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Agbakoba calls for removal of federal character principle

By Joseph Onyekwere
16 September 2015   |   4:34 am
THE former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has advocated for the removal of the federal character principle in the constitution.

Olisa-AgbakobaTHE former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has advocated for the removal of the federal character principle in the constitution.

Agbakoba stated that Nigeria needs a decentralised and balanced federation as recommended by the 2014 National Political Reform Conference in its report, adding that an amendment of the constitution to reflect the change is imperative.

Agbakoba, who addressed newsmen in his Ikoyi office yesterday argued that expunging the principle as well as the quota system in our country, will promote hard work, equity and justice.

He said, “I want the federal character principle expunged in the constitution. In fact, the constitution should be amended. We should have a decentralised and balanced federation. If the recommendations on the system of government recommended by the Political Reform Conference is adopted, there will be no room for federal character principle.”

Speaking on the state of the nation, he lamented that Nigeria has been hit by a wave of big shocks “the first shock is that our oil resources have gone out of fashion as the world moves from smelly hydrocarbon oil to clean shale oil.”

According to him, “Nigeria produces smelly hydrocarbon oil that are no longer attractive in the international market. We are having trouble selling our oil. The second big shock is that we are no longer an oil economy. We are now in a post oil period. The third shock is that our economy is in danger of running out of steam and cash. The third shock would have a profound effect on Nigeria, unless it is well managed by President Muhammadu Buahri.”

The legal luminary urged the President to be careful in making his appointments in order to avoid misunderstanding in a plural society as Nigeria, as he also advised him to borrow a leaf from former President of the United States of America, Franklin President Roosevelt who ably dealt with the shock of the great depression that ravaged the country when he became president in the 1930’s.

According to him, “President Buhari should as a matter of urgency through executive orders and legislative proposals touch critical pillars of Nigeria’s political infrastructure such as the political arrangements and agreements that bind Nigerians as one nation.

Insisting on the fact that the amalgamation agreement of 1914 failed, Agbakoba said, “We have not lived in peace and harmony. Nigeria is a fractured and divided nation. The colonial agreements in the shape of orders in council promulgated by the English crown failed us. The post-colonial constitutions and their military counterparts all failed us.

“The result has been long years of national disorder and disharmony that has impeded economic development and political stability. This is a challenge the president must engage as soon as possible. All that is needed is a comprehensive review of the reports of the national conferences. It will be a very difficult but not impossible task.

“The key in arriving at a new constitution is in isolating what Nigerians will agree to immediately. I believe Nigerians will accept the need for a balanced federation. We must strive for a balanced federation and decentralisation of powers from federal to state governments. The centre is too strong and can pass responsibility out of the 98 items of power, under its exclusive control, to states,” he suggested.

The activist-lawyer stated that a gradual amendment process would be more result-oriented than the ‘failed holistic attempts to write new constitution in one fell swoop’, insisting that creating a new national order will be very difficult but not an impossible task.