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Southern Taraba Academics’ Forum (STAF) Backs Creation of Kwararafa State

Southern Taraba Academics' Forum (STAF) strongly advocates for State and Local Government creation, State Police, devolution of powers…

By Boyi, Richard-Harris Nsenreuti

STAF is a coalition of Academics of Southern Taraba extraction whose cardinal objectives are to promote educational development, peace, unity, general socio-economic development and other matters therewith in Southern Taraba, Taraba State and Nigeria at large.

The Forum was represented at the just concluded zonal Public Hearing of both the Senate and House of Representatives' Committees on the review/amendment of the 1999 Constitution which took place in Gombe and Yola from 26th – 27th May, 2021 and 1st – 2nd June, 2021 respectively, by her National Chairman, Barr. Agbu David, Ph.D. STAF, through her National Chairman presented and submitted memoranda to the respective committees, making several recommendations based on the opinions of members of the Forum and submissions from other concerned individuals and groups in Southern Taraba.

Some of the key recommendations were: State and Local Government creation, constitutional amendment to allow the establishment of State Police, restructuring the Local Government system, creating constitutional roles for Traditional Rulers, devolution of power, fiscal federalism, greater participation of women, youths and other vulnerable groups in governance, far-reaching electoral and judicial reforms.

Constitutional provision for the establishment of State Police

Considering current security trends in the Country, the Forum recommended that making constitutional provisions for the establishment of State Police was expedient. The Nigerian Police Force as it is currently constituted does not have the human and material resources to effectively police a country of about 200 million, therefore the States need to be empowered to create their own Police with clear cut jurisdictional guidelines and areas of synergy for the effective administration of the internal security of each State and the Nation. The Forum further recommended that item 45 on the exclusive legislative list about the Police as provided by the Second Schedule, Part I of the 1999 Constitution be moved to the concurrent legislative list to allow State Houses of Assemblies to legislate laws to establish their own Police commands; and also the amendment of Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution, part of which reads 'no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof', to allow for the creation of State police.

States and Local Government creation

The Forum recommended that for the purpose of fairness, equity and the economic realities of the nation at present, one (1) State each should be created in the geopolitical zones that have six (6) States with the exception of the Northwest that already has seven (7) States whereas the Southeast which has five (5) States presently, gets two (2) additional States. This in the Forum's opinion would bring balance, display fairness and a sense of inclusion to all the geopolitical zones.

The Forum further recommended the creation of Kwarrarafa State from Taraba State, adding one (1) State to the Northeast geopolitical zone. The Forum also supported and adopted the position of the good people of former Wukari Federation Native Authority on the creation of Kwarrarafa State and thirtheen (13) new Local Governments from the current Wukari, Takum, Ibi, Donga, Ussa, Kurmi and Yangtu SDA.

Local Government

The Forum noted that the Local Government, being the layer of governance that is closest to the people and a platform for sustainable socio-economic development and popular participation in governance at the grass-root, had been abused by State actors and hence rendered ineffective for the delivery of critically needed development at the grass-root.

Therefore, the Forum adopted some of the recommendations of The 2014 National Conference that necessary safeguards be introduced to guarantee the independence of local government councils, some of which were:

(i) that Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), guarantees a system of Local Governments by democratically elected Local Government Council;

(ii) States wishing to create Local Governments, may create them under the jurisdiction of the States;

 (iii) The list and functions of the Local Governments as contained in First and Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) shall be transferred to the States subject to the power of the State Houses of Assembly to add or reduce the said functions of the Local Government;

(iv) Chairmen and Councillors of Local Governments, not democratically elected, shall not be recognized by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation i.e. total abolishment of the Caretaker or Sole Administration system as recommended also by The Belgore Report, 2012;

 (v) The Constitution should fix the tenure for Local Government Councils at three (3) years.

(vi) The Joint State/Local Government Account be scrapped and in its place the establishment of a State Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (SRMAFC) with representatives of Local Governments and a Chairman nominated by the Governor to be screened and passed by State House of Assembly;

(vii) Elections shall be held not earlier than 90 days or not later than 30 days to the expiration of the clearly defined tenure of the Local Government Councils. However, Section 197(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the relevant provisions in the Third Schedule should be strengthened to guarantee the independence of the State Independent Electoral Commissions to carry out their duties without undue interference. Such measures could include granting financial autonomy and other safeguards to prevent abuse of such office by both the appointer or the appointee to the office of the Chairman and Members.

Constitutional roles for Traditional Rulers

The Forum recommended that constitutional roles be given to Traditional rulers in line with the recommendation of the 2005 National Political Reform Conference.

Devolution of Power and fiscal federalism

Nigeria is currently running a Federal system of governance that is skewed in favour of the Federal Government which has proven to be detrimental to the development of the federating units (States) and the nation at large. This has necessitated calls by many for the review of the legislative lists of the tiers of government with a view to reducing the legislative powers at the federal level and devolving same to the federating units (States). STAF also supports this call for the devolution of power by the Federal Government and fiscal federalism (Resource control) thus, reduction of the items on the Exclusive Legislative List (ELL) as provided by the Second Schedule, Part I to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to the Concurrent Legislative List (CLL).

The Forum recommended that: creation of State Police; Construction, alteration and maintenance of Federal Trunk Roads with the exception of those linking other countries; Fingerprints, identification and criminal records; "trade and business names", excluding "Patents, trademarks, industrial designs and merchandise marks"; Mines and Minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological survey and natural gas; National parks; Police and other governmental Security Service established by law; Prisons; Public holidays; Railway; Stamp duties; Formation and dissolution of marriages; Registration of births and deaths; all of which are in the Exclusive Legislative List, be moved to the Concurrent Legislative List so as promote the growth and development of the Federation.


Fundamental human rights, gender equity and increased participation of women and vulnerable groups in governance

STAF recommended to the committees that the Socioeconomic rights as contained in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution be made justiciable as the Fundamental human rights in Chapter IV.

Section 42, Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution guarantees the Right to freedom from discrimination and Section 17(2)a establishes the equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law for every citizen, however, women, youths and other vulnerable groups have been marginalised from participation in governance; for instance, in the current 9th National Assembly, women occupy only 7 out of 109 Senate seats and only 11 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives, which is only a paltry 6% and 3% respectively. Countries like Rwanda and South Africa have used affirmative action to pave way for women representation in governance; in Rwanda, over 50% of political positions are held by women. The Forum recommended the provision of a legal framework for implementation of 35% affirmative action for women. Further recommendations were made for Nigeria to adopt the ages posited by the African Youth Charter across all streams of youth definition i.e. age 15 - 35.

The "Not too Young to Run" legislation was an excellent step to foster Youth representation in elective offices, however there is a need for affirmative action for youth representation in appointments into government positions. At least 20% of appointments should be given to the youth, including mandating that Ministry of Youth and Sports to be an exclusive preserve for youths at all tiers of government, which would create a more inclusive government that will douse the agitations by youths across the country.

Strengthening the independence of Institutions

The Forum aligned with the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference on matters of strengthening the independence of institutions and separation of powers. However, further recommendations were made, which included the inclusion of presiding officers of the National Assembly in the National Security Council and for constitutional provisions to be made for 'State of the Nation' address by the Executive, President or Governor as the case may be, twice a year and at an event of a National/State emergency at a joint session of the National Assembly/State Assembly to Nigerians.


Electoral matters

STAF strongly advocated the passage of the electoral bill before the 9th Assembly and recommended on the following: (i) Constitutional provision for the use of electronic voting for elections; (ii) Independent Candidacy, to widen the political space and increase participation. However, appropriate safeguards must be put in place to prevent abuse of the platform for political opportunism; (iii) that section 285 of the Constitution which provides for 180 days for the hearing and determination of Election petitions should be amended such that all interlocutory matters should be taken together with the main petition; (iv) other matters that would guarantee the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

Judicial Reforms

The National Judicial Council as the single judicial council in Nigeria is operating a unitary judicial system in a federal system. Therefore, STAF recommended the amendment of the Constitution to create State Judicial Councils that will appoint and discipline Judges in the States, while the National Judicial Council control the appointments and discipline of Judges of the Federal Government and performs oversight functions on the State Judicial Councils. Consequently, the Forum recommended the creation of State Courts of Appeal.

STAF emphasized that the administrative and financial independence of the judiciary and legislature as different arms of government must be guaranteed, while recommending that the retirement age of all senior Judicial officers be 70 years. The call for judicial reforms to strengthen the nation's justice delivery system especially the timely adjudication of pre-election and election matters was supported.

In conclusion, the Forum appreciated the ninth National Assembly for the bold and courageous move to amend the 1999 Constitution and the Public Hearings to further reflect the will of ordinary Nigerians; praying that the contributions made would be adequately accommodated and subjected to further legislative work for a better and more united and prosperous Nigeria.

The memoranda were signed for and on behalf of the Southern Taraba Academics' Forum by Barr. Agbu, David Ph.D. and Mr Boyi, Richard-Harris Nsenreuti.

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