This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: 'Constitution Review Public Hearing a Sham'

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An Itekiri leader, Chief Rita-Lori Ogbebor, has described last weekend's public hearing on the proposed constitution amendment as a "sham and monumental failure."

The exercise, according to her, was fit only for the trash bin because "it was nothing more than a ploy to rubber stamp the selfish agenda of those who organised it."

Addressing a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the visibly worried elder stateswoman asserted that "the exercise was designed to fail," wondering "how on earth do you expect people of my calibre and age to just answer 'Yes or No' about a matter that was not previously discussed!"

Citing an example, the Itsekiri High Chief said: "The first question was about difficulties in Section 8 of the constitution that make creation of states difficult," asking "how. Many of us who are not lawyers know anything about the clause?"

She maintained that one minute slated for every question could never be adequate to address such a document that was like the bible of the country.

She expressed disgust at the way the Warri exercise was conducted, saying because the President was in town for Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor's birthday, the event slated for 9 a.m. could not commence until 4 p.m.

"And because of the wish wash the programme was handled, people got angry and walked out on the organisers," she disclosed.

While rejecting the exercise, Ogbebor insisted that "what we need is not state creation but how to address the issue of the minorities in the country as stated by the Henry Willink Commission of 1958.

The woman activist was of the conviction that the injustices being meted to the minorities was the cause of emergence of restive groups like Boko Haram and other militants insisting that "no stability or peace can be guaranteed in an atmosphere where injustice reigns supreme."

She therefore advised that "going back to the pre-Independence Henry Willink Commission report as well as jetitioning of the current Presidential System of government for a parliamentary system was the only forward for Nigeria", pointing out that the presidential system was too expensive to operate.

In addition to that, Ogbebor expressed support for a National Dialogue that could lead to regional autonomy reminding that in the 60s, there were healthy competitions among the regions that led to rapid development even without oil.

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