Changing our constitution won’t guarantee peace – Enugu Speaker



Rt.  Hon. Eugene Odoh is the Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly. In an interaction with journalists in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, he says citizenship as contained in the Nigerian constitution encourages nepotism and sectionalism. The law maker advocates that indigeneship be expunged from the constitution, even as he insists that changing the constitution won’t guarantee peace.  FRANCIS OGAR reports

 Your impression  on Akwa Ibom State
I am not strange here. I have been coming to Akwa Ibom and this is not my first visit to Akwa Ibom en-route Calabar. I just stopped over to see my friend and brother, Comrade Oliver Ajibo. This is supposed to be a private visit but Ajibo decided to alert Enugu indigenes resident in Uyo to come and welcome me and that has actually given me the opportunity to meet with my people. All the same, Akwa Ibom has been a very peaceful state that has developed over time when compared with other states. Most states that are older than this state, of course are yet to meet up with the development that could be presently seen here. The  governor has tried very well in infrastructure and has rendered uncommon transformation as  proposed by Governor Godswill Akpabio himself. So, I think I am quite impressed being in Akwa Ibom. Akwa Ibom of course is almost taking after Enugu State where I come from in terms of infrastructural development. So we are really happy that the two states are working very well.

Managing constitutional crisis arising from Governor Sullivan Chime’s absence
It was not really a trying moment. I think people got it wrong. The governor fulfilled the stipulations of the law in section 190 of the constitution and transmitted a letter properly, according to law and handed over to his deputy and equally asked us to collaborate and work together with the deputy governor which we accordingly did. And of course, that was actually what happened. So it wasn’t as was speculated so much by the press. What happened in Enugu state was merely fulfillment of the constitutional provisions. But of course you know this kind of thing some mischief makers must use the opportunity to see whether they can occasion some trouble politically, but that we had actually resisted especially the so-called Save Enugu Group which is not even a registered association under the Corporate Affairs Commission. In fact, it is an association unknown to law.

Agenda for confab
Well, I was the Chairman conference of speaker’s constitution review committee and we are trying to follow what the conference is saying in terms of our resolutions from the conference. But for me as a person, I would continuously advocate the improvement of citizenship and indigenship in the constitution because changing the constitution itself would not guarantee any peace in this country. What would certainly guarantee peace is the way and manner we operate the constitution. The constitution as it is, even though it was not written by the people, but was handed to us by the military, has no problem as far as I am concerned. The problems in the constitution are those that have bedeviled our society in terms of people clamouring for what may go to his or her own geo-political zones.

These are part of the acrimony that has ensued. I think the general thing is the issue of clannishness and nepotism in this country. It has to do with strengthening laws as regards citizenship of this country. Each time you want to apply for a job they will give you a form asking you your state of origin, such thing should be seen as a criminal offense and should be abolished because it has encouraged sectionalism, it has encouraged nepotism and has thrown up even mediocrity. Every Nigerians should be seen as one. And by the time Nigerians are seen as one, of course there will be no problem anywhere. So that if you are from the South East and you are crying of marginalization, and you want to be in the Niger Delta that produces oil; all you need to do is to work yourself within the people of Niger Delta and you can even contest an election there and win. Once we cancel the issues of where you come from, and look at Nigerians as one and equally derive a law from the constitution, because the constitution of course has all these things l am saying. But  the problem is that the constitution did not impose any punishment on those who may have cause to flout the indigenship and citizenship right of this country.

So that if you go into the Northern part of the country because you’re not from Borno state you may not be able to contest for councillorship, because you are not from Adamawa state, you may not be able to run for councillorship. I think in 1979 or so, a Hausa man was the Chairman of Enugu North Local Government. He contested and won on merit. That is the spirit upon which Nigeria should work on. So we should be able to de-emphasize the issue of indigenship and then the National Assembly should be able to make a law derivable from the constitution making it a punishable offence for people who for any reason attribute as an advantage the issue of indigenship and citizenship by way of acquiring any state or federal resources.
With this on ground, if you are applying for a job, the criteria for not giving you the job in Akwa Ibom must not be that you are not from Akwa Ibom State. The criteria for denying you such job should be that you are not qualified and in that way even the struggle for resource control of course will be withered away.

On NIS recruitment tragedy
Well, the issue of unemployment in Nigeria of course as we know is highly endemic and it is not actually the issue of government per se. It has a cumulative effect. Outside Nigeria and in other developed countries, the major providers of jobs are private sectors. But in this country, we try to look at government as the highest provider of job. What the government ordinarily needs to do is to provide an enabling environment so that the private sectors can thrive. So we as a people should be able to condescend into the reality. We should be able to embrace agriculture, we should embrace some skill acquisition, and we should embrace a lot of self-protected skills that is capable of equally assisting us. All of us might not be able to get a white collar job.

The Immigration exercise for me is a rip-off on Nigerians and the Ministry of Interior vis-à-vis the Immigration service has no business collecting one thousand naira from prospective applicants. More so, when they had collected this money, looking at the numerical strength of people who had applied, common sense would certainly tell you that, they have over one million people that have applied. Certainly, if one million people stay in a place, there must be issues of suffocation. So the exercise would have been graduated in batches to accommodate the numbers of people that applied. It could be done in five days, it could be done in one week. But I equally blame the security and people that were on duty on the very day. We sympathize with those who lost their lives and wish that we correct ourselves so that such thing may not happen in future.

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