Members of the ongoing National Constitutional Conference have broken up into 20 standing committees to consider memoranda centred on devolution of powers among federating states, replacement of Ministry of Police Affairs with that of Home Land Security and setting up of National Guard to coordinates security forces so as to be able to tackle security issues confronting the nation.
The committees are also considering raising derivation contained in the constitution to 50 percent as a way of spurring the states into developing resources within their terrain for national development.
The 20 Standing Committees set up to deliberate on critical national issues and make recommendations have started collating reports of their sub-committees for final submission to the Conference in plenary. On Friday, the Committee on National Security headed by former Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Gambo Adamu Jimeta, spent hours in closed session deliberating a report submitted by Senator Bello Maitama Yusuf of the Sub-Committee on National Security.
Jimeta told journalists at the end of the close session that already, the report held a lot of promise as a good policy document on national security.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee and former Director General of the defunct Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO), Chief Albert Horsfall, described the report as a preliminary document that would enable the Committee come up with a blue-print which would in turn enable the security forces to perform better than they have done in the past.
He expressed confidence that the report if adopted, would guide the operational commanders in carrying out their assignment successfully.
Horsfall went down memory lane on critical security challenges and linked them up with the existing security practice and architecture; he pointed out that what is available today can be restructured to meet today’s present challenges.
He cited situations that brought about security changes all over the world; and using the September 9, 2011 attack on the United States as an instance, said that attack changed the structure and approach to national security worldwide.
The former DG stressed that security failure in Nigeria was as a result of improper coordination among the various security agencies; explaining that security issues arising from the local government, the state and the federal levels have not been properly coordinated among the security agencies.
He pointed out that unlike the envisaged chain of operation, everybody seems to be taking decisions without relating to the next level but that if properly handled, the flow of the chain could solve the community policing issue being discussed by the Committee.
It was learnt that serious recommendations aimed at strategically dealing with the country’s security problems were put forward by the Sub-Committee but such details and the position of the larger Committee after a closed session were not disclosed to the public.
However, highlights of the Sub-Committee recommendations touched on the need to set up a National Guard Force that should be responsible for border protection, internal conflict and special operations.
The Sub-Committee also recommended creation of the Ministry of Homeland Security Services to replace the existing Ministry of Police Services.
One recommendation that would lead to further debate was that of the serious need for community policing. Some members believe if accepted, it would pave the way for creation of state police.
It also recommended welfare and disciplinary commission which it said should be created to handle issues of motivation and discipline among personnel of security agencies.
A chain-link form of security operations from bottom to top and vice versa was recommended to enable everyone in a position to know to have access to required information that would ensure effective performance of security functions.
Bello was confident that if what they submitted would be accepted by the Committee and the Conference in plenary and eventually implemented by government, it would solve 90% of the security problems in Nigeria.
The Committee on National Security has 24 members and boasts of not less than 11 retired military personnel, nine of them retired generals; and three retired top police officers.
Some of them are retired Generals Zamani Lekwot; Alani Akinrinade; Muhammed Dan-Ali; Geofrey Ejiga; D. O. Idada Ikponmwen; Alex Mshelbwala; Paul Omu; Jeremiah Useni; Tony Nyiam; Joe Orji and Canice Ohadomere.
Besides the former IG, other retired police officers serving in the committee are retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Bashir Albasu and the retired Commissioner of Police, Samuel Adetuyi.
The remaining ten members are former members of the National Assembly, former ministers, accomplished lawyers, former top security officers, among others.
The Committee on Political restructuring, after extensive deliberations, agreed that Nigeria shall retain a Federal system of government. They agreed that the core elements of the Federation shall be as follows:
1. There shall be a central government with States as the federating units
2. That Local Governments shall no longer be third tier of the Federation
3. That States that wish to, may create Local Governments, which shall be under the jurisdiction of the States
4. That the number, structure and form of Local Government shall be determined by the States
5. That any group of States may create a self-funding Zonal Commission to promote economic development, good governance equity, peace and security in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria
6. That without prejudice to States constituting the federating units, States that wish to merge may do so in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Provided that:
(a). A majority of two-thirds of all members in each of the Houses of Assembly of each of the States, in which such merger is proposed, support by resolution, the merger, and
(b). A referendum is conducted in each of the States proposing to merge with 75% of the eligible voters in each of those States approving of the merger, and each House of the National Assembly, by Resolution passed by a simple majority of membership of each of the Houses, approve of the merger.
The Committee is co-chaired by General Ike Nwachukwu and Honourable Mohammed Umara Kumalia.
In a Memorandum presented to the Committee on Law, judiciary and Human Rights and Legal reforms, Mr Femi Falana recalled that Sharia and Customary courts were not in the 1963 Constitution. He suggested that the courts be removed from the Constitution and should be legislated by State Governments. In reaction, a member referred to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution and observed that the courts were listed as Courts of Record. He added that if Nigeria will allow full implementation of true Federalism, the Federating Units would eventually take over legislations on issues relating to Sharia and Customary Courts. However, after extensive deliberations, it was unanimously resolved that the status quo should remain.
The Committee on Agriculture during deliberations noted that subsidy policies were being muddled up thus making it difficult to implement. They also noted duplication of functions between the Federal and State Governments with more burden on the Federal Government while the states lack the ability to implement the policies.
On the issue of mechanised agriculture, some of the thematic issues raised include lack of trained manpower and mismanagement of funds voted for agriculture by government agencies. It was observed that land acquisition being solely vested in government may be dangerous as it raises issues of victimization and political witch-hunt. It also observed that cultural anomalies poses threat to land acquisition including some traditional systems in the south eastern part of Nigeria which do not allow women to inherit land.
The Committee again observed that biotechnology has a lot of protocol, the level of manipulation can do a lot of harm if not properly monitored.
A question was posed: to what extent is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) acceptable? It noted in their discussion and note that the issue of cattle rustling is a major problem facing cattle breeding. It was noted that this also has serious security implications which need to be urgently tackled locally and within the sub region.
Issues under consideration in the Committee on Devolution of Power when it commenced sitting on Tuesday revolved around:
1. Whether members of the Committee agreed that Nigeria should remain united as a nation and whether there should be devolution of power (from the centre to the federating units in Nigeria).
2. Whether the committee Should first of all consider discussing the review of the Legislative list or start with resource control
3. Creation of sub-committees that would facilitate the work of members of the Committee.
4. Whether the committee should continue the discussion on resource control the next day or go ahead to open discussion on the review of the Legislative list.
5. Whether there was need for the committee to liaise with relevant committees of the conference whose work might have some relevance to the work of this committee.
The Committee then agreed that that Nigeria should remain united but that there should be devolution of power (from the centre to the federating units). Members decided to discuss resource control independent of the Legislative list. They agreed that each member of the Committee should be given an opportunity to discuss each thematic issue.
The committee agreed that there was a great need for some kind of Liaison or interface between the committee and any other committees of the conference deliberating on thematic issues that are closely related to that of the committee.
Most members of the Committee made contributions to the discourse on resource control. Some members were of the opinion that the 13% derivation formula as contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be retained while some drew the attention to the fact that the Constitution states “not less than 13 %, and therefore suggested that it be increased to 50%.
Views were varied on the issue of resource control. While some members insisted that resources belong to the constituent states in which they are located; others claimed they belong to the Nigerian sovereign nation; while others believe that mineral resources belong to the communities in which they are found.
However, they pointed out that distinction should be made between the concepts of derivation and resource control. By Thursday, the Committee made marginal progress on the issues raised and hoped to discuss and resolve some of the contending areas when it resumes sitting on Monday.