November 27, 2020

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Why we dragged FG to court – Southern, middle belt forum

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday adjourned a case of constitutional violations filed by Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum against the federal government to January 28, 2021, after allowing a motion by the plaintiffs to join the National Assembly as the 5th defendant with the order that all processes be served on them.

The court also granted the motion by the Attorney General of the Federation and the Federal Character Commission for extension of time to respond to the plaintiffs’ claims.

They were led by elder statesmen, including Ayo Adebanjo, John Nwodo, Pogu Bitrus and a representative of E K Clark.

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES, said it had gone to court to put in the legal arena the worrying issues it had brought before the court of public opinion in the last five years over constitutional violations by the federal government.

Such violations it listed as the “observance of the federal character in the breach, overt sectionalism and in-your-face lopsided appointments into key and sensitive positions in serial violations of a plural society that has seen all key leading security positions in a section of the country as well as all major economic and financial leading sectors being manned by people from a section of the country.”

The SMBLF statement, which was signed by Yinka Odumakin (South West), Guy Ikokwu (South East), Bassey Henshaw (South-South) and Isuwa Dogo(Middle Belt), noted that even though the nation’s founding fathers negotiated a federal constitution at independence, military incursion over the years damaged the federal principles in the country.

The forum said the status quo had become a heritage for civilian politicians who did not want “predictable” progress for Nigeria by keeping it under a unitary arrangement that had made the country unsettled.

The forum also said the state of the nation had spread the culture of poverty all over the country and promoted conflicts and crises which were natural consequences of running a multi-ethnic country from Abuja.

“Part of the fallouts of this crisis of Unitarian(ism) was the recent #ENDSARS protests brought about by a dysfunctional federalism,” the statement said.

“The immediate cause of the crisis was traceable to the single policing in a plural society with serous atrocities against youth by policemen from a different culture profiling youths from a different culture as criminals without serious investigation beyond hairstyles or boys wearing earrings.

“We frown at all fascist measures taken so far against the protesters by those negotiating with bandits in their corner of the country.

“We once again salute those youth who conducted themselves peacefully until the (state) introduced violence and their sense of appreciation on what Nigeria needs, by including restructuring in their demands, is noted.

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“We must attend to those demands instead of blackmailing and hounding them with strong arms tactics.”

The forum argued that it was the absence of federalism that had caused the opposition to Zamfara State mining gold which had been illegally mined by alleged criminals before now.

It held that being a campaigner of federalism, it would ordinarily not oppose a state benefitting from its resources.

“We do not say Zamfara should not have that benefit but all other states must not be denied equal opportunities as obtained in all federal arrangements if we are equal stakeholders in this project,” the forum argued.

“As we have stated earlier, we restate again that the imperative of now is to restructure Nigeria back to federalism as the minimum condition for a peaceful co-existence and elongation of the tenure of Nigeria as a constitution that refuses to bend will break.

“Nigeria cannot successfully hold another election under the present constitution.

“Those in the core northern states of Nigeria who claim they do not understand what Restructuring means are being either too clever by half, or downright dishonest and patronizing to the rest of us.

“If they are in doubt, there are several historic reference documents to assist them, including the Northern Region’s pre-independence 8-point agenda where they asked for confederation.

“The Republican Constitution of 1963, the 2014 Confab report, the El-Rufai APC Committee report etc. The insensitivity of the core northern elite is encouraging this administration to sustain its deliberate mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity, and the SMBLF is hereby serving notice that this attitude of ‘our way or the highway’ does not augur well for the desired longevity of the Nigerian union.

“It’s timely to warn that if there’s no comprehensive resetting of the constitutional foundation of this country, there will be no election in 2023, and those who have made a living of resisting commonsensical change would bear the responsibility of history for whatever follows.

“It is equally astonishing that the federal government is wasting resources in pursuit and harassment of the patriotic youths that conceived peaceful protests @#Endsars, while armed criminal herdsmen, bandits, Boko Haram partisans and financiers walk the free and unmolested.

“That probability is being arrogantly and steadily eroded by the apparent determination of the core northern elite to ride the rest component groups of the country as horses. That must stop. We all have equal stakes in Nigeria, and that is why we are consistently calling for fundamental structural constitutional change from the current system of unitary rule back to the system of true federalism for which Nigeria is tailor-made.”

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