From Fred Itua, Abuja
Traditional rulers from the six geopolitical zones, yesterday, bemoaned their inability to tackle insecurity in their domains.
The monarchs who met with the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, blamed increasing security challenges and corruption on the relegation of powers of traditional institutions.
They urged the National Assembly to restore the constitutional powers of traditional rulers which were eroded by the 1967 and 1976 Local Government Reform decrees.
Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, represented by Etsu Nupe, Abubakar Yahaya, made the remarks on behalf of the other traditional rulers.
Yahaya said: “Between the 1920s and 1960s, traditional rulers were very influential and in charge of native authority administration. Indeed, the first republic regional governments had bi-camera legislative arrangement with the Houses of Chiefs serving as upper chambers to those of the elected Houses of Assemblies. The society was at that time progressive, peaceful, decent and full of beautiful traditions and cultures. Lives and property were sacrosanct and accountability and honesty were the hallmarks of traditional local administrations.
“Gen. Ironsi’s 1966 unitary government decree, Generals Gowon and Obasanjo’s 1967 and 1976 local government reform decrees respectively, stripped traditional rulers of their powers and gave same to local government councils thereby giving birth to the present insecurity and corruption.”
He insisted that before the 1976 local government reforms which stripped traditional rulers of their powers, “there were never any recorded serious incidences of religious, ethnic or land related conflicts where hundreds of lives were lost as is obtained nowadays.”
The royal father said the 1979 Constitution incorporated the functions of local governments as enumerated in the 1976 guidelines and also established a council of chiefs at the state level.
“The 1999 Constitution, however, totally ignored the existence of traditional rulers and did not find it fit to include even the chairmen of states council of chiefs as members of the council of state. There is currently no law at federal level or a constitutional provision recognising the Nigerian traditional institution. It is important that the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, and by extension the National Assembly as a whole, ensures that a constitutional provision is made with a view to creating roles for traditional rulers in matters involving religion, culture, security, justice and other ancillary matters.
“The constitutional provision should provide for states to enact laws to cater for specific peculiar matters relating to traditional rulers in the respective states. In addition, the chairmen of the states council of chiefs should be recognised by the constitution as members of the council of state as it has been in all the Nigerian Constitutions, except the 1999.”
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said if the restoration of the constitutional powers of traditional rulers could take the nation out of its present insecurity, the request should be granted.
“We are at a cross road. We are in a very dire situation, especially the security situation of our country. This is an opportunity for our traditional institutions to ask for specific roles. If our traditional institutions would be part of our security architecture, so be it. What we need is to secure lives and property of our people. This is a parliament. Parliament is different from many institutions. The majority carries the day. Just like the chairman of this committee advised, we need to talk to stakeholders, the National Assembly members and even those who are not in the Assembly. I want to assure you that every member of the National Assembly is working hard to ensure that there is peace, security and unity in this country and we believe that the traditional institution will add value to governance and the security situation in this country.”