Notes On Some Contentious Issues In Contemporary Nigerian Polity
There are quite a few issues that seem to remain permanently contentious, and continue to trend, using the popular social media lingo in contemporary Nigeria polity.
They seem to me to have remained contentious either because the elites promoting them have deliberately or inadvertently been foggy and unclear about them; or as a result of a somewhat complacency of the wider citizenry which has allowed the fallacies of the ruling elites to go unchallenged; or due to a combination of both factors.
Whichever is the case, the competing factions and fractions of the ruling elite continue to exploit the fallouts from these deliberately contrived contentious issues to divide us and make it extremely difficult for their dominance to be challenged effectively.
It is important that we engage frontally with these issues because of the impact they have on our march to progress, our ability to build a socially just society, and our capacity to deepen the democratisation process.
I am very consciously using the concept of deepening the democratisation process as opposed to consolidating democracy because they mean different things.
To consolidate our democracy is to seek to stabilise and legitimise formal democracy – regular elections, party politics etc.
To deepen the democratisation process is to seek to expand democracy beyond its formal sphere, to build a socially just society with equitable distribution of wealth, where every sphere of life is democratised, and where popular participation underlies the system.
It is a process that ultimately culminates in the democratic self-government and self-management of political and economic processes.
Anyway, let us return to the “contentious issues’’.
THE SCOPE AND COVERAGE OF FEDERAL LEGISLATION:
One of the anomalies of our current democratic experience, particularly since the inauguration of the current 4th Republic in 1999 is the contrived and received political elite pseudo-wisdom that laws validly made by the Federal Legislature, the National Assembly [NASS] require to be domesticated by state legislatures before they can be enforced within those states.
So let us try to disentangle ourselves from this self-serving cobweb of the political elite.
First Nigeria is a Federation, and a federation is a political and governance arrangement between two blocs of entities – Federal centre and the constituent federating units, who have come together to establish the federation.
In fact the constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] in Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, subsection 2 states that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”.
In a federation therefore, power is shared between the federation and its constituent units.
That is why we have the Exclusive legislative list on which only the Federation can legislate on; and the Concurrent Legislative list, on which both the Federation and the federating units, in this case, the states can legislate on.
Secondly, the NASS is made up of two chambers; the Senate, in which every federating unit is represented equally, in this case 3 senators per state; and the House Of Representatives [HOR] in which states, the federating units are represented on the basis of their respective population.
In Chapter 1, Part II, Section 4, subsection 1, the 1999 constitution proceeds to vest legislative powers of the federation in the NASS, and in subsections 2, 3, & 4 proceeds to define these legislative powers with respect to items on the Exclusive list [subsection 2].
And items on the concurrent list [subsections 3 & 4].
Subsection 5 further proceeds to underlie the supremacy of the federal legislation over a state legislation where a state legislation is inconsistent with a validly made federal legislation.
The operative phrase here is ‘’validly made legislation’’. And there are established provisions of the constitution and legislative procedures for making a legislation in our constitution and in the procedures of the NASS.
Only the courts, and ultimately the Supreme court can rule with finality on the validity of a law where there is any contention.
Furthermore, it is important to note that no law can be enacted without the concurrence of both the Senate and the HOR, legislative chambers within which the federating units are adequately and democratically represented.
The implication of that concurrence and passage of the law by the NASS is that the federating units, through their elected representatives have been duly consulted.
Thirdly, the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not the FCT, it is all of the space that constitutes the country, that is all of the territories of its constituent units.
Fourthly, the concept of domestication of a law is alien to national law, it is instead an aspect of international law that requires that when nations enter into international agreements, treaties and conventions, the provisions of those agreements require to be incorporated into the national laws by the national legislatures in order for it to have the force of law within those countries.