Chief Supo Shonibare, Acting National Chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and advocate of devolution of power speaks on the proposed constitutional and Electoral Act amendments, while also welcoming moves by the National Assembly to harmonise previous confab reports, especially the 2014 national confab, with the proposed amendment.
What are your thoughts on the plan by the Senate to consider the 2014 confab report and that of the Governor Nasir el-Rufai restructuring committee of the APC in the constitution review process?
I think that is a good development. They, however, must have a standing committee in the Senate to be able to undertake this harmonisation, which will submit its report to the Committee of the Whole House. The present committee set up by the Senate president is superfluous. The El-Rufai committee report has aspects of devolution contained therein; more particularly the revenue sharing formula and recommendations for state police.
Are you of the opinion that the 2014 confab report is all-encompassing and proffers solutions to most of the problems facing the nation?
The 2014 National Conference Report is an all-encompassing constitutional reform document, containing recommendations on almost every conceivable challenge in the polity. Its recommendations will address all the issues and challenges currently bedevilling the polity. It has far-reaching recommendations on proposals that will enable even aspects of devolution by the presidential-order-in council and some requiring simple amendments to National Assembly acts without it being a constitutional amendment process.
The cumbersome federal entity is unable to avert looming chaos and anarchy all over the country that this travel direction portends. Most of us are playing ostrich. We are sliding towards the precipice.
The federal entity simply doesn’t have the capacity to deal with all our challenges operating a unitary system.
So where lies the solution?
There’s no democratic multi-ethnic federation anywhere in the world operating a unitary system of government. It negates the covenant of federalism. Even mono-ethnic settlements struggle in operating a unitary system: Worse in a multi-ethnic settlement. It tends to encourage friction and distrust among the ethnic groups.
What is the desirability of e-voting in our electoral system?
We need to be circumspect in evaluating the process of making the votes of the electorate count and be conscious of the possibility of e-voting process itself being capable of massive manipulation as well.
A solution may be a process linking eligible voters to our national identity card biometric and thump print verification. The biometric verification process, despite occasional shortcomings, has been largely successful in the accreditation of voters.
What about electoral offences that are committed brazenly but perpetrators are not punished; the National Assembly is working on a separate bill to establish an Electoral Offences Commission. Is that the right way to go? Will this deepen the integrity of the system?
Electoral offences can be prosecuted within the existing justice system. There is no need to set up another quango like the Electoral Offences Commission. We need to adopt the recommendations of our criminal justice system by having a separate office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Attorney General of the states to be independent, fulltime appointments. The person holding such office should be recommended by the NBA at the federal level and state bar association at the state level, subject to confirmation by the legislature.