The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, yesterday, declared as illegal and unconstitutional, the recent declaration of “self-government” by Ogoni people in Rivers State, just as it faulted the Bayelsa State government for adopting its own flag, coat-of-arm and state anthem.
The legal body which briefed newsmen, urged the Federal Government to promptly nip such secessionist tendencies in the bud, saying such acts were capable of fanning the embers of separation and disunity within the federation.
NBA which made this call on a day it enunciated modalities for its 52nd annual general conference scheduled to hold in Abuja between August 26 and 31, 2012, stressed that “no provision in the Constitution allows or recognises any flag other than the Nigerian flag or any anthem different from the National anthem.”
It would be recalled that the people of Ogoni had on August 2, declared its own political autonomy, maintaining that the action was for “the advancement of liberty in freedom and the preservation of the ancestral heritage of the Ogoni people.”
In a live broadcast on a newly established radio station, “Voice of Ogoni”, president and spokesman of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo had vowed that “By this declaration of political autonomy, we, the Ogoni people are determined to enforce the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without fear or retreat.”
Diigbo stated that “In order to make indigenous rights practicable in Ogoni, we have through a very transparent electoral college process, beginning with community by community elections, set up 272 village councils, while the village councils in turn elected representatives for 33 district councils and the district representatives went on to elect representatives to serve at the centre, as custodians of customs and traditions, otherwise called lawmakers.
“In taking these measures, we are quite aware of the discomfort to about 56 local politicians that control local government politics in Ogoni; however, we care more about the 1.2 million people that have for too long been excluded.”
He announced that a Transitional Committee was already set up to facilitate dialogue to ensure peaceful transition within 30 days, saying consultation with the national government and international community had already begun.
According to him, “we are acting with legitimacy to reclaim all of our rights, without exception, and for the sake of peace and security; let no one test the collective will of the Ogoni people, because we will not surrender our indigenous rights anymore.”
In the same vein, citing Osun State amongst others that earlier took a similar step, Bayelsa State which is the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan, on August 8, rolled out its own flag, coat or arm and an anthem.
The Bayelsa State government which maintained that the customized insignia and anthem would be released immediately the law establishing them is signed by the Governor, Mr Seriake Dickson, said “the decision was taken to forge a common identity for the Ijaws,” saying the action was nothing different from what was obtained in other nine states that have towed a similar path.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Governor Dickson, noted that “In line with the vision of the founding fathers of our dearly beloved state and given this administration’s stand on Ijaw mobilization, Ijaw integration and the need to promote Ijaw fundamental interest, which clearly is not subordinate to any other interests, the government of Bayelsa State has given its approval to have a state-owned emblem to mark and strengthen our sense of identity as a state.”
The decision according to the statement was taken after a State Executive Council meeting that held the previous day.
Remarkably, the move brought to 10 the number of states with known state paraphernalia with the rest being Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, Kwara, Cross River and Rivers States.
No region has right to self government
However, condemning such secessionist acts, the NBA which spoke through its outgoing national president, Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN, warned that: “it is unconstitutional for any section of the country to seek to break away or to engage in any act suggesting that it intends to declare self government.
“Nigeria is a federation, if you have a jingle extolling the virtues of your state, I do not consider such as an anthem. Jingles can extol the cultural virtues of a state; it is not illegal for any state to promote what it does or is known for, like farming, however, such must be done within the ambit of the law.
“What was done by both Ogoni and Bayelsa State, to the NBA, amounts to acts of secession that promotes separation. We should be able to differentiate between things that promote unification of a state and things that promote isolation and independence. The Federal Government should stand up and nip these in the bud” it added.
No comment on Justice Ayo-Salami
Meanwhile, the legal body, yesterday, said it would no longer comment on the protracted controversy surrounding the suspension of the embattled President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, noting that the case is now sub-judice.
However, it dismissed allegation that the national election it held recently was skewed to favour some anointed candidates, even as it dared one of the contenders for the presidency of the association, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, to go ahead and prove to Nigerians that two dead lawyers actually voted against him during the electoral exercise.