CENTER FOR LAWS OF NIGERIA: CONFAB 2014 REPORT
AGITATIONS FOR NATIONAL CONFERENCE: A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
1.1.1 The Federal Republic Nigeria with a population of approximately 170 million, located in West Africa, has 36 States, 774 Local Government Areas and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country has had a history of national dialogue that has impacted on its constitutional and political development. In different phases of the 100 years of Nigeria as a nation from the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates on January 1, 1914 to the convocation of a National Conference in March 2014, the nature, character and prospects of national conferences have been turning points in the history of the country. Each phase has had a defining moment as a result of the issues, demands, struggles and movements peculiar to it.
1.1.2 The history of constitutional and political development has shown that conferences for nation-building can be classified into three: -Constitutional, National (non-sovereign) and Sovereign. A constitutional conference is concerned with the sole aim of developing a constitutional framework or making proposals for constitutional changes within the existing constitutional framework. It has limited scope – Constitution making for the purpose of nation-building, through which the rules and principles of political pluralism, the role of the state, citizenship rights and duties, protection of fundamental human rights, etc., are defined
1.1.3 A National Conference is a formal platform for dialogue by constituent units of the nation convened by the national government of a country to discuss issues or problems that inhibit national progress or challenge national cohesion. A National Conference is expected to proffer appropriate solutions that will assist in moving the
1.1.4 A Sovereign National Conference is the convocation of by and large, civil society organizations, workers’ unions, political parties, professional associations, religious denominations, and government representatives to discuss and chart new ways forward for the nation. As the word ‘sovereign’ suggests, the conference is not subject to the authority of the state and its outcome may supplant and sweep away existing order while heralding an entirely new order. It has the capacity to take effective and effectual decisions relating to the tenure, survival and/or limits of power of the existing regime. This means that a sovereign national conference is interpreted as a transitional phase in the process of a mass struggle to carry out system or regime change.
1.1.5 The situation which leads to the convocation of a sovereign national conference arises from the thinking that the existing order or regime, is incapable of solving economic and political problems and the institutions of the state are rather weak or ineffective to assert authority while the democratic opposition is not strong enough to effect regime or system change. Where the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference is unlikely, its proponents have advocated a Conference of Ethnic Nationalities particularly in an ethnically plural society. Representatives of the ethnic nationalities are convened on a common platform to discuss and make recommendations to Government about their common problems in order to achieve higher levels of mutual trust, understanding and integration in nation-building. [FOR FULL COPY – email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com]