By Maxwell Adeleye
Even though it has significant population advantage, the North will reject any referendum that will facilitate the restructuring of the Nigerian federation, Professor of Law, Auwwalu Hamisu Yadudu has said.
In an exclusive response to questions posed to him over the issue of restructuring, Yadudu who was Legal Adviser to late General Sani Sani Abacha emphasized that the position advanced against restructuring by the Northern Delegates’ Forum (NDF) at a meeting in Abuja last week is based on logical considerations.
Yadudu stressed that even though a referendum and political restructuring are theoretically possible under Nigeria’s constitution, certain legal facts and practical realities make such to be far from possible.
“My view has been that, going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, nothing stops the people of Nigeria from undertaking any form of restructuring of our federation or political, legal, social or economic system; the 1999 Constitution is the fundamental law which defines the powers of all institutions created under it.
“That is the existing legal order which must be complied with to achieve any form of restructuring; therefore for any form of restructuring to be legitimate it must conform to the procedures and processes enshrined in the Constitution.
“The next question to ask is: what does our constitution say about the place of referendum ?
“It is incontrovertible that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 contains, very clear provisions, under Section 9, and has spelt out explicit rules to govern specific steps to follow to alter its provisions, including the adoption of an entirely new Constitution if deemed desirable,
“To my understanding, the procedure for any alteration of its provisions to attain some form of restructuring does not envisage or recognize “referendum” as a mechanism for bringing about any change to the existing Constitution or the adoption of a new one.
“Moreover, for any alteration to the constitution to be legitimate or credible, it must be validated by the concurrent adoption by the National Assembly of any such proposals and the resolution in support of 2/3 (24) of the Houses of Assembly of the States where this is assented to by the President.
“These, in my view, are only legal and constitutional mechanisms envisaged not some clever idea of a referendum,” he stated while noting the ‘clever’ attempt of those who sought to insert the restructuring issue into the report of the 2014 national constitutional conference.
According to Professor Yadudu, last week’s decision on the 2014 National confab and issues like restructuring affirm the true position of the North on what is sees as the arbitrary, manipulative, non-valid and undemocratic peculiarities of the conference.
“It must be very clear to anybody who has read the communiqué issued by the NDF on 12th April, 2017 that our position on restructuring is that it must be based and carried out or proposed on terms recognized and permitted by the existing constitutional and legal order and not on arbitrary processes or according to the dictates of an unrepresentative body such as the National Conference 2014,” he said.
Weighing options for a constitutional intervention by the National Assembly (NASS), Yadudu stated that while he has no personal objection about an examination of such step’s legality, it would be necessary to expose the mere sentimental bias of ‘those mouthing calls for restructuring’.
“Speaking personally as a lawyer, as opposed to representing the North, l would have no objection to engaging with NASS should it decide to treat the report of the National Conference as an input towards “restructuring” the Nigerian federal arrangement along the lines contained in the report or even some more fundamental reshaping of the contours and substance of our federal arrangement.
“The Confab report is merely advisory and not some sacrosanct resolutions.
“The NDF has expressed our reservations regarding the undemocratic nature of the Confab and the methods it followed to arrive at its decision.
“However subjecting the report to the validating processes prescribed in Section 9 of the Constitution may either confirm or repudiate these advisory resolutions contained in the Confab report.
“In the fashionable euphoria of mouthing calls for restructuring based on the Confab report, we have not interrogated those calling for it to tell us exactly what part of the 9-volume report they would want to subject to referendum,” he argued.