Over the past six months, another word apart from restructuring that has kept popping up in the Nigerian media, is the word 'referendum'.
About six months ago, NAIJ.com reported that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement called on its members to prepare for a referendum to the freedom of Biafra.
In a statement by the spokesperson of the IPOB, Powerful Emma, the group said it is working effortlessly to restore its long lost freedom and political independence without violence.
“We Biafrans in pursuit our inalienable, irreducible and God given right to restore our stolen sovereignty do hereby state that we do not require the permission of the Nigerian State or her government officials to grant us our natural freedoms,” IPOB said.
Will the referendum affect only IPOB and others agitating for Biafra? No. It is therefore imperative, that every Nigerian knows the following facts about what calling for a referendum means:
1. What is a referendum?
A referendum is a general vote where citizens of a nation are asked to make a decision on a specific question.
In many countries referendums are held only to make a change to the constitution, or to an existing law.
In others, any individual of voting age can initiate a popular vote. Nations, states, provinces, cities or villages all have their own referendums, and the rules vary from place to place, along with the criteria for success.
In most cases, referendums ask a single yes or no question. On September 18, the Scottish referendum asked the electorate "Should Scotland be an independent country?” and all residents over the age of 16 were able to vote.
Going by the above definition, if the Biafra referendum is to hold, the question will be: 'Should Biafra be an independent country?' and every Nigerian of voting age will be able to vote 'Yes' or 'No'.
3. What happens if Nigerians vote yes?
If a country votes yes, they’re essentially voting in support of some sort of change. If the independence vote prevailed in Scotland, complex negotiations would have taken place which could have meant changes to Scotland’s currency and economy, healthcare and pensions.
However, referendum is sometimes met with opposition. If Nigerians do vote yes to letting Biafra go, it might likely lead to upheaval and unrest and in the worst case scenario, another civil war.
4. Who can initiate a referendum?
In most countries a referendum can only be initiated by the parliament, but some have provisions for citizens to call a ballot, too.
In Switzerland a referendum can be called by any individual who collects 50,000 signatures in support of challenging an existing law.
The Swiss also have popular votes, which can be set in motion by anyone who collects 100,000 signatures to initiate constitutional change.
However, the Nigerian constitution has no express provision on referendum despite series of amendments, thus until the constitution is further amended to make provision for referendum, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria being the supreme law of the land has no window or room for referendum.
5. Amending the constitution
Since the only possible move is amending the constitution and the National Assembly has the power to review and amend it, then those who want a referendum have to follow the process of constitutional amendment by getting senators to propose a constitution amendment bill.
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What do some Nigerians think of these agitations for a break up? Watch this NAIJ.com video to find out: