By Kevwe Ebireri
A retired justice of the Supreme Court, Sunday Akintan, says the outcome of the ongoing National Conference should be subjected to a referendum and not the National Assembly for approval, since the decision of the entire nation overrides that of any legislative body.
Akintan, who penned a seventeen-paged position paper on the proposed constitution, noted the envisaged review may result in changing the entire system or making a complete deviation from the present system of government, and suggested that the option of recommending the adoption through a referendum should be made at the Conference.
He said efforts should therefore be made to ensure that the discussions and recommendations are concluded and made into a new Constitution which will be effective before the 2015 election.
“The point must however be made clear that the new Constitution should come into force before the next national election in 2015. This is because extending the life span of the present Constitution beyond 2015 could lead to an unhealthy situation,” he said.
Akintan also criticized the duplication of roles by the upper and lower arm of the National Assembly and suggested that only one arm should exist and membership should be on part-time basis, noting that the present Assembly meets only thrice a week.
Justice Akintan is also advocating that the President should appoint his ministers from among the members of the National Assembly as opposed to the present practice, as a way of reducing the cost of governance.
“There is need to consider what dangers would arise if the Ministers are appointed from among the members of the National assembly whereby such appointees would only be entitled to only additional fixed allowances for the additional duties placed on them as Ministers,” he suggested.
He is of the view that the same law should apply to the states and local governments, such that only governors and local government chairmen will be elected on a full-time basis; commissioners should be appointed from among elected members of the State House of Assembly and should be on part-time basis along with councillors.
Akintan, a former member of the Police Service Commission, is opposed to the setting up of state police as a possible solution to the problem of insecurity in the country as there are tendencies of abuse. In fact, he believes that “this will definitely eventually lead to early break up of the country.”
“An example of the arbitrary roles now being played on some of our highways by some state or local government revenue taskforce officials despite directives barring them from carrying out such roles can be imagined if the State Police are constitutionally constituted,” he said.
Contending that the problem of the police is “over centralisation of the command structure of the force”, the retired judge suggested decentralisation of the force with a structure based on the six geographical zones of the country and with each one headed by a deputy inspector general, DIG, of police.
He also suggested that DIGs, commissioners and other officer of the police should be made to serve in their states and zones of origin, criticising the present situation where men of the force are posted to other areas.
“The present system of posting Commissioners of Police, other officers and ranks to the States from the centre makes the Governors very uncomfortable and feel insecure. In many cases, many of those posted to a State do not speak any of the local languages in the area where they are to operate. Their ability to fully interact with the people therefore becomes an uphill task and that massively affects their effectiveness as police organization”, he stated.
Justice Akitan also criticised the creation at both state and federal levels what would go for state police against the stipulation of the Constitution that there shall be one police force for the federation
At the Federal side, he declared that “the setting up of the Civil Defence corps who are now armed and without any defined roles given to them in the Constitution is not only illegal but also constitutes unnecessary proliferation of fire-arms. “
He asked that the Corp be merged with the police.
He also noted that some States have also set up illegal bodies and given them different names arguing that they are in actual fact made to perform some of the duties of the police.