By Chris Akiri
“FROM today, the 6th of June, 2017, when this proclamation is signed, the North, a critical player in the Nigerian project, hereby declares that it will no longer be disposed to coexisting with the Igbo and shall take definite steps to end the partnership by pulling out of the current federal arrangement. This conclusion is necessitated by the realization that it since ceased to be comfortable or safe to continue sharing the same country with the ungrateful, uncultured Igbo who have exhibited reckless disrespect for other federating units and stained the integrity of the entire nation with their insatiable criminal obsessions… The North hereby openly calls on the authorities and other national and international stakeholders to acknowledge this declaration by taking steps to facilitate the final dissolution of this hopeless union that has never been convenient to any one of the parties…”, so ran the secessionist pronunciamento of sixteen northern groups of “youths”, which included Arewa Citizens’ Action for Change, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Arewa Youth Development Foundation, Arewa Students’ Forum and Northern Emancipation Network on the Igbo Persistence for Secession. The underscored, which is mine, constitute the treasonable statements in the Declaration.
The treasonous Kaduna Declaration was read out by one of the “youth” leaders, Mallam Abdulazeez Suleiman. Stating what, to all intents and practical purposes, appeared to be the raison d’être for the bellicose proclamation, the sixteen northern groups announced that, “As a first step, since the Igbo have clearly abused the unreciprocated hospitality that gave them unrestricted access to, and ownership of, landed properties all over the North, our first major move shall be to reclaim, assume and assert sole ownership and control of these landed resources currently owned, rented or in any way enjoyed by the ingrate Igbo (sic) in any part of Northern Nigeria. Consequently, officials of the signatory groups to this declaration are already mandated to commence immediate inventory of all properties, spaces or activity in the north currently occupied by the Igbo for forfeiture at the expiration of the ultimatum contained in this declaration.” The question is, even if Nigeria broke into its component parts, why should the investments and landed properties of non-citizens of an Arewa Republic be expropriated if such investments, including immoveable properties, were not the sole purpose of this war-like declaration?
To take the last step in the actualization of the treasonable Declaration, Mallam Sulaiman then warned pyrotechnically: “With effect from the date of this declaration, which is today, Tuesday, June 06, 2017, all Igbo currently residing in any part of Northern Nigeria are hereby served notice to relocate within three months and all northerners residing in the East are hereby advised likewise.”
And to further compound the treasonable act, Mallam Sulaiman belched out the warning shots: “We are hereby placing the Nigerian authorities and the entire nation on notice that as from the 1st of October, 2017, we shall commence the implementation of visible actions to prove to the whole world that we are no longer part of any federal union that should do with the Igbo…” Open threats of violence! Nigeria being a constitutional federation and the grundnorm of the Nigerian legal system being the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is imperative to interrogate the issues raised in the Kaduna Declaration to determine whether the Constitution and other statutes, particularly those on criminal law, are binding on all the citizens of Nigeria, who benefit from our togetherness as a nation-space, or only on sections thereof. Section 42 (1) of the Constitution provides that:
“A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which a citizen of Nigeria or of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject;” while section 43 stipulates: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.” And subject to the proviso thereof, section 44 (1) of the same Constitution, without which there is no Nigeria, lays stress on the provisions of the earlier sections when it says that “No moveable property or any interest in an immoveable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria…”
Quite clearly, the Kaduna Declaration is as unconstitutional as it is provocative. And, to the extent that the Declaration does violence to, and, as it were, drives a coach and horses through, the provisions of sections 37, 41 (c) and 42 of the Criminal Code Act (Cap. 77 LFN, 1990), it constitutes an overt act of an intention to effect a criminal, highly felonious, purpose (secession) , and is therefore treasonable. I guess that the Governor and Chief Security Officer of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, had this fact in mind when he ordered the immediate arrest of all the signatories to the Declaration, which is at once subversively inappeasable and iconoclastic. When, on May 1, 1953, the North started the war of secession in Nigeria, how many Southern States ordered northerners to leave their territory? That none of the warmongers has even been “invited for a chat” (a meaningless jargon of the Nigeria Police) let alone arrested, to date, in spite of the Riot Act read by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, with equal force, is proof-positive that the northern youths have the strong backing of the almighty Northern Elders’ Forum, which must have fulminated against any attempt by any security agency to harass any of the erring youths.
But it is clear that the unexpected outcome of their impetuous decision has stared the northern elders and their children hard in the face. For the first time in the chequered history of Nigeria, all the ethnic nationalities outside the core (Hausa/Fulani) north spoke in the same language against the Kaduna Declaration. In its prompt reaction to the quit notice, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) “pledged our total support towards this divinely approved quit notice”; the Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, stated that “the quit notice was a bad signal for the country”, adding that if the North wanted to break away, there should be no problem except that an ultimatum to a set of people to vacate their region was unacceptable; on their own part, the South-South geopolitical zone quickly issued a three-month notice to northerners to quit the Niger Delta on or before October 1, 2017, while the North-Central zone, with efficient speed, dissociated itself from the core north’s Kaduna Declaration.
In view of the foregoing, I appeal to the Federal Government to ferret out all the signatories of the Kaduna Declaration, including those who aided and abetted their crime, arrest and make them pass the excruciating crucible of a criminal trial. This would be necessary to show that the 1999 Constitution and the Criminal and Penal Code Acts are binding on all Nigerians and are not laws which, in the language of Anacharsis, an ancient philosopher, “are like cobwebs, strong enough to detain the weak and too weak to hold the strong”!
But here is a word for the Igbo: if, on the 50th anniversary of a gruesome civil war, the Igbo, as a collectivity, are now the richest people, at least in the West African sub-region, owning over 70% of Abuja, so much of Lagos and other cities in Nigeria and having over five Ministers, including the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Deputy President of the Senate, etc., why should they insist on Biafra? Why can’t they consider that the Urhobo nation, for instance, the fourth most populous ethnic nationality in Nigeria, with immense intellectual and mineral resources, have been relegated, by successive Federal Governments, to a subaltern background and have not committed hara-kiri?
Barrister Akiri writes from Lagos