The experts will gather in Abuja on Wednesday.
The real content of citizenship rights in the country is the theme of a high-level colloquium organized for Wednesday, February 20, in Abuja, to help remedy what constitutional experts believe is one of the major weaknesses of the Nigerian constitution
Leading the charge are eight constitutional experts who will analyse and propose how a future Nigerian constitution should treat the rights of its citizens. The debate will hold at the auditorium of the National Human Rights Commission, one of the three sponsors of the event. The other partners are the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), and PREMIUM TIMES.
Speaking for the partners, Udo Jude Ilo, who is acting country head for the Nigerian office of OSIWA, said the debate is urgent and cogent because “the current constitution treats too many Nigerians as visitors in the country”, simply on account of where they live as against where they are presumed to hail from.
Mr. Ilo blamed this for what he characterized as “fundamental flaws” in the content of citizenship rights in the current constitution. He argued further that, because the constitution is imprecise about the exact value of rights and privileges, citizens of state and local governments have resorted to narrow definition of citizen rights, to the detriment of many Nigerians.
Mr. Ilo pointed out that this silence in the constitution has been the cause of many ethnic and religious tensions in places like Plateau, Kaduna, and Abia States which in turn has caused the loss of many lives.
“If there is anything Nigerians need right now, it is an opportunity for them to feel that they are a part of a national discourse that addresses the myriads of tendencies that expose Nigeria to destabilization. Citizenship is at the core of our national existence and as presently defined, it will only take a while for the fractures it has created to escalate. A national dialogue is timely and urgent” Mr. Ilo said.
The partners are hoping, with the debate, to provide recommendations and suggestions on the nature of an effective constitutional architecture that addresses the problem of citizenship rights in the country.
The speakers expected at the meeting are: Yusufu Pam, former Attorney-General of Plateau State; Sam Egwu, Political Scientist and Governance Adviser, UNDP, Nigeria; Ayisha Osori, Executive Director, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund; Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, Department of Political Science, University of Port Harcourt; Professor Mohammed Kuna, Political Scientist & Adviser, INEC; Dr. Abubakar Muazu, Department of Mass Communications, University of Maiduguri; Maryam Uwais, founder, Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative in Kano and Yakubu Sankey, a one time member of the Federal Legislative House of the Nigerian Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS in Jos.