THE IDOMA AGENDA FOR NATIONAL DISCUSS

Executive Summary:

The Idoma people see the geographical contraption and ethno-religious combination in the country Nigeria as a divine positive set up for a phenomenal purpose for mankind in our time and times to come. We do not see a creation accident, rather a pattern with so much useful value embedded there in. Like a typical business concept, it is not the array of ingredients that make the soup delicious, but the combinatorial formula with which the ingredients are juxtaposed.
This is the underlying perception of Nigeria by the Idoma nation. We believe in one Nigeria! This perception defines the posture with which we come forward for this national dialogue. Our portal is encapsulated in Equity, Justice and Fair play, conveyed in the common vehicle of good governance for all parties and at all levels. Nigeria, after 1914 began on a deceptive notion of a country of only three major ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) but it has survived on the human and material back of over 300 ethnic ‘minority’ groups; and is today being precariously held together by these latter ‘unrecognized’ groups, while the former three have not only used their numerical strength, but constantly helping the overstretched prism in their persistent desire for sustained dominance.

The Idoma nation wants to be seen as Idoma, an equal partner in the development process and an equal beneficiary of the proceed of nationhood of Nigeria. Hence its deep appreciation of this dialogue that promises to right the wrongs of the fundamentals for the good of the entire populace.A major element in nationhood is the relativity function which defines how we manage ourselves for defined corporate purpose. Nigeria is a nation of federating units. All have come that we may be one for a positive today and tomorrow, for present and future generations. Our experience in the short practised parliamentary, and on-going presidential systems of governments have proved that ours is not the problem of system adopted but the human group and by inference individual mind disposition towards the arrangement. Our request is for acceptability and respect for one another as federating units. The federating units are the ethnic nationalities and not the States or even LGCs as often miscued for very obvious selfish reasons.
Predicated on this background, we like to establish our position as a federating ethnic nationality on the following pressing issues:

Political Structure Of The Nigerian State
Multinational states like Nigeria often adopt federalism as a technique to manage their competing interests. The federal system is thus a compromise solution between two types of self determination: that of maintaining a supranational framework of government which guarantees security for the nation – state and that of the self- determination of the component group to retain their identities.

However, as presently obtained in Nigeria, power is over concentrated at the centre to the detriment of the federating units. Power at the centre is also monopolized by certain nationality to the disadvantage of others and this at times threatens the corporate existence of the nation as it is at the national level so it is at state levels.Our submission:
Issues of credible and effective political structure power – sharing creation of new states and Local Government Areas, rotation of critical political offices (such as president, governor and local government chairman), constituency of geo-political zones, constituency delineation and boundary adjustment have to be effected.

The Centre should leave purely local matters such as minerals, marriage, land etc and concentrate on our common and connecting interests such as defense, international affairs, police shipping etc.A recognition of an official Opposition is recommended so that it will be allowed to form a shadow government making it possible for citizens to know how truly ready they are for governance by the calibre of people chosen.We also believe that Nigeria does not require a bicameral legislature at the Centre because of its multiple challenges in terms of cost and unnecessary bickering. Nigeria should be able to engineer political re-structuring while will drastically reduce the excessive clamour for power at the Centre so that the states and local government will have more responsibilities.

  1. Creation Of Additional States/Local Government Areas
    The Idoma nation is in support of creation of additional states and local Government Areas for those with genuine cause due to asphyxiating cases of deprivation, marginalization and underdevelopment.
    Democracy in a federal system is largely about self determination and a true sense of belonging among the federating units. Given the heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian society , the nature of power play and the dynamics of political activities, political engineering have been fiercely designed, along religions, geo-ethnic and regional divides. Consequently, peaceful co-existence in Nigeria is not real as the ‘divides’ remain the confounding factors to a stable polity. The predominance of these factors in politics and governance has established and nurtured fear of domination, marginalization, misappropriation and misrepresentation.

Within the cleavages therefore, there have been rampant cases of ethnic crises. This is because the fundamental framework of Nigerian politics as a plural society is largely communal and strongly coloured by consideration of communal identification or primordial loyalties on the bases of language, religion, custom, race kinship, district, territory or region. All these exacerbate rivalry, discord and suspicious. It needs to be re-emphasized that a federal system is first and foremost a political and administrative arrangement, arising from the desire of people to form a union without necessarily losing their identities. It is a system that recognizes the need for each ethnic nationality or recognizable and distinguishing constituent, to develop at its own rate, protect its values, while at the same time, allowing for cooperation with others within the framework of a united country.

It was because of these diverse elements that the federation was adopted in Nigeria. Regrettably, the Nigerian Federal structure at independence in 1960 was very vulnerable. As a federation of three regions – the North, East and West, there was an inherent structural imbalance which generated the fear of domination among the various groups in the country. The North was larger than the rest of the regions combined, thereby violating one of the most fundamental requirements for a good and successful federal system, namely that no one unit should be stronger than the rest put together, for such will insist on being the master of deliberations, and because she has no need to carry the rest along, can afford to throw to the winds, both dialogue and compromise: two important fundamentals of democracy and peaceful coexistence.
Pursuant of these therefore, the many acts of federating Nigeria (States and Local Government creations) were political, aimed at providing stable system for every segment to be given a sense of belonging. For instance, the creation of the Mid – West Region in 1963 was in this spirit of providing peace and tranquility in the Western part of the country in particular and the country in general. The creation of states in 1967 by the Gowon Administration was guided among others, by the principle of administrative convenience, that is, the acts of history and the wishes of the people concerned being taken into account.

The Justice Ayo Irekefe Panel of 1975 that led to the 19 – state structure in 1976 found more rationale for the exercise:
• The need to bring the government nearer to the people.
• The need for even development.
• The need to preserve our federal structure of government.
• The need to maintain peace and harmony within the federation.
• The need to minimize minority problems in Nigeria.

Similar arguments informed the creation of 36 – state structure in Nigeria by the Abacha Administration. Similarly, agitations for states creation heightened in the last constitutional conference with 32 proposals. In all these, the overriding objective of state creation has been to create several centres of power and development that will minimize social and ethnic tension and guarantee peace, tranquility and peaceful co-existence.

The constitution must recognize this and its review must therefore accommodate states creation; aimed at addressing the yearnings of the minorities as well as the majorities. This was started well in the old provincial arrangement appropriately designed to forestall the kind of marginalization being suffered by the Idoma people. Alternatively, if states cannot be created, there must be provision for federal district to redress the obvious injustices. Evidently, past efforts at state creation responded to the people’s yearnings. It was also devoid of arbitrariness until the then military Government through the Irekefe panel jettisoned the past adherence to the old provincial boundaries which the 12 – state structure recognized.

Since this distortion, many minorities especially the Idoma in Benue State have not known peace. It was in recognition of this fact and an attempt to correct it that the Igala of the Old Kabba province was brought to Benue State. When they left with the creation of Kogi and the Doma people of now Nasarawa state were brought to Benue they fiercely resisted their deliverance “to the lion’s jaws”. As a consequence of these structural maneuvers, it is the Idoma who suffered, still suffering and will continue to suffer. It was therefore not surprising that when a good sense of reason and judgment was applied, the honourable members of the last Constitutional Conference recommended the creation of the proposed Apa State as one of the top most priorities (vide the Constitutional Conference Committee Report on States and Local Government (creation, 1994).

Option 1: Creation of Apa State out of Benue State
In the light of the above, we draw attention to Chapter One, part 1 section 3 as detailed in the first schedule of the 1999 constitution and to say that Apa State recommended by the last Constitutional Conference and persistently struggled for by the Idoma people of Benue State, be created. The compelling reasons for its creation include among others:
• The Tiv controlled administrations in Benue State have said it in words, have acted it and have shown it in the Second Republic State House of Assembly that the Idoma group can no longer be accommodated in Benue State (vide the Benue House of Assembly’s resolution, August 21, 1992).

• The ensuing marginalization, domination and deprivation are enough to frustrate a people into conflict, but for the extreme absorptive capacity, docility, and tolerance of the Idoma group, so the ‘excising’ of the Idoma group should be formalized now. To show a little of this domination and deprivation, the Tiv as an ethnic group in the state , since 1976 (nearly 4 decades) control the Executive as Governor, Legislature as Speaker of the House of Assembly and Judiciary as the Chief Judge of the State. With this sort of arrangement what else remains for Idoma in matters of decision-making that affects that people?

• The policy of zoning, federal character etc does not and cannot work in Benue State for reasons which are quite obvious. Even if zoning permits the Idoma to produce the governor, what are the hopes? For, in practice, the governor, if elected and sworn in, will face a hostile two – third legislature.<

Options 2: Provincial Arrangement
Since the present constitution of Benue State defies true federalism, and the fact that similar situations may exist in other parts of the country, we recommend as second option, a return of the Nigerian Federalism to the old provincial arrangement. Many of such provinces have been re-structured into states. Regrettably, the old Benue province was distorted and depleted to several states. But a return to the province will dilute the predominance of one unit over others.

Options 3: Zonal Arrangement
Should we find the provincial arrangement too distant to be returned, we see present six geo-political zones (North – Central, North-East, North – West, South – West, South East and South-South) as a viable federal structure.

Option 4: Federal District
If for any inconceivable reason the Idoma nation cannot get Apa State, come together with her other kiths and kins united in history and culture as tenable in the defunct provinces and the contemporary zonal structure, we opt for the administration of Benue South Senatorial district (the Idoma group) as a federal district to be administered by the Federal Government.

It is our belief that these considerations, especially options 1 or 4, would help the Idoma group actualize their emancipation from the harrowing experiences of underdevelopment, irrelevance, deprivation and psychological trauma, marginalization and neglect and eventual excision from Benue State.

The crave for constitutional protection is to realize the yearning for a homeland where their talents, skills and other potentials can fully enable the actualization of their dreams as a free, proud and industrious component of one strong indivisible Nigeria.

We also wish to draw attention to chapter one, part two sections 7 and 8 of the 1999 constitution. We observe from these sections and the constitution as a whole that the Local government as third tier of government was not adequately protected or given due prominence.

Secondly, we observe that empowering the states to create Local government Areas is subject to grave abuse which may lead to social unrest and political instability. Moreover, if the Federal government funds Local Government, its creation should not be a prerogative of the States but Federal government through the national Assembly. Otherwise, outrageous numbers may be created for various considerations.

Our Submission:
Mr. Chairman Sir, our prayers are:
• Set in motion machinery for state creation to redress the glaring anomalies highlighted herein.

• The powers to create Local government should be vested in the Federal government.

  1. Boundary Adjustments/Constituency Delineation
    Nigeria is delineated into federal and state constituencies from which people elect their representatives. State and local government boundaries are also integral parts of this structural arrangement. Past exercises did not take into account the credible agitation of some constituencies and placed same areas above others.

We strongly believe that the National Dialogue will comprehensively look into these issues for justice and fair play as we re-affirm our position on boundary adjustment/constituency delineation to provide lasting solutions to the incessant boundary disputes.

For the Idoma people of Benue State, the following peculiar areas require addressing:
(1) Boundary adjustment along the Benue state and Ebonyi State border territories

(2) Boundary adjustment between Otukpo LGA and Gwer LGA (all of Benue State).

(3) Creation of new state and Federal constituencies out of the LGAs of Idoma land in Benue State.

We also recognize the need to carry out constituency delineation at shorter intervals than the current 10 year period as obtained in the 1999 constitution.

  1. The Constitutionality Or Otherwise Of The Geo-Political Zones
    The geo-political zones should constitute new clusters of political unit and should be constitutionally recognized as part of a viable federal structure. The advantages of such structural arrangements, in the absence of a return to regional arrangement, are multiple:

• As political units they will constitute platforms for political office sharing for equity and unity. Such political offices should be recognized in the constitution instruments of operation of each political party.

• As centre of political unity they could offset some administrative burdens of individual states by being new structures for dispensing federal policies.

• They should also become the basis for representation at the National Assembly with each state presenting representatives on equal basis.

• Such arrangement will guarantee equitable distribution of national wealth and reduction of charges of marginalization.
5. The System of Government and Devolution of Powers
In view of the general African socio-political culture of autocratic community management, the parliamentary ‘crowd management’ style may be too weak for us. This is particularly so in the face of the aggressive global dynamism and quest for rapid development. The Presidential system has been castigated on the grounds of fiscal cost. But an intent look, establishes more of the cost as superficial, man-made and greatly reduceable! The countenance of the players is a major determining factor in this regard. For example, how much is the cost of this system to the Nigerian people has never been truthfully established. More so, when for as little as the earnings of all offices from the Executive, to Legislators and Judiciary have never been made public not to talk of funding legislated for constituency operations etc. The Presidential system gives guide bite to developmental policy initiatives and is so preferred by the Idoma nation. Part of what will make for success of the presidential system is ability to manage diversity. When that lack is as glaring as ours, the centre must not be excessively stronger than the federating units. The centre should infact devolve its powers from the federating units and be made far less attractive, Canada offers a classic example. The centre should continue to make laws and maintain exclusive authority over foreign policy, Armed Forces, Police and currency and these offer instruments of national cohesion, unity and strength.
6. The Political Structure of the Nigerian State
A more detailed discussion of Nigeria’s political structure is necessary to reaffirm the continuity of the existing structure or otherwise. The present governance structure was brought about by the 1914 amalgamation which was to be experimented for a period of 100 years. This experimental period will elapse in 2014 necessitating a review of the structure. In the face of uncontrollable marginalization of many ethnic nationalities, it may now become necessary for us to go back to the province structure in which ethnic nationalities will be able to exercise self determination and have a sense of belonging. To reduce the persisting quest for States and LGC creations, we recommend the strong recognition of States and LGCs as administrative convenience structures and not necessarily the basis for federation.
The devolution of power should be bottom – top and the centre responsible for such uniting function as defense, policing, major infrastructures and global representation.
7. Form of Engagement of the Legislature
The function of laws formulation and legislation has proven from experience not a total office sitting business to deserve full time staff duties. To this effect, we recommend a part-time engagement at a manageable cost level.
This again underplays the prudent management of cost of governance. From experience gathered so far, the average Legislator at State or Federal levels spends less than 1/3 of the period in a year sitting for deliberations (National Assembly Clerks Records, 2012 and 2013). The Idoma people of Nigeria prefer unicameralism for cost effectiveness as well as efficient, effective and accountable legislature and indeed governance.
8. National Integration
A major crisis of identity fared in the Nigerian nationhood today, is the inability of the average adult to pin-pointedly say what makes him a Nigerian and what is in Nigeria as an entity for him. The need to be able to advance positively and forcefully to declare for Nigeria is when the reason to belong is most explicitly defined. At the moment, it is most convenient for citizens to stop at ethnic identity for casual discussion only to become Nigerian when there is a specific gain in sight. We want to be able to say we are Nigerian Idoma men/women right through. With this, the Hausa man in Otukpo will not wish to hide his origin in order to belong. Neither will the Igbo man in Jos, Plateau State struggle to nickname himself as ‘Jasawa’, since this will not be necessary. This brings to the fore the argument over indigenship and citizenship. With this arrangement, indigenship will not be an issue for dispute, since as a citizen one is entitled to all known elements of benefit for living and contributing to any location of choice in the Federation. Since we believe in the Nigerian project and crave cohesiveness and indivisibility, such factors that fan the ambers of national inclusiveness, human rights, national identity, and pride that provide and protect each of us must be guaranteed. This was our earlier identified portal, encapsulating in trust, equity and fairness.
9. Rotation of Executive Offices
The quest for rotation of Executive Offices is a product of the known politics of Winner-takes –all practice, and the scare of domination and neglect hitherto experienced. If the dividend of democracy is in distribution of developments, even spread of life improving amenities, and representative governance is smoothly adhered to, perhaps, the desire for office rotation may have been less vocal. Since this desired ideal is yet practised or even visionarily projected, the lesser evil of rotation should be constitutionally entrenched for confidence sake and as a driver for harmonious coexistence. This is a surer way to resolve the long standing issues of political alienation or maginalisation and effective participation of the disadvantaged especially the ethnic minorities. If this runs through the tiers of government, Boards and parastatals we shall heave a sigh of relief. And in all circumstances, all segments with obvious and potential cause for grief over the issue at all levels of governance should be addressed. Thus for example, at Local Government Levels, Councillorship, Chairmanship etc. should be rotated for all known segments to have a feel.
10. Land Ownership
With defined Federating Unit pulled out of the ambiguous and amorphous geographical entity of States and Local Government Councils of now, into the base of ethnic nationality, the definition of who owns land and if you want to use it, who to talk to becomes easy. The Fulani man in the existing system cannot understand why he should not graze freely in Okpamaju in Benue State, because the land is said to be Federal Government owned land to which he is equally entitled but when you want a piece of land for industrial activity, the process says you go through the local owners, LGC and then State Government for a C of O (not even the Federal Government of Nigeria), an obvious contradiction! What we need is not a ‘Land Reform’ but a true land management process and procedure. Land belongs to the Federating Community (Nationality) and should be so administered. With this arrangement, investments can be guaranteed in all locations, national integration enhanced, and peace achieved as a natural flow.
11. Pastoralists/ Farmers Conflicts
The Idoma people wish to note that the conflicts between pastoralist and farmers in north central Nigeria is largely driven by the desire to control natural resources such as; land and water resources. We have nonetheless found its frequency very worrisome as it is assuming a dimension that is raising national security concerns, and calls for appropriate response from Government at all levels. The devastating effect of these recurring conflicts has left several people dead, communities routed, and properties worth millions of Naira destroyed in Agatu Local Government area of Idoma land. Hence, we are however convinced that the conventional peace building remedies have not had any positive effect on the communities bedeviled by these unfortunate crises because the underlying causes of these conflicts is not being addressed.
However, as a traditional agrarian community we wish to stress that the political economy of the Idoma people largely revolves around agriculture to which; land and its fertility, and our water resources are of paramount importance. Hence, it is unthinkable to cede our cropping fields to pastoralist for cattle grazing, as this will disposes us of the primary resource our ancestor has bequeathed us with in trust, as source of our economic livelihood, and for generation yet unborn.
It is important to quickly point out that Nigeria is one of the few nations where the open range and free roaming traditional cattle rearing techniques is still being practiced regardless of land ownership, and has in recent times, led to conflicting land claims, destruction of agricultural crops and a cause for violent conflicts between farmers and pastoralists. Hence, we believe that eliminating the extant open range grazing practice, and placing some practical restrictions on grazing lands will ameliorate the recurrent crises between rural farmers and herdsmen.Results of ethnographic survey of pastoralism in Nigeria reveals that about 20 pastoral tribes exist in northern Nigeria, and they are grouped into: Arabs, Fulbe, Kanuri, Kanembu, Saharans, Berbers, and others. These nomadic tribes, except the Twareg that are located at the north of Sokoto, all others are largely domiciled in the northern eastern region of Nigeria. These regions constitute about 53% of the nation’s landmass (with the north eastern region about 30%, and north western region making up the rest) as the largest.
Furthermore, the national data on dam developments and geophysical surveys shows that 85% of the nation’s large scale dam projects are concentrated in the five northern and central areas for perennial storage of wet season runoff to be released later for dry-season irrigation. The Lake Chad basins provides natural water storage and supports one of the major irrigation projects (i.e. South Chad Irrigation Project), with the Hadeja-Nguru wetlands and Sokoto -Rimi basin to support dry season grazing. It is also on record that, some 17,000 water wells have been sunk/drilled, almost exclusively for water supply for humans and animals across the three northern hydrological areas where the large-scale dams have been developed in response to their water demands.
In the light of these compelling evidence of land and water resources availability in the North East and North West regions of Nigeria, Idoma believe that these natural resources will be able to support a robust expansion of grazing reserves and ranches for a sustainable and more profitable cattle rearing activities. Hence, it is the Idoma recommendation that the Federal Government resuscitate its agro-pastoral policy of commercial ranching with an aim of resettling, and transforming the social and economic life of nomadic tribesmen within their traditional environments
12. Land Use Act.
Idoma has observed with concern some critical lapses in the existing Land Use Acts in need of review. They are:
i. The outright removal of land ownership from individuals, communities etc, and granting of it to the state Governor could subject its distribution to abuse.
ii. The requirement of seeking consent from the Governor to alienate the agricultural land passed on to us by our ancestors.
iii. The transformation of absolute interest of land into leasehold interest of 99 years – i.e. the transformation of freeholds into tenancies.
iv. The absolute discretion in the Governor to refuse extension of that interest when it expires also exists.
v. The taking away of the economic interests in a bare land such that the government only pays compensation for the unexhausted improvements on a land (in other words, where the land is bare, and no payment of compensation, since government already owns the land.
vi. The creation of two incongruous regime (i.e. State and Local Government) of deemed granted of the right of occupancy and the express grant of the right occupancy, and making the deemed grant superior. Hence, it is hereby recommended that the Local Government Certificate of Occupancy be made to be at par with that of the state. This is against what obtains at present where the state last for 99 years, and the Local Government’s lasts for a paltry duration of 30 years.
vii. The entrenchment of the Act in the constitution such that extraordinary legislative process is needed to amend it.
viii. The acquisitory power of the state for overriding public interests without spelling out the contours of those interests and, hence the contour of public interest should be clearly defined by the constitution.
ix. Whether the government (i.e. the Governor) could acquire a land for supposedly public purpose and give it to a private person.
x. The land use act should also be made to address the issue of non-delineation of grazing fields from cultivated agricultural land which has been identified as a root cause of the recurring conflicts between pastoralist and our rural farmers.
13. Reforms in the Judiciary.
The Idoma people believe that, every citizen have a right to go about their lives in peace, free to make the most of their opportunities. They can only do so if the institutions of justice and law and order protect them in their daily lives. It also observes that the failure of states to provide citizens with protection from crime and access to justice impedes sustainable development. Hence, nations with poorly functioning legal systems and poor crime control mechanisms are unattractive to investors, and economic growth suffers. All these underscores the importance of the justice systems in improving the lives of vulnerable groups/poor people, and ensuring that the entire citizenry has access to a system that is fair, speedy and devoid of discrimination.
Over the years our criminal justice system has been riddled with; chronic delay in the trial of cases, lack of effective coordination amongst the agencies of the criminal justice system- the police, prisons, prosecutors and the courts, absence of clear and consistent sentencing guidelines, growing number of awaiting trial inmates, problem of ‘holden’ charge discriminating against indigent accused, limited alternatives to imprisonment, dichotomy between federal and state offences, Indiscriminate transfer of investigating police officers. It is against this background that a judicial reform is being sought, to examine the wider challenges of poverty, corruption, incomprehensible and inaccessible legal regimes and criminal justice systems and how various reform initiatives would seek to address some of the existing challenges.
Idoma is also aware that several legislative reform bills that will enhance access to justice through criminal law and procedural reform have been crafted, but unfortunately are still pending before the National Assembly for due passage into laws, and these include: Bill on Criminal Justice Administration, Administration of Justice Commission Bill, Legal Aid Council (amendment) Bill, National Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Bill, Community Service Bill, Victims of Crime Remedies Bill, Elimination of Violence in Society Bill, Bill to Amend the Legal Practitioners Act, Prison Act (Amendment) Bill, and Police (Amendment) Bill. The expeditious passage of these bills will go a long way to address the glaring shortcomings of the extant criminal justice system in Nigeria.
The reform being sought here should also review the holding charge remand procedure in view of the obvious inadequacies with the extant remand regime, the bail procedure to check abuse of the right to bail and protect remand prisoners/ awaiting trial inmates, and to address the many questions arising from the huge population of awaiting trial inmates in the nations prisons.
The Idoma people would also agree with the remarks of some judicial watchers that, Courts are often inaccessible to the rural poor and use languages and proceedings that are beyond their comprehension. Many are run inefficiently and criminal cases can take years to proceed from arrest to trial, and consequently, the pressure on the judicial system occasioned by the sheer volume of pending cases is often overbearing. We believe that our courts can be repositioned and made more accessible for better administration and dispensation of justice. To achieve this the judicial reform should focus on; improving the legal environment for the vulnerable and poor people; strengthening judicial integrity and capacity through the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy; enhancing access to justice and public trust; actualizing reform efforts relating to criminal law and procedure/practice, criminal justice sector case management and tracking, juvenile justice administration and penal reform agenda. In the light of the foregoing, there is no gain saying that the Nigerian Judiciary needs more independence, financial autonomy and higher level of transparency in the discharge of its duties.
14. Revenue Allocation/Autonomy for the Local Governments.
There is need for a review of the revenue allocation formula in order to increase the share of the States and Local Government Councils to facilitate the efficient discharge of additional responsibilities that would be devolved to them. We suggest that all revenues allocated from the Federation Account should be remitted directly to the beneficiaries, that is, Federal, States and Local Government Councils. To this end, it is also our recommendation, that by increasing the revenue allocation to States and Local Government, and granting complete autonomy to local governments to manage resources within its sphere of influence, will better reposition them as emerging economic units and development centres. We are nonetheless convinced that if our local governments are well positioned, they will better impart on the quality of life of our rural dwellers, and our rural infrastructure may not be in their present deplorable states. To this effect, we wish to suggest the amendment of the portion of the constitution that gives the State Houses of Assembly the powers to formulate laws for the administration of Local Government in Nigeria to provide the desired autonomy for the Local Governments.
15. Credible Electoral Process.
Idoma is aware of the role credible election has to play in restoring constitutional order in any democratic nation. Hence, we are advocating for a perfect or near perfect electoral system where votes count and where our people will truly exercise their power to choose their leaders and/or representatives. While we note that the worst form of corruption is the corruption of the electoral process which in itself is enhanced by balkanization as it is easier to rig when the electorates are fewer. It is the reason why party delegate elections in Nigeria are not the ideal type of elections. At present, you will agree that the credibility of the just concluded gubernatorial elections in Anambra State remains tainted with allegations of electoral irregularities and fraud, even when so much financial resources has being committed towards its successful conduct.
Furthermore, the Idoma people would wish to recommend that to achieve the objective of a genuine autonomy for the local government in Nigeria, a deliberate effort should be made in same stride to amend the aspect of the constitution that empowers the State Independent Electoral Commission to conduct Local Government Elections to pave way for the Independent National Electoral Commission handle the exercise in a more credible manner as it were, than the seeming on-going “selection process” administered by the State Independent Electoral Commission, whose outcomes are largely influenced by the State Governors and their minions.
16. Corruption.
Idoma wishes to express its support for the on-going anti corruption crusade and believes that more can still be done to rid the country of the ills of corruption. Hence, we are canvassing for the strengthening and the overall transformation of existing anti-corruption agencies into institutions with unfettered powers and independence to expeditiously discharge their statutory responsibilities. The mobilization of the Nigerian populace and the civil society groups to combat this singular national ill will no doubt help restore faith in our nationhood.
17. Federal Character Principle/Affirmative Action.
The Federal Character Commission (FCC) as an agency of Government was established by the provisions of sections 14 and 153 of the 1999 constitution with its functions clearly defined in part 1 of the Third Schedule. The Commission has a monitoring office in each State of the Federation. The Commission is to moderate appointments in the Civil Service both at the Federal and State levels and to ensure even spread of development infrastructures in the States. The monitoring role of the Commission is not felt in many States of the Federation which is why there is so much marginalization of minorities in some States.
Idoma believes that, the principles of federal character and affirmative action and both deliberate policies of positive discrimination by employers of labor. The former, ensures the even distribution of employment opportunities across the component parts of a political entity. While the latter, is intended to provide opportunities to those who are likely to be socially excluded on account of their minority ethnic status, sex, caste, creed, and race. We want to note that both policies provide for the inclusion of the disadvantage groups to the business of the social system they live in, and consequently reduce disaffection within the system. While, we are also in agreement with the principles of federal character as a veritable instrument for promoting national integration, merit and excellence must always be given their pride of place to ensure the speedy realization of our national developmental goals and objectives. It is our earnest desire that the same principles are enforceable or made workable at both the state and local government council’s levels, to minimize marginalization of ethnic minority and women groups in the country.
18. Fiscal Federalism.
Idoma is also in favor of States and Local governments having a substantial control of their resources, as this will spark-off a healthy competition amongst States/Local Governments and spur development on a national scale! However, if this arrangement is likely to put other States/Local Governments at serious disadvantage, then the Canadian system of equalization payments could be adopted with rich provinces – in our case, States – making contributions to poorer provinces (States) to cushion their economic shortfall, and equalize their fiscal capacity —i.e. their ability to generate tax revenues. The equalization fund could be set up by the States/Local Governments in accordance with a constitutionally negotiated agreement to transform funds to assist any poor tier of government meet the minimum of services required to run their respective governments. We believe it would be less of a bitter pill to swallow than the wholesale rape of a region to satisfy the demands of the others. We would also advice that fiscal federalism be carried out in phases, and over a decade or two, to enable the component parts identify their fallow resource endowment, and give them the opportunity to harness them.
19. Biodiversity Protection and Natural Resources Development.
The Idoma people are in favour of developing a strategic vision for the future of the indigenous communities generating wealth for the nation. Noting that we are as rich and healthy as our biodiversity, we are calling for an integrated policy planning approach that balances the sustainable utilization of energy, land, and agriculture, extractive industry, environment and the promotion of the social, economic and environmental well-being of the indigenous people.
Conclusion
Whatever system of government Nigeria adopts, the national objective must be clearly defined, and the drive towards such must be from the base, the people, the Federating Units. The reverse, as instituted by the colonial administrators and conveniently carried on by our succeeding leadership or neo-colonialists has remained the bane of our nationhood, consequently, it is after 100 years that we have come to discuss the fundamentals that should have preceded the 1914 event – The proverbial cart before the horse? It is better late than never as our corporate experience and that of other nations have shown.
In clear terms therefore, the Idoma nation desires and requests a Nigeria where,
1. Power to lead begins from the base, the individual, the community, the nation and the country in that order. This undoubtedly saves a common understanding that saves the nation the known instances of ‘accidental’ leaders and ‘saviours’ at all levels. Deriving therefrom, institution of leadership at all levels and forms would be truly a product of base initiation and not ‘peak’ defined as currently practised.
2. We opt for unicameral and part-time legislature that is also erected as a product of base initiation .By this arrangement; the Federating Units will be well adjusted in defining personal role play of truly representative leaders, and emboldened capacity to replace any such leader that fall short of base community desire (s). Such that;
i. Such issues as land ownership and authority for use will no longer be in contest.
ii. Representation will be true since it will be based on community evolved mandates and not office deducted and dug-out one by representatives on arrival in office as is the practice today.
iii. Cost elements of governance will be checked controlled via transparent role play.
iv. The central place of personal integrity and clear focus can now be brought to bear, for this is main ingredient in democratic governance worldwide.
v. It clearly establishes the platform for responsible and relevant constitutional architecture and relative acceptability.
vi. It will guarantee prudent national resources management and utilization.
vii. It guarantees respect and confidence in one another in the national composition, thereby guaranteeing national integration, cohesion, growth and development.
3. For Nigeria to fully benefit from our position of strengthening the community or ethnic nationality, the ethnic boundary definitions and demarcations nationwide must be established. This is to adjust distortions by Colonial masters and the neo-colonialists (or our own Leaders of the time). There must also be massive public sensitization on the realities before us as a people and a nation.
4. We are convinced that issues at the dialogue must be sufficiently discussed as the basis of fathoming our constitution. Therefore, there may be need for referenda some sensitive or extremely controversial issues.
5. Our conviction is that, the system of governance or even the constitution is not really the issue, but the quality of minds that operate same and the national focus. Democracy as fundamentally defined is our choice – a government of the people, by the people and for the people, not a government of some people, by some people for the people as exists. The strife and tensions of the latter too grievous to be contemplated by any focused nation, not the least for our dear country Nigeria. We believe in one Federal Republic of Nigeria, with Abuja as Capital. The deliberated position above is the start point for any serious constitutional review.
6. Articulated program of dialogue, and even referenda on striking and sensitive issues at all levels. In The existing culture of individualism, and materialism – greed and avariciousness is a huge threat this can be countered via a deliberate national re-orientation program with emphasis on the basic African family value system, that is ever superior to any found in the world – Transparency and Accountability with strict punishment for established crimes and criminality against all societal anomies. The country also needs national policy that separates religion and religious matters from governance.
Our developmental strides have been impinged by almost 60% adult illiteracy and over 10 million out-of-school children of school age. This calls for a deliberate review of our education system and a refocus on environmental awareness and productivity via hard work as a national order and a deliberate attempt to circumvent further threat to peace stability and progress ensuring our new order will be changed by those that might lose presently assumed leadership positions and so anticipatorily fight back aggressively to maintain the status quo.
Drafted for the Idoma National Forum by:
1. Professor Owoicho Akpa
2. Professor Armstrong Adejo
3. Maj. Gabriel Ado’fikwu (Rtd)
4. Engr. Dr . Robinson Ejilah

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