CHIEF Fred Orbih (SAN), in this interview, calls for the adoption of a parliamentary system of government and part-time for legislators. He also says that those in authority should learn quickly from the recent deaths at the Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment exercise, saying that Boko-Haram will be a child’s place if the time-bomb arising from youth unemployment explodes.
HIS expectations from the on-going National Conference
There is reason to hope for the best. I am not a pessimist by nature. Besides, one has to take a look at the structure that has been put in place for this conference.
What was expected to be very challenging just came out very smoothly and when the government came out with the formula of how delegates would emerge, I was a little bit skeptical because I guessed that there will be lots of argument, rancour, bitterness, indecision and controversies but that was the smoothest part of the exercise and that actually took many people by surprise because one was thinking that since the delegates were not going to emerge by election there would be problem.
Now that the hurdle has been scaled, the conference has been inaugurated and it is on. We also have to look at the caliber of persons, we all know Hon. Justice Kutigi, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, he is a man of impeccable integrity and in fact, I will describe him as integrity personified.
His level of self discipline is also very high and when he was on the Bench, when he presides, you don’t need to be told who is in control. So, there is reason to hope and when you are hoping, you hope for the best.
On discordant tunes between the North and the South over the issue of resource control
If these issues between the North and the South; between Christians and Muslims or between the different ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria were not there, then, there would have been no need for the conference.
That is why the conference was convoked and all these issues would be discussed and decisions will be taken. At the end of the day, you are going to find out that if maturity prevails, it will be give and take.
I don’t see the North getting all that it wants and I don’t see the South getting all that it intends to get from the conference. At the end of the day, what is important is what is good for Nigeria in order to move forward.
On issues he wants the conference to look into
They are so many. When you put a square peg in a round hole or you put a round peg in a square hole, you are bound to have problems. We say we are practicing federalism and we are not prepared to keep to the tenets of what is known as federalism. Those are the things that need to be looked into. For instance, can we continue with the present security structure of the country?
As far as the Police are concerned, has it worked? Some people are advocating that we should have State Police or even Community Police, Local government Police and I believe that at the end of the day, we have to fashion out what is good for the country.
Another issue is fiscal federalism. Some are saying we should have it as we had in the First Republic where we had 50 per cent derivation to the area producing the revenue. Others are saying, no, 50 per cent is too much, that it should be 25 per cent. This issue should be looked into.
Then, the structure of governance itself, are we going to continue with this overly expensive Presidential system of government or are we going back to the Parliamentary system of government? We have to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each system and luckily, we have practiced both, so, if we have a sense of history, we should be able state which is better for the country.
We also have to look at whether we need a unicameral or bicameral legislature; do we need two chambers in the National Assembly for instance with all the attendant extravagance and high cost of maintaining legislators?
Do we need full time or part-time legislators? If it is part-time legislators, you will not be paying all these stupendous allowances they receive in the National Assembly; give them sitting allowances as they received in the First Republic and if you do that, anybody who does not have viable means of livelihood will not vie for political position.
Then, you look at the structure of the federation itself. Do we go back to the Regions, either four regions or six regions as we have in the present six geo-political zones or for the sake of equity, eight regions whereby the Mid-West that was a region as far back as 1963 will now take its pride of place again?
Are going to do away with the 36 States structure so that it will be cheaper to run government and you have money for development of the country? Do we continue with dual citizenship or this perennial problem of indigenes and settlers?
If a man has lived in a state say for 10 or 20 years, paying all his taxes there and contributing to the economic development of that state, why should he not have a full status of a citizen of that state?
Or do we as Nkrumah did in Ghana do away with state of origin in all government forms and application forms so that all you need to prove is that you are a Nigerian and you will be entitled to full rights and benefits of any Nigerian in that particular location? These are issues that the conference has to examine.
What lessons do you think that Nigeria should learn from the recent death of about 16 young people at the NIS recruitment exercise?
There are many lessons to be learnt, but my first take on this is that it is unfortunate. We are going through the process of people dying unnecessarily to learn this lesson.
May we truly learn this lesson so that this type of thing will never recur in Nigeria. From what happened, it is clear that this country is sitting on a time bomb on the issue of youth unemployment and there is urgent need, on the part of the government, to arrest that situation because if that bomb is allowed to detonate, Boko Haram insurgency will be a child’s place.