A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, yesterday warned the federal government against conducting the forthcoming National Population Census ahead of the 2019 general election.
He made this known while speaking to journalists in Abuja over recent happenings in the country.
Ozekhome’s warning came on the heels of similar caution by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, tasking the federal government to rescind going ahead with the exercise as the census would be prone to intense manipulation by the political class.
Dogara had last week cautioned the National Population Commission (NPC) against going forth with the planned 2018 exercise as politicians would hijack the census.
Ozekhome said: “When Dogara is afraid of census before 2019 elections, I sympathise with him. He knows that census is an explosive matter in this country.
“The former chairman of Commission NPC said previous censuses were false, and he was sacked because certain parts of this country did not like what he said.
“I agree with the Speaker that the census should not be held. The 2019 elections are almost here. Let the census be held after the 2019 elections.
“If it’s held, it will be manipulated by politicians. The same politicians can even use the census exercise to disrupt the conduct of the 2019 general election.”
He also contended that previous censuses conducted since the almagamation of the northern and southern regions of Nigeria, have always been tilted and manipulated to favour the North.
“All the censuses we have ever had in this country have always been manipulated. They have never reflected the true population of Nigeria.
“This is the only country in this world where the population in the dry region is higher than those in the wetlands,” he maintained.
Ozekhome held that it is wrong for states “laying the golden eggs to have fewer local government areas.
“This is because of our attachments to national resources. Look at this. The old Kano was divided into Kano and Jigawa States. As I speak, Kano State has 44 local government areas, while Jigawa has 27. National resources sharing is based on this.
“Let us look at Bayelsa State. It lays the golden egg, but it has only eight local government areas. If Bayelsa State lays the eggs, where is the justice in this country when those who do not lay the eggs get the lion’s share?” he asked.
Ozekhome also reacted to another statement credited to some northern elders who last week tasked President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement resolutions reached at the 2014 National Conference.
He described those calling on President Buhari not to implement the resolutions of the conference report as hypocrites.
The SAN added that northern delegates participated in the conference and were privy to the decisions arrived at by over 450 delegates drawn from every part of the country.
“It was a battle royale at the 2014 National Conference. At the conference, we made over 600 recommendations. No one was forced to adopt any report. We disagreed during the conference and almost exchanged blows.
“It is alarming when you see participants of that conference coming out to say that they have rejected the outcome of the exercise. Every segment of Nigeria from the six geopolitical zones was represented at that conference.
“We cannot take our unity for granted. It needs to be nurtured. We need to go back to fiscal federalism. The over 600 recommendations of the National Conference which President Buhari has said he would put away in the archives, is unfortunate,” Ozekhome stressed.
Ozekhome further stated that it was disingenuous for the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, to continue to stay in office despite the overwhelming rejection of his appointment by the Senate.
He argued that constitutionally, once the Senate rejects a nominee, the right for the presidency to do was to withdraw such nomination.
“Where there are strong institutions, you build an institution around an individual. The EFCC is not supposed to be run by one person but by a board.”
He added that lawyers “who stand logic on the head” and insist that the President can still nominate Magu, saying that, such statement “is a lie from the pit of hell.”
“The president shall appoint the EFCC chairman subject to confirmation by the Senate. Subject to means depended on, subservient to, subjugated to, living on. Question, can he continue to act forever, the answer is no, because, acting is a stop-gap measure. It is a temporal measure pending action – pending what, confirmation.
“I challenge all the lawyers to show me where EFCC is mentioned in section 161. In America, once the senate rejects a nominee, the president withdraw the nomination with apology,” Ozekhome submitted.