest security wise and that affects every progress we should make. What it means is that if we must forge ahead, all of us must agree to fix the security menace. So much needs to be done.
I know the government has not been watching it helplessly, but it took even the security agencies unawares and they were ill prepared for it. This is a problem that started as a little and minor matter, now it has escalated and threatening to consume the entire nation. Solving the problem is a collective responsibility. I know the federal government has 60 percent of the job to do, and the rest belong to the state governors who would need to mobilize their supporters and do something more fruitful. Every governor was voted by the majority of the citizens. “That means their support base is large and awesome from the grassroots.
They should use this support base as lunch pad to kick-start the fight against this menace. We have security challenges in several and diverse ways and every region or part of the nation should device means of tackling the crises. They are no persons that trouble the peace of this country that are not from among the people and the support base of the politicians, especially the governors should be put to use here and now, because we need something to be done immediately. If only we resolve to handle the situation, there must be alternative means our leaders should devise to tackle insecurity.
“If the worst comes, let us break down the way of solving the problems to the regions. Like I said earlier, every region has its peculiar problems and security challenges, and they are those that affect all of that also emanate from the base. There could be regional efforts and plans to handle them.” But Senator Ogbuoji won’t take the position of the masses that the Senate or indeed the National Assembly waited to take a tougher stance on the security menace especially Boko Haram until a member of the Senate was killed in Jos. He said such insinuation is unfair to the lawmakers who he declared has nothing to fight insecurity save for making pronouncements to the executive to act on.
“We don’t order troops, we don’t give directives or orders to the security agencies on what to do. In fact, for any of us to have a policeman attached to him is on request. So it is not in our hands to handle the problem as a body unless as individual citizens who have the right to proffer solutions or possibly have some followership among our constituents. So, there is no blame here whatsoever for the lawmakers.
The Senate had always called and demanded for better response to the problem, because we know that nobody is safe until all of us are safe. It would be mere illusion for a lawmaker or any citizen to think that any one is immune to the problem. It is even worse with us because those the actors feel are better off are the major targets.” When the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) appeared before the senate for screening, she had in response to a question on the terrorism threatening the nation said that the problem of terrorism is with the Senate because there is no law made by them to criminalize terrorism. But that is not the right position as Senator Ogbuoji corrected.
“That was a blunder never expected from a person of her judicial standing. It sounded out of place for her to say there is no anti-terrorism law in Nigeria as the CJN. I have to tell you that it took some intervention and display of legislative maturity for the Senate to overlook that. That is when leadership comes to play. You know the Senate has seasoned leadership. Senate President David Mark has taken leadership of the upper chamber to a different level.
If there is mastery of the art of legislation and the management of a house like the Senate, he is just few steps away from that. So when such gaffes come, he steps in to make sure things are smoothened out. The stepping in is not to condone inadequacies, but because he, as a reasonable person and one in position of leadership, understands that people, no matter how highly placed or the extent of expertise make mistakes.
That is just what saved the day because the CJN at screening should have known such law exists and in fact, it is patterned after the USA anti-terrorism law. Our kinsman was caught two years ago in terrorism act in USA and got no bail until his conviction and that is the way our anti-terrorism law is framed. But it is a surprise that in some instances in our country, you hear the courts granted someone standing trial for terror acts bail or threaten to grant such bail.” Senator Ogbuoji, as a federal lawmaker from the South-East would hardly have press discussion without facing an explanation on what he and other members of the NASS from the region are doing about some imbalances against their zone.
He faced the same question on what he is doing about the number of states and local governments in his region as against others. And he sees it the way his constituents do and said: “As Igbo men, we have tasted real injustice in the history of Nigeria. It started long ago and has not abated till date. I think we need to see Nigeria work, and for it to work, it must be in justice and equity to all.
Since we still live in injustice against some, then things are not yet right and I doubt if we have prepared the right environment for proper development with the lopsidedness prevalent in all aspects of our national life. It is sad that only the South-East has five states while some have seven. That is the inherent injustice that holds us down, and it seems to be a deliberate act to stop a people from getting what actually should belong to them.
A good instance on the deliberate deprivation is the truth that the old Kano State of Jigawa and Kano have as many LGAs or if not more than all those in the five states of the South-East. Is there any justification for this when allocations are shared to states and LGAs every month?