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How Ironsi, Gowon, Obasanjo rendered traditional rulers powerless

The National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, on Thursday, said the regimes of General Aguiyi Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo relegated…

The National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, on Thursday, said the regimes of General Aguiyi Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo relegated the traditional institution to the background.

The Chairman of the council and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, said the General Ironsi’s 1966 Unitary Government Decree, General Gowon’s and General Obasanjo’s 1967 and 1976 Local Government Reforms Decrees respectively, stripped traditional rulers of their powers and gave same to the Local Government Councils.

The decrees, he said, resulted in insecurity and corruption currently facing the country.

Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, the Etsu Nupe, who represented the Sultan, spoke in Abuja at a meeting with the Steering Committee of the Senate Constitution Review Committee.

He said before the 1976 local government reforms, which stripped traditional rulers of their powers, Nigeria was at that time progressive, peaceful, decent and full of beautiful traditions and cultures.

Our alienation fueling insecurity

He said: “Constitutionally and protocol wise, traditional Rulers are relegated to the background. However, the Colonialists needed them to consolidate their indirect rule the politicians needed them to stabilize their governments and the military needed them 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 are not even mentioned in the 1999 constitution. This is a great departure from all earlier constitutions that recognised them, and even gave them some functions to perform.

“Indeed all the Nigerian earlier Constitutions gave the Chairmen of the States Councils of Chiefs seats in the National Council of State alongside former Presidents and Chief Justices.”

Demand constitutional recognition

The monarchs, therefore, demanded 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.

“It is important that the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, and by extension the National Assembly as a whole, ensures that a constitutional provision is made with a view to creating roles for Traditional Rulers in matters involving religion, culture, security, justice and other ancillary matters.

“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 States 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, the 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.