Those who think they can restructure Nigeria overnight will be disappointed – Yadudu

ProfAwwalu Yadudu is a professor of law at Bayero University, Kano and a member of the ongoing National Conference. Having attended quite a number of conferences, Yadudu said their recommendations may not be too earth-shaking and Nigeria cannot be restructured overnight. He advised everyone to live with whatever they can get out of it. He spoke to ZAINAB SULEIMAN OKINO on these and other matters such as state police, political restructuring, resource control and the concept, if any, of true federalism or false federalism

At the plenary you asked people to be cautious as regards some of the recommendations made in the report of the environment committee. That the issue of ownership of resources has already been addressed by the constitution. How do you mean?
Well, there was a point I made in my contribution. It is that some committees are trying to introduce new terminologies about resource ownership, resource control, and trying to fuel it by some other means, calling it resource democracy. Whatever name you call it, I think as far as we understand, resource control or resource ownership, is clearly regulated by section 44 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria which clearly states that notwithstanding anything in the provision which acknowledges ownership and requires compensation for any property acquired, ownership over mineral resources – oil, maritime, belongs to the federation. Until you change that provision of the constitution, you cannot introduce some elements about democracy of resources and so on.
There are other provisions of course in the Petroleum Act and in the Mineral Resources Act that clearly emphasise that ownership and control of resources and whatever is under the land, water, belonging to that category of resources belong to the federal government, and not to any community, not to any state. That is the clarification I made.
The second clarification I made in my contribution was with regards to the recommendation of the Committee on Environment: It is about certain ecological problems in the south which are very clear. I fully recognise that those are problem areas which need to be attended to. However, we have to be aware that there are also glaring ecological problems in the north which also need to be addressed.

Sir, you have not said as much as you know on the issue of resource control, you need to shed more light on the issue in this conference.
Well, I didn’t belong to that committee. I think for now, what is apt is that whether we like it or not, it is too late in the day for communities to claim what they never had. Those who say the resources under the field, or in the land do not belong to the sovereign nation have not done so with regards to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. In Akwa Ibom and Zamfara oil resources and gold are found. This issue is not only in Nigeria, it is found in England, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and where ever such mineral resources are found. So all over the world, where ever such mineral resources are found, they belong to the nation, not to the part of the nation where it is deposited.

How does your argument exemplify the concept of true federalism which supports the argument that states should have control over natural resources in their states?
Regarding the nomenclature about true federalism, a federal system is any arrangement in which the component parts have come together to agree on an issue. So there is no such thing as true federalism, or false federalism. Simply, a federal system is a system by which the federating units of a state (or the colonies as it is called in America) agree on a definite subject matter. By our own agreement here for example, if we want to take five to give it to the federal government to exercise exclusion, 15 for the federal and state governments to jointly exercise exclusions; and in the process, if the federal government legislates on an issue, it overrides the legislations of the states. What this means is that every federal arrangement has its own set of agreements as what issues go to the states or federal government but every federal legislation overrides the states’.
Those who think that Nigeria is not practicing a federal system are incorrect. I will concede to them that they may want to devolve powers from the federal to the state government, just as they have argued that mineral resources belong to the states. But they have to convince me that it is constitutional. Whatever the argument, it does not fault our practice of federalism.

What’s your take on the issue of state police?
My take is that I support some measure of community policing because in every federal system over the world; we do not have only a centralized police. A centralized police does not have accurate knowledge of local regions.
The issue now is not between whether we should have only federal police, or we should have state police. To me, the fear that many have about state police is with regards to the conflicts that we have, and with the unreasonable way politicians want to use law enforcement agents to their selfish advantages. If you give states the powers to establish their respective police forces at the moment, together with the freedom that comes with use of police, there will be abuse of power; I mean there will be arbitrary use of power. So I think the conversation should not be whether or not we should create state police, but our focus for now should be how we can make the best use of the police force we have at the moment. It will help us reap the rewards of effective police participation on national issues, while helping to maintain the neutrality of the center.
I’m not saying that the federal police itself is not abused

(Cuts in) Yes because that’s my next question. Those at the federal level can as well abuse it as they seem to be doing now.
Well, it is not as severe or as dangerous as you call it. Unfortunately, we have given the impression to local communities the powers to own things e.g. at the moment there is the issue of multiple taxation. If you are a businessman, you will readily agree that at the moment, small businesses suffer because of multiple taxations. By the time you give them political power, it…
So if you give states powers to own their own police, it will be a serious problem. So I’m saying that there cannot be efficient policing of the society when it is fully centralized and there is not effective and meaningful control of the police. I am very apprehensive of creating a state police at the moment.

When do you think it will be safe to have state police?
When we change our attitude, when we become better.

So, what is the north taking away from this confab?
I cannot speak for the north.

But you are a prominent son of the north? I rephrase my question: What did the north come with, and what is it taking away?
Regarding what we have come with, the first is that it is best we dialogue rather than fight. Secondly, the north believes that there are certain issues that perhaps the timing can be wrong because if you bring such issues to be discussed when there is an election in view, it will becloud our sense of judgment.
As delegate, I think we should take away such discussions in order to be able to make recommendations not necessarily too earth shaking, but recommendations that will responsibly solve our problems and stabilise the polity. Also, we should be making recommendations that will not be disruptive. I didn’t come here to deny any group what they have come to advocate. I strongly believe that we are here as a nation and we should be able to create such atmosphere among ourselves such that everyone feels safe with their ideas and values.

When the confab started there was tension in the air, everyone was on edge, and there were subtle threats here and there before the calm we see today. What has changed?
I have participated in this kind of confab for the last 30 years. The tendency is that there is a reality check. When people come, they come with very high sounding, outrageous expectations and demands, hoping that they can just override others. Initially, the first contact they have is to ventilate radically held ideas. But soon, they are made to realise that others have their own values, and so there is a reality check. They discover that what they think is their absolute right regarding what XYZ says cannot be if we will continue to exist as a nation. So, people soon discover that if we want to sustain our indivisible and indissoluble status as a nation, then they have to do away with some ideas and claims.
So in my view, the calm that we now have in the deliberations is as a result of reality checks rather than because of what somebody has said. Maybe what the Lamido said has brought some people to a certain level, but I think it is more of the fact that once people realise that they don’t live in isolation, and that they are part of the community, and that they have to communicate and that every community that makes up the federation has its own sense of belonging and aspiration, and that if we are going to live as a community, there must be tolerance and recognition of respective aspirations.
If anything has changed the mood, I think it is that resolution that whatever we will arrive at as a confab must be reached by consensus. It is only when we feel we can arrive at consensus that we feel that we can project our indivisibility as a nation.
If you convoke a confab as this confab is being convoked, which is, and then you come with high sounding, overblown demands and expectations, and you expect people to come and lie on their bellies for you  to tickle them, you will realize that it won’t work. Since we want this nation to remain, let us take decisions that when we return home, our people will feel that we have no fault. I mean we should be able to make our people understand the reasons why we were not able to arrive at certain parochial goals.
Don’t forget that our decisions here are not final. It has to go to the National Assembly; some are even saying it should go through a referendum. So if we make decisions that do not enjoy a large measure of support, you will only be deceiving yourself that you have arrived at a decision, because when you go back home, it will not fly.

Talking about reality check or the possibility of the confab going to the National Assembly or a referendum, and the possibility that most of the issues here will remain as they are, don’t you think the confab would end up achieving nothing?
Well, if you remember I was a bad boy at the beginning of this confab. I made a statement that this confab is a diversion, that it is ill-timed, that it may not have any meaningful output.
Maybe what you are saying is that my prediction may end up being the reality of the situation at the end of the conference. But I think there are symbolic gains. The fact that sometimes when you discuss and understand one another, however you are able to treat some issues, it ends for the better.
Those who think that the country would be restructured overnight will be disappointed; sometimes when we discuss issues, what we require is to understand one another. If that (restructuring of the country) had not happened, it will no longer happen. I don’t think it is a realistic objective. Whatever happens, we will still go home with something symbolic. However, whatever you are able to get from the confab, you leave with it.

Election is at the corner. Give me an overview of what will play out in 2015
Unfortunately I’m not a politician, and I don’t want to comment on something I’m not competent to talk about.