COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE SOUTH WEST CIVIL SOCIETY CONSULTATIVE FORUM ON PRIORITY ISSUES FOR THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD AT PLANET ONE HOTEL, MARYLAND, IKEJA ON TUESDAY 11TH MARCH 2014

                                               

The Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP), a forum of civil society networks and coalitions working with the Lagos state government for the effective implementation of development issues, facilitated the South West Civil Society Consultative Forum on Priority Issues for the National Conference on Tuesday the 11th of March 2014, at Planet One Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.
 
The forum was attended by 51 participants comprising the broader civil society and its stakeholders including youth groups, representative of the Council of Obas, gender groups, faith based groups, professional groups and grassroots community groups from the six states of the South West Zone.
 
At the commencement of the deliberation the following diverse issues were presented by the different participants:
 
1.       The devolution of power should go to the federating units which could be regional governments units (with the regions in charge of their resources, eg: the ports etc.)
2.        Immunity clause should be removed from the constitution and any public office holder indicted in a criminal case should be made to face the wrath of the law.
3.       Special status for Lagos status,
4.        Independent candidacy
5.        Streamlining of our political parties into 2 or 3 maximum.
6.       There should be no limits imposed to what is discussed at the conference
7.       Regional policing will reduce tension and aid security intelligence gathering.
8.       Reducing the power of the central government as evident in the old Western Region which thrived because the regional governments were in charge of their resources.
9.       That the ideology of a “Nigerianism” should exist, to promote unity and (Nigerians should have wealth in proportion to what they have put in )
10.   Public officials should declare their assets which should be verified by agencies.
11.   Right to self determination would promote true federalism.
12.   Education should be made compulsory and all forms of child neglect, abuse and exploitation should be
13.    Punishable by law.
14.    Higher Education fees should not be more than the minimum wage, and the equivalent of at least one month salary so that the average family in the society would be able to afford it.
15.   Electoral offenders should be tried and jailed if found guilty then banned from contesting further elections for life.
16.    Anti corruption agencies should be strengthened to safeguard their independence for more effectiveness.
17.    The Whistleblowers Protection Act should be made a constitutional matter.
 
18.   State governments should have joint responsibility with the Federal Government on national security, electricity, railways and roads.
19.   The PRONACO proposed fiscal sharing formula should be adopted.
20.   There is a need for Civil Society to identify all the delegates from the South West and hold them accountable to present the issues agreed upon at the Forum.
21.     Civil Society also needs to engage the process at the conference and develop a clear strategy on monitoring the proceedings with regular feedback from the delegates and report from the civil society.
22.   That social inclusion groups should be mainstreamed in the deliberations and outcomes of the national conference.  For instance, less than 35% of the delegates’ list are women.
23.   Gender Policy should be specifically included in the Constitution, because it will formalize the 35% affirmation action that women have been clamoring for.
24.    The constitution should spell out that there is no office of the 1st lady because it collapses the work of the Ministry of Women Affairs in the States.
25.   There should be devolution of power to the local government.
26.   There should be two or more forums before the end of the conference, ie with SW delegates delivering their monthly reports on deliberation at the conference.
27.   Parliamentary system of government should be adopted
 
The Forum subsequently identified the following common priority issues to be presented by the delegates at the national conference:
 
1.       Resource control should be replaced with Resource ownership.
2.       Devolution of power to the federating units
3.       Decentralizing the Police force ( ie-State police)
4.       Defence – Armed forces should remain at the centre (National) but with equal representation from the federating units.
5.       Judiciary should be decentralized to the federating units
6.       Adoption of the Parliamentary system of government will reduce the high cost of governance to the barest minimum.
7.       In the alternative, to reduce the cost of governance the Presidential system of government could be adopted, but without the offices of Vice President, Deputy Governors, Ministers of State and other paraphernalia of office attached to the above positions.
8.       First line charge account from the national revenue to provide social economic services , including free education from primary to tertiary level, healthcare, food subsidy , basic shelter, living allowance for the aged, unemployed and persons with disabilities.
9.       35% affirmative action for women for all public, elective and appointive offices for 20 years (also to mainstream the issues of persons with disabilities )
10.   Fiscal arrangement of 50% to region of derivation
11.   Youth participation  at age 18 for voting and all elective offices
12.   Citizenship law should be amended that women whose husbands are foreigners be free to be given citizenship.
13.   Electoral process should be made inclusive for persons with disabilities.
14.   FoI Acts to be replicated in the states.
 
Conclusion:
 The participants thanked the Lagos Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP) and the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) for facilitating the South West Civil Society Consultative Forum on the priority issues for the National Conference. The Forum committed to continue to engage the process of the National Conference both at the Zonal and Federal level in Abuja.
 
Signed by:
 
1. Oba Aderemi Adedapo – Secretary General Yoruba Council of Obas
2. Dr Tola Winjobi – CAFSO-WRAG for Development (Oyo State)
3. Florence Mojisola Akinsanya –Commonwealth Women’s Organization Nigeria (Ogun State)
4. Franklin Olonije –
Coalition of All CSOs in Ondo State (Ondo State)
5. Wale Ajani – President, Nigeria Youth Council (NYC)
6. Biodun Oyeleye – New Initiative for Social Development (Ekiti)
7. Azeez Tajudeen Olayemi –Joint Organization of Nigeria Grassroots Optimists (JONGO) (Osun State)
8. Ayo Adebusoye – Steering Committee, Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP)(Lagos State)
9. Abimbola Junaid – Arise Nigeria Woman (Lagos State)
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C21st Presentation to the National Conference Advisory Committee

To the National Conference Advisory Committee,
Public Hearing in Lagos, 1st November, 2013.

A joint Statement by the Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF), the Movement for National Reformation, (MNR) the Centre for 21st Century Issues and the Council for Peoples Close to Nature.

Presented by Mr. Alfred Ilenre, Secretary General, EMIROAF.

I represent, Mr. Chairman, the Ethnic Minority and Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF). I am an indigenous Nigerian from Edo State, of the Esan tribe extraction.

I was the Director of Mobilisation and Strategy at the Pro-National Conference Organisations and also represent the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forest, a network of indigenous and ethnic organizations with ECOSOC States.

We are happy to be part of history which the meeting in Lagos today by the National Conference Advisory Committee represents. It was in this city of Lagos, that the first treaty in the territory now known as Nigeria was signed by the British in the cause of their colonial expansionist mission in Africa with the king and chiefs of Lagos in 1861.

BACKGROUND
1. The calls for a sovereign national conference to correct the colonial injustice of coupling together different nationalities with different culture and historical background to form one country without their consent pre-date the present regime.

2. There is a group of Nigerians which has been very cynical and suspicious of whatever the Nigerian ruling elites suggest or plan towards the development of the democratic system in the country since independence.

3. There is a school of thought that believes that a National Conference will lead to Nigeria break-up.

4. Many of the antagonists of a national conference have the view that the ruling elites including the politicians, the military and the bureaucrats have taken Nigerians for a ride for too long. That the trust the masses reposed in them has been betrayed severally and has cost the people dearly.

5. The reason for the failure of Nigeria up till this moment is the fact that Nigerian leaders have been so afraid to discuss issues that touch on Nigeria’s future destiny, good or bad.

6. The military government when it came on stage in 1966 dismissed the independence constitution and started ruling by decrees. By the time the military withdrew from power in 1999, it had imposed so many constitutions, laws and regulations that Nigeria as a nation began to lose substance in the eyes of reasonable people.

ISSUES AT STAKE
7. In all the decisions taken at the constitutional conferences organised by the colonial government before independence, decisions were by consensus. But in all the constituent assemblies appointed by the military regime in 1979 under General Obasanjo, 1989 under General Babangida and 1994 under General Abacha, decisions were by votes without any regard for the views of the ethnic nationalities as the building blocks in a heterogeneous country. The 1999 constitution under General Abubakar was simply a document drawn up by a handful of people selected by him.

8. Democracy is about majority rule just as it is also pre-eminently about the protection of minority rights.

9. The military regime had no any justifiable reason to dismiss the federal system of government on coming to power only to replace it with a unitary system on leaving power. The civilian administrations of Alhaji Shehu Shagari 1979 – 1983, Shonekan interim government for three months, and the Obasanjo regime from 1999 – 2007, The Yar’adua era from 2007 to 2010 and the Jonathan administration from 2010 to date belong to the unitary model of government. The democratic experiment since 1999 had failed, woefully.

GUIDE LIGHT

10. The nationalists were aware that Nigeria made up of three major ethnic nationalities of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba surrounded by motley of over two hundred smaller ethnic and language groups has no any chance of survival as a unitary state. Right from the outset at independence the Nigerian system had within its bowel, the seeds of self destruction.

11. The National conference Advisory committee as the guide light to the national dialogue should endeavor by all means to produce a conference agenda that will give Nigeria the opportunity to run a totally democratic federal constitution.

12. We have agreed that Nigeria is a heterogeneous community that could not be administered as unitary state. Therefore it is our view that only a lose federation based on the ethnic nationalities as the federating units can offer the Nigerian state a measure of cohesion for unity and stability.

13. The duty of the National Conference should be to correct the faults created by the unitary structure inflicted on Nigeria by decades of military adventurism.

PROPOSALS

14. Considering the huge success made in the area of social and economic development under stable and peaceful environment in so many multi-ethnic countries like, Switzerland, Canada, the United Kingdom, India etc. we advocate for the adoption of the collegiate or the parliamentary system in Nigeria against the unworkable Unitarian presidential system.

15. The ethnic nationalities should be grouped into their distinct regions. Each region should be free to create as many states of its own as it wishes, provided such states are viable.

16. Each region should exercise it’s right to establish its own authority, police resource and environmental control..

17. The army should be arranged inline with regional command with each region having its own regiment.

18. The National police service should be organized along national, regional, state, local government, community, industrial and occupational institutions units, each unit exercising its own autonomy, subjected to a set national standard

19. Representation at the conference should be based on equal representation since decisions will be by consensus. Each ethnic nationality could include as many delegates as it could cater for, outside the official delegation list.

BASIC INFORMATION

20. The case that the centrally controlled ex-colonial nation states were dictatorial, murderous, harmful and worse than slavery and colonialism was first presented at an international conference when in 1923; a team led by Mr. Deskaheh, leader of the Iroquoi Indigenous Nationalities Confederation of Canada visited Geneva, Switzerland to present the conflict that existed between his indigenous nationalities and the government of Canada at the League of Nations. They were refused official hearing on the ground that the matter came under the internal affairs of Canada. Mr. Deskaheh and his team were declared persona-non-grata by the Canadian government. But the Deskaheh team had made their point at the lobby that the centrally controlled nation states left behind by the colonists where different nationalities were forced to live together without their consent was evil that breeds violence and death. The government of Switzerland granted political asylum to Mr. Deskaheh and his team in Geneva. By 1957, the case for the indigenous nationalities was re-opened when the International Labour Organization (ILO) in its Convention No. 169 presented issues about the rights of the indigenous peoples to self determination at the UN meeting in Geneva. It is an irony of history that Canada and Switzerland today are the world two most decentralized countries, most politically and economically viable, most peaceful and stable. The United Nations and its agencies including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, International Labour Organization, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity etc, have initiated policies that respect indigenous, cultural and ethnic diversity and their right to self determination.

21. The United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/61/L67 of September 12, 2007 adopted what it named, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It clearly outlines how indigenous communities and ethnic nationalities can peacefully pursue their right to self determination in nation states without resorting to violence.

22. Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says and quote, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self determination and by virtue of that right they can freely determine their status and their economic, social and cultural development.

COLONIAL BORDERS

23. Colonial boundaries were drawn arbitrarily without any consideration for ethnic and cultural differences.

24. Serious problems emerged in Nigeria soon after independence because people and ethnic nations were forced to live together without their consent.

25. There were arguments for and against whether to adopt federalism, unitarism monarchy or any other system, but the votes for federalism won the minds of the nationalists. The Nigerian federalism was distorted, destroyed and abandoned by the military after over 30 years in power.

26. What the coming conference should be all about is to find a formula on how to universalize the knowledge of the Nigerian people to enable them withstand and confront their ruling educated elites who are also exploiting their own people like the colonialists did.

27. The validity of Nigeria as a nation has been a subject of bitter debate since 1962, when the central government backed by a mindless beaurocracy started to intervene unconstitutionally in the internal affairs of Western Region. Ever since then, Nigeria has only been kept together by international protocols, treaties and conventions, supported by the instruments of coercion.

28.Presently, Nigeria lacks the social and cultural cohesion, public appreciation, goodwill, trust and mass support to depend upon, internally to make it survive.

THE VIRTUE IN ETHNICITY

29.Ethnicity is a people’s way of life, it is their life style, it is their language, it is their territory, it is their nuances, their world outlook, their accent and behavior, their culture, their mode of dressing, their songs, dances and festivals, the way they show their joy, the way they celebrate births, and the way they mourn the dead, it is their entity and the environment they are born into, it is their DNA and blood walls. It is their home land, it is their heritage for which they are prepared to live for, fight for and die for. Of the seven billion population distributed by nature all over the world, there is no person who does not have an ethnic nationality to call his own.

In the words of Professor Alfonso Martinez of Cuba, a United Nations expert on indigenous peoples and self determination issues “Those who condemn ethnicity on reasons not beyond class interest should be ignored”

SUMMARY

30.As we had always maintained, Nigeria has lived the better part of its 53 years of independence through betrayal, back – stabbing, corruption, tyranny, violence, arrests, detentions, civil wars, coups and counter coups, attempted coups, show trials, public executions, retrogression, failed structures and collapsed public institutions caused by a lopsided central government dominated by men and women who have no any inkling what independence struggle was all about.
The decision to organize a national conference to sort out our differences is a good idea whose time has come.

Recommendation

•It should be a conference of ethnic nationalities.
•Equal representation of delegates from the 18 regions recommended in the Pronaco Draft Constitution.
•Identified groups shall have the freedom to nominate their representative by whatever mechanism.
•The process must be all inclusive, process-led and transparent.
•Decisions shall be by consensus.
•Professional, non-government organizations and the civil society organizations should attend as observers and be free to make their contributions.
•International, regional and sub-regional organization including the UN, the Commonwealth, the EU, AU, ECOWAS etc. could attend as observers and make their input.
•A team of resourceful men and women of integrity drawn from the civil society organizations should serve as mediators where there is a disagreement.
•There will be no no-go areas.
•At least 30% of delegates must be women.

Public hearing on Political Dialogue
Public hearing on Political Dialogue
Presentation at the Public hearing
Presentation at the Public hearing
Youth, People Living with Disability and other marginalized groups should be represented at the Conference.

Resolutions

Note: The organizations mentioned above, sponsoring this statement participated at the Peoples National Conference organized by the Pro-national Conference Organization held under the late Chief Anthony Enahoro as chairman. We fully support the report and the draft constitution which was a product of the conference, earlier presented at Akure to this esteemed body by Mr. Baba Oluwide Omojola on 18 October 2013, before his sudden and painful dead, after the presentation. We recommend the PRONACO documents as working papers for the national conference proper.

There should be conference resolutions at the end of the delegates deliberation, based on every agenda item, geo-political structures, systems of government, fiscal arrangements, citizen rights, social-economic interests, the Economy, the judiciary, the legislature etc. All issues must touch on the citizenry, individual and group ethics, morality and freedom.

Draft Constitution
There should a draft constitution as a product of the conference to be subjected to a mass appraisal and a referendum.

Alfred Ilenre
Secretary General, Ethnic Minority and
Indigenous Rights Organization of Africa (EMIROAF).

• Chief Emakpor Ajise
• Diran Fagbongbe
• Titilope Akosa