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Federalism is the answer, after all – part 27

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The upper house of the National Assembly, the Senate, the other day, alarmed the country over the deteriorating security of lives and property. It suddenly woke up to the reality apparent to even the ordinary citizens that the country is in a mess except saved by a dint of extra-ordinary act of brinkmanship. Senator Sani Uba, who is the sponsor of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, echoed the sentiments of the entire Senate and said: “We are gathered here to deal with a matter that has profound implications for our collective survival. We are under siege from murderous non-state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people, and threatening the continued existence of our dear nation…” The big nudge appears to be the damning statistics of the scope with records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC). It reveals that out of 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, about 70 per cent are domiciled in Nigeria. The epicentre of this discussion was a public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport on Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021, and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2021.

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The alarm did not go unnoticed. It is traumatising for many Nigerians to know that those saddled with the responsibility of governing country have carried on lackadaisically about rampaging insecurity in the country.

As the National Publicity Secretary, Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Dr. Dogo Isuwa, rightly noted, “Nigeria is dying and this has been going on for a long time. The question is why has the National Assembly not done anything all this while? Why did they wait until we are close to the end of the tunnel? The National Assembly has not acted on what it is supposed to do. If Nigeria is under threat from these non-state actors, why is it that nothing has been done to stop it from happening? In my opinion, the worst is yet to come if nothing is done at the earliest time possible to stop it. Who would believe that despite the killings that have been going on in Southern Kaduna for years, not a single person has been arrested not to talk of being prosecuted? If Miyetti Allah would come on television and own up to their collaboration with those doing the killings, what else can you say? They know the killers, so why have they not done anything about it? The National Assembly knows what is happening and they know what to do. If they feel that something is wrong, they should act now before it is too late.”

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Also, the former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife who agreed that Nigeria is in a dire situation, noted that “Our continued existence is in serious danger like they (senators) pointed out. But, it only shows that they are blaming themselves because they are part of the government.” The federal legislators struggled to make some noise on Tuesday when one of them said loudly that, ‘‘the country is on fire”. One of the chambers suggested a declaration of a state of emergency. That is not a product of good thinking.

However, we note that the trend of armed non-state actors ferociously challenging the sovereignty of the country and therefore its unity is not new. It birthed under the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration with the advent of Boko Haram in 2009. Beginning from 2015, under the incumbent administration of Muhammadu Buhari, it took on a new dimension with imported Fulani bandits. In what appears an agenda for land grab and erosion of the secularity of the Nigerian state, the bandits have invaded all parts of the country unleashing orgies of terror and death on local communities. Kidnapping and wanton killings are now commonplace leaving open the window of self-help by besieged communities.   
 
The Senate’s alarm provokes for us a number of questions. Why is the Senate just waking up to this conclusion which has for long been globally advertised? Can the Senate say that it has done enough to stave off the country’s current predicament? To say Nigeria’s existence is under threat is a gross understatement. Maybe the senators are living in denial of the reality with the divisive utterances coming from the upper chamber.
 

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Nauseating is the fact that many of the senators are eyeing 2023 power contestation and therefore predisposed to living a lie while forgetting that there may be no country to govern if the current putrefied state of the country is not decisively addressed. Indeed, eyeing the prize of 2023 is a misnomer. We need to deal with the present before contending with the future, which may not happen. By now, it ought to dawn on the senators that the Nigerian condition goes beyond sheer constitutional amendment and lamentation. The Senate should be more pragmatic in restructuring the country, not embarking on endless constitution modifications. At one time, the presidency put the ball of restructuring into its court because it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to restructure the country. Curiously, the federal legislature is yet to take up this challenge more seriously. Besides, the Senate should take a firm stand on the invasion of the country by Fulani bandits instead of its obvious kid-gloves approach. This is not a time to prevaricate about the reality on the ground, which is self-inflicted for selfish motives. It is not too late to resort the federal scaffolding to reign in much of the contradiction besetting the country. Here again is an auspicious time to tinker purposefully with the constitutional provisions, which deal with the numerous issues on the exclusive legislative list. There must be legal devolution of even economic powers to the states, beginning with the state policing, that a recent Town Hall powered by the federal authorities recommended should be implemented as a matter of priority.

Earlier, the Governors Forum of the federation had recommended that legal decentralisation of police operations is an idea whose time has indeed come – to deal with the ticklish security challenges threatening the sovereignty of the nation. This is a time for the Chief Executive of the Federation and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to listen to what Nigerians need at this time –federalism within the construct of restructuring of this convoluted federation.  

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