The chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, on Thursday, said the regimes of Generals Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo relegated the traditional institution to the background with no constitutional role.
Speaking in Abuja at a meeting with the Steering Committee of the Senate Constitution Review Committee, he said Ironsi’s 1966 Unitary Government Decree, Gowon’s 1967 and Obasanjo’s 1976 Local Government Reforms Decrees stripped traditional rulers of their powers and gave same to the local government councils.
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The sultan, represented by the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, said the decrees resulted in insecurity and corruption currently facing the country.
He said before the 1976 local government reforms, Nigeria was progressive, peaceful, decent and full of beautiful traditions and cultures.
He called on the National Assembly to restore their constitutional powers.
He said the colonialists needed the traditional rulers to consolidate their indirect rule; the politicians, to stabilize their governments and the military, to gain acceptance.
“All the respective levels of governments needed them to maintain peace and security as traditional rulers were always at hand to douse conflict that the police, the military and the government officials could not contain.
“Currently, traditional rulers do not have the constitutional or other legal backings to perform effectively as they’re not even mentioned in the 1999 constitution. This is a great departure from all earlier constitutions that recognized them, and even gave them some functions to perform.
“Indeed, all the Nigerian earlier constitutions gave the chairmen of the State Councils of Chiefs seats in the National Council of State alongside former Presidents and Chief Justices.”
He asked that the constitution be amended to give the traditional institution a unique constitutional recognition, noting that no community or nation would thrive successfully without due consideration of its historical evolution, customs, values and beliefs.
“The constitutional provision should provide for states to enact state laws that cater for specific peculiar matters relating to traditional rulers in the respective states. In addition, the chairmen of the State Councils of Chiefs should be recognised by the constitution as members of the Council of State as it has been in all the Nigerian constitutions, except the 1999 one,” he added.
Responding, Deputy Senate President and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Ovie Omo-Agege, told the traditional rulers that their requests were “not too much to ask”, urging them to lobby lawmakers at the National and State Assemblies, who are their subjects, for their requests to sail through.