‘WHY I SUPPORT CLAMOUR FOR RESTRUCTURING,’ BY GADZAMA

Leading lawyer, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama SAN has posited that though there is no consensus on the particular areas to be restructured within the Nigerian polity, “there seems to be a general agreement that the Nigeria structure of governance should be reviewed, and at its epicenter, the CFRN.”

Speaking last Monday at the 2021 Law of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, the foremost arbitrator stated that “a successful review of the CFRN to alter the governance structures and reflect true federalism coupled with religious implementation of the altered structures, will set the foundation for a Nigeria of our dreams; a Nigeria whose dream can be echoed with belief and hope from the rainforest of the South to the windy desert of the North by all Nigerians.”

The theme of the Law Week is “The Nigeria of our dreams.”

Below is the full text of Gadzama’s presentation.

THE NIGERIAN STATE AND THE CALL FOR RESTRUCTURING

Being the Full Text of a Presentation
By

Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, OFR, MFR, SAN, FNIALS, FICMC, DiplCArb, FCIArb, FNICArb, C.Arb
(Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister/Life Bencher/Certified Mediator/Regulatory Consultant)
Bobajiro of Akure Kingdom.

ON THE OCCASION OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION IKEJA BRANCH LAW WEEK
HELD ON MONDAY, JULY 12, 2021

PROTOCOL

APPRECIATION
I thank the Organizers of this Law Week as well as the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikeja Branch (the Tiger Branch) for not only inviting me to attend but also to speak at this auspicious occasion. My topic is the Nigerian State and the call for restructuring which shall be discussed within the context of the theme – the Nigeria of our Dreams.

INTRODUCTION
There is a wide gap between dreaming and day-dreaming. Day-dreaming is a quick elusive delink from one’s immediate reality followed by a transition to quixotic ideals. The Freudian Theory posits that dreams are manifestations of one’s deepest desires and anxieties having the tendency to cause occurrence of creative thoughts to the dreamer or give a sense of inspiration . Hence whilst the former can be likened to a mere mirage of fantasies, the latter is a more deeply immersing series of thought processes in one’s sub-consciousness capable of spurring up creative ideas to translate this reality to manifestation. We cannot overstate; dreams are important as they encompass goals and more. Dreams give one’s life purpose, direction, and meaning. They shape life choices, help to build towards the future and create a sense of control and hope. The same can be applied to a nation. A country needs a dream, hopes and a purpose to move on.

I was almost born in Cameroon; in a Nigerian town called Mubi, situate at the Nigerian-Cameroonian border. I am therefore a proud but not an arrogant Nigerian. As a rising chap, I grew up with a curious mind nursed with knowledge from my immediate family and school. I began my primary education in Kainji in old Kwara State but now Niger State, I continued my elementary school at L.E.A. (Methodist) Primary School, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, (Formerly Market Road) Kaduna State, and L.E.A. (St. Michael-Anglican) Primary School, Sabon Gari, Kaduna State where I completed my primary education. Later on, I moved to Teachers’ College, Song, Adamawa State. Thereafter, I attended Borno College of Basic Studies (BOCOBS), Maiduguri now in Bama, and University of Maiduguri, Borno State, where I obtained my Bachelor of Laws degree after which I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos and obtained my Barrister at Law qualification to practise. Throughout all these formative years, as I journeyed through transitional experiences including and or hearing about the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), I harnessed different dreams for myself, my family and my country, Nigeria.

Like me, I know many fellow concerned Nigerians have earnest dreams for our great Nation. However, whether these dreams have found fruition or yielded manifest results remain a recurring rhetoric we must all ponder on. Rhetorically, have these dreams been achieved? Can we say for certain that we live in an ideal Nigeria? Or can we at least say that we are on the right course towards achieving the Nigeria of our dreams? Why are we not living the Nigerian dream? Indeed, who bells the cat for the current predicament of Nigeria? Do we blame the professionals, the technocrats, the scientists, the businessmen or the entrepreneurs? Your guess is as good as mine; certainly not! The questions are endless and the answers are not forthcoming.

The aphorism which says, “A fish rots from the head down” speaks volumes of truth on this subject. Although we may blame non-partisan and apathetic followership as having played a role in the quagmire, the overall and root cause of the problem is lack of quality, devoted and objective leadership born out of true democracy and patriotism. Sadly, leadership in our country has not been motivated by true federalism, fairness, equity, nationhood and good conscience. Rather, we have continued to experience a blatant scene of tribalism, nepotism, favoritism, unfair politicization of government policies, impunity, corruption and insecurity. Despite these setbacks impeding the materialization of our dreams for Nigeria, we must continue to dream.

The idea of developing and sustaining a national dream is to ensure that at every time in the nation’s existence, there are short-term, medium and long-term strategies set up to drive the nation towards living true to its strength and potentials for the benefit of its citizens. These laid down strategies will form the substratum of all the policies of its governments at all levels.

The idea of a national dream cannot be discussed without a reference to the famous “American Dream”. The American Dream which birthed the America we now celebrate, is the core American philosophy; that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their version of success in an egalitarian society. The American Dream is considered as a national ethos for the United States and embedded in it are the ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality which are expected to shape and guide every government in the United States at the Federal, State and County level. The anticipated outcome is that these ideals will provide the environment for everyone to access the opportunity for prosperity and success as well as upward social mobility, so long as they are ready to work hard no matter the barriers. According to James Truslow Adams the American Dream guarantees that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. This essentially forms the foundation of America’s constitutional democracy.

In the case of Nigeria, we can only refer faintly to the lofty dreams and hopes of our foremost nationalists who ensured the birth of Nigeria but not a national dream per se. The closest semblance to a national dream in Nigeria would be the Preamble of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) (CFRN), but that CFRN has often been adjudged to be document not emanating from Nigerians. Hence, the question; shouldn’t Nigeria at 60 years and more of independence be guided by a united purpose encapsulated in a national dream? Who knows, maybe the avenue provided by the NBA-Ikeja Branch during her law week will grow the momentum to have a workable and realizable Nigerian Dream.

THE CALL FOR RESTRUCTURING: A GUIDE TO THE NIGERIA OF OUR DREAMS

Given the opportunity as one of the speakers to speak at this auspicious occasion, permit me to be part of the people proffering workable solutions in line with the dictates of our callings to always provide solutions to legal issues as can be seen infra.

There is no doubt that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) (CFRN) makes bold statements as to the system of governance the Nigerian State is to practise. The system professed without a doubt is Federalism . Federalism connotes a system of governance built on the strengths of a nation’s federating units. However, the provisions of the CFRN make the practicability of federalism a herculean task or even an impossible feat. I firmly believe curing some of these provisions might just be the flame that spark-kindles and sets ablaze Nigeria’s prosperity to create a Nigeria we all love and enjoy living in. In the quest to realizing a Nigeria of our dream, the practicability of federalism I believe, is the linchpin.

The not so fulfilling provisions of the CFRN especially regarding the practice of federalism, now popularly described in Nigeria as “true federalism” has continued to generate agitations for the review and further review of the CFRN. Some even advocate for a complete repeal of the CFRN. This outcry has found the umbrella name of ‘restructuring’. Though there is no consensus on the particular issues to be restructured, there seems to be a general agreement that the Nigeria structure of governance should be reviewed, and at its epicenter, the CFRN.

I share this sentiment and honestly believe that a successful review of the CFRN to alter the governance structures and reflect true federalism coupled with religious implementation of the altered structures, will set the foundation for a Nigeria of our dreams; a Nigeria whose dream can be echoed with belief and hope from the rainforest of the South to the windy desert of the North by all Nigerians. To this end, below are some of the key areas I sincerely believe the CFRN should be amended to reflect the structure that can birth a Nigeria of our dreams:-

1. The Preamble of the CFRN

The preamble is often the first content any reader of a statute comes across. It sets the tone and shapes the mind of the reader on his/her expectation of all the provisions contained in the statute. The Preamble of the CFRN houses the mission and vision of the Constitution. As such, it plays a pivotal role in defining to the mind of everyone reading it and the aspirations of Nigeria as a country. Unfortunately, the Preamble to the CFRN rather than narrate the dreams of Nigerians for us as a nation, breaths an air that lends affinal to the military regime. Notwithstanding that the Preamble is merely cosmetic and that the CFRN was handed down by the military regime, I believe that having had some years of civil rule coupled with the consistent progress of altering the Constitution to suit the new reality, it is desirable to alter the Preamble to reflect the dreams of the Nigerian people.

2. Local Government Administration and Autonomy

The current structure for the administration of the local governments under the CFRN sits on the fence between the federal system – which the Constitution was intended to profess – and the unitary system of governance. At best, the local government system has remained an idea in search of relevance. The local government administration system still breaths an air of the centralization model introduced under military rule and thus, betraying the ideals of federalism which we profess to practise under the CFRN. The ultimate goal for the creation of the local government administration system under the CFRN was to bring the government closer to the people at the grassroots. It was also to accelerate development and enable the local population to participate and hold those in power accountable for their governance roles. Unfortunately, the current provisions for local government as the third tier of government under the CFRN have failed to establish a viable structure to attain the aforementioned goals.

Section 7 (1) of the CFRN provides that “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.” The constitution assumes that the law and framework regulating the local government administration would be made by the State Houses of Assembly. Hence, the constitutional legal framework does not see or recognize the local government as the third tier of government, but merely as an appendage of the state government where the states enjoy absolute discretion over the local governments’ operations. This does not reflect the ideals of federalism.

Furthermore, the introduction of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) provided for under Section 162(6) of the CFRN has thwarted in essence the financial structure of the local governments. This provision ensures that all finances of local governments are appropriated by the State at its pleasure. This is so despite the provisions of section 162(3) which captures a disbursement of the amount of credit in the Federation Account to the Federal, State and Local Governments respectively.

The above queries show how the provision of section 2(2) of the CFRN is undermined by provisions within the same Constitution. I believe that in making progress, the Local Government should be unambiguously established under the CFRN as an autonomous unit of government with its administrative structure and functions as in Chapter V, Parts I and II for the Federal and State Governments respectively. The above provision should override the pretence expressed in section 7 of the CFRN. Also, the SJLGA regime should be jettisoned from the CFRN and replaced by a new regime of fiscal federalism where Local Governments will access their funds directly and be accountable for all that is allotted to them.

3. Federal Structure and Power Devolution
It has been said that the centralized nature of powers of government under the Nigerian federal system is the major bulwark standing against equal and progressive development of states and local government areas. It also stands against the effective exploration of the resources in Nigeria for development purposes. I believe that the need to devolve some of the powers vested at the centre will also serve the interest of the government in providing Nigerians with the opportunity to succeed.

I believe that to have a viable federation with the effective exploration of resources for development and bring dividends of governance closer to the people, certain items must be moved from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list. Furthermore, a list of items to be undertaken solely by the local government should be introduced by the Constitution to be called the ‘residual list’. This will mean that the general legislative limitation for the Local Government provided in Section 4(7)(a) of the CFRN should be deleted.

To be more specific, I propose that items 28 on fingerprints, identification and criminal records and 46 on posts, telegraphs and telephones should be moved to the concurrent legislative list as well as the residual legislative list. Furthermore, items 33 on insurance, 43 on patents, trademarks, industrial designs & merchandise marks, 45 on policing & other security services, 48 on prisons, 54 on quarantine, 55 on railways, 58 on stamp duty and 39 on mines, minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological survey and natural gas, should be moved from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list.

4. Nigerian Police and Nigerian Security ArchitectureSection 214 of the CFRN provides for the establishment of the Police Force for the federation. This section displays a system whereby the police is under the management and control of the Federal Government at the expense of the federating units – the State Government. However, this arrangement has so far not favoured the country. The Police have been faced with an avalanche of problems, these issues include the accountability of the Police Force, and the high surge of crimes in different states of the country. The inability of the Police under exclusive Federal control to curb them poses a huge flaw to the federal arrangement. I believe that when policing is closer to the society of its jurisdiction, it enables the police to easily detect and uproot crimes. Where there is a common language known and understood by the police, there would be a free flow of communication and understanding between the police and the people. I believe that the creation of State Police will provide appreciable solutions to the current security challenges and enhance the effectiveness of the police in ending criminality in the country.

Effective security is a pivotal component of the Nigeria of our dreams. I believe every Nigerian agrees with me on this point.
To this end, I will be proposing the moving of item 28 on fingerprints, identification and criminal records, item 45 on police and other government security services and item 48 on prisons from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list to allow states to fashion out their respective internal security architecture. This will enable genuine, beneficial and effective collaborations between police forces of each state to the other and the federal police. I believe this reform is long overdue. Each chief security officer of the state should appoint its head, or in the alternative, each state should be given the constitutional leeway to determine how such issues should be handled.

Nigeria must not only profess federalism but be seen to practise its tenets as well. I believe that our resolve to practise ‘true federalism’ will unlock our potentials and make this country a land where Nigeria of our dream can be realised.

5. Fiscal Federalism and Revenue Allocation
In Nigeria today, the resources of the country belong to the federal government, and the fund to be generated is kept in the federation account and is shared monthly among the three tiers of government: the federal, state and local government. This is a misnomer. Federating units are supposed to tap their resources to generate revenue and pay an agreed percentage as tax to the centre or the federal government. This makes the states to be inferior and subservient to the centre. Many activists have been agitating for true federalism to enable the states to control their resources. As observed by Professor Ohwona, there is nothing like true federalism. Either it is Federalism or Unitary. Concentrating the wealth of the country at the centre is an outstanding feature of a Unitary Government. Why is it that some sections of Nigeria are agitating for fiscal federalism in a country that claims to be a federation? The principles of federalism should affect everything. For example, in the US, the federating units manage their resources and pay taxes to the central government. There has never been such agitation. Under the regional government in the first republic, Nigeria made remarkable progress with the three and later four regions using the resources at their disposal to make life meaningful for their citizens.

As highlighted earlier, fiscal federalism must not be a lip service by the CFRN. Revenue allocation must reflect the tenets of fiscal federalism. Every federating unit must understand what resources are within their grasp that can create wealth for them and be allowed to explore it subject to remitting taxes. Access to the exploration of natural resources must be open and decentralized as much as possible, if there is a desire to have a Nigeria we all can declare it as one of our dreams.

6. Residency and Indigene Debate
Indigeneship has become one of the most contested subjects in the country, given its implications for political and economic opportunities. In Nigeria, a person has to be ‘indigene’ to access certain economic and political opportunities at the federal as well as state and local government levels. However, what makes a person indigenous is not formally defined in the CFRN.

The CFRN recognizes indigeneship in some sections. Section 147(1,2 &3) in providing for the appointment of Minister of the Federal Government recognizes the principle of Federal Character under section 14(3). Similarly, section 171 (5) of the CFRN makes it mandatory that the President shall comply with the federal character principle in the appointment of other key public officers of the Government of the Federation including the ambassadors, high commissioners and permanent secretaries or heads of any extra-ministerial departments of the government of the federation.

Despite the indigeneship principle, political and economic imbalances still exist amongst the various states or ethnic groups that make up Nigeria and this is as a result of its implementation. The inclusion of the federal character principle in Chapter II Constitution which is ordinarily non-justiciable hinders its smooth implementation and enforcement because it deprives citizens of the locus to approach the court to enforce the principle of federal character. This incites the Government to disregard the principle of federal character in the composition of the Government of the Federation and its agencies.

To flourish as a nation, Nigeria must decide whether to stick with the federal character provisions of the CFRN or jettison the idea completely. If the practice is maintained, then failure to adhere to it must be made justiciable with monumental consequences, otherwise, the provision should be done away with.

Let us have a Christian from Calabar who grew up in Sokoto and govern the State as a Nigerian, and likewise, a Kanuri Muslim who grew in Port Harcourt should enjoy the same privilege. This is by no means an easy path, but the path is a must if Nigeria desires the type of progress that makes it resonate as the dreams of its people. We can do this by providing for residency for a period of say five or ten years.

7. Irreconcilable Provisions in the Constitution
Section 315(5)(d) of the Constitution made the Land Use Act of 1978 a part of the Constitution. Section 2 of the Land Use Act provides thus:

2. (1) As from the commencement of this Act-
(a) all land in urban areas shall be under the control and management of the Governor of each State; and

(b) all other land shall, subject to this Act, be under the control and management of the Local Government within the area of jurisdiction of which the land is situated.

Despite this provision, section 44(3) of the Constitution provides that the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly. This is reinforced by Item 39 in the Exclusive Legislative List. A true federal structure requires that Item 39 should be moved to the Concurrent List and section 44(3) amended.

Another irreconcilable difference – Items 27-29 in the Concurrent Legislative List. The Items give powers to the National and State Assemblies to establish institutions for the purpose of university, technological or professional education. Yet the Federal Government established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to regulate admissions into tertiary institutions and the National Universities Commission to regulate these institutions. In consequence, we need to re-visit section 4(5) of the Constitution that provides that if any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. Why should the federal law prevail over matters in the Concurrent List where the State Assemblies can validly make laws? In other words, we should re-visit the ‘doctrine of covering the field’. This doctrine is inconsistent with the federal principle. States should be allowed to establish and regulate tertiary education in their States. States should be allowed to develop at their own pace.

CONCLUDING REMARKS
As I conclude, it is not lost on me that there has been many lofty written and spoken recommendations in the past, some have even gone ahead to develop a national dream for Nigeria, however, we as a nation seemed to have stepped on chameleon feaces, hence stagnant. No doubt, a dream is important so is the path to its realization. I believe that the growing awareness of this discussion in Nigeria is gradually bringing us to a point of unison, where we all can together re-design a Nigeria of our dreams.

As the process for alteration of the CFRN is ongoing, we must continue to speak to our elected representatives at the National Assembly to critically consider, for the sake of national cohesion, integration and prosperity of the country, various workable proposals already submitted in the course of public hearing recently conducted. The era of standing aloof watching our legislators to do as it pleased them is over, now it is time to get involved. Edmund Burke once emphasized thus,

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

I am here today, reiterating this statement and encouraging everyone of us to get involved. Do not be a spectator, onlooker or bystander, be an active participant so that this process will not be another jamboree but one that brings workable solutions at addressing some of the challenges facing us as a country – please ensure you count and you are counted. We must dust the files now.

Agitations on this discussion were the basis of the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference, the National Political Reform Conference convened by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and the National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. These conferences made laudable recommendations that can come to aid in our attempt at re-designing the Nigeria of our dreams.

MY POETIC DREAM FOR NIGERIA
Before I take my seat, please permit to share my poetic dream for Nigeria with you:

I dream of a country that rewards hard work and excellence, irrespective of a person’s social status, cultural belief, faith, tongue, gender chauvinism and circumstances of birth;

I dream of a Nigeria with purposeful, visionary and exemplary leadership which extols national interests above individual and sectional interests;

I dream of a day Nigerians will have leaders that are unifying figures and who command moral authority;

I dream of a Nigeria with free, fair, transparent and credible national elections;

I dream of a Nigeria where humanity is our race, our language is one and indigenship is true to all citizens regardless of residency in any State. I dream of a Nigeria where unity binds all peoples both at home and in diaspora.

I dream of a Nigeria where a nobody can become somebody and a somebody is treated as equal with someone regarded as a nobody in the eyes of the law – where the rule of law is worshipped and the sacredness of justice is not corrupted. I dream of a Nigeria where equity, fairness, transparency and justice thrive above all intents and aspirations of persons.

I dream of a Nigeria inspiring the African continent and the black race to her pride of place in the world;

I dream of a Nigeria where the legal profession and the Bar play a pivotal role in nation-building since we are the primus inter pares.

I dream, I dream and I dream of a better Nigeria where everyone mutually co-exists and lives peacefully with a wide range opportunity to thrive and succeed in any lawful profession, trade or vocation anywhere he or she resides. I dream of a brighter future for our Children and children’s children. I pray that all Nigerians work to make these dreams come to pass in the not too distant future.

Thank you for your attention.

REFERENCES
1. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
2. Proposal for Further Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) by J-K Gadzama LLP, 2021.
3. Mark Abrahams, PhD, LMHC, National Board Certified Fellow in Clinical Hypnotherapy – https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-dreaming-and-day-dreaming
4. Sir James Porter’s publications on the Religion, Law, Government, and Manners of the Turks, 1768.
5. Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, 1931.
6. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, 1891.
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell, 1945.
8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, 1937.
9. https://www.britannica.com/topic/federalism

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MARIJUANA: RETHINKING THE ‘WAR ON DRUGS’ IN NIGERIA

By Kayode Ajulo, PhD

In the recent times, there have been calls from different quarters on the need to legalize the use of Marijuana in Nigeria. This legal opinion considers the mischief behind the laws proscribing the production, possession, sale and use of Marijuana and thereafter considers the benefits of legalizing Marijuana in Nigeria.

Classified as an illicit drug in many countries, marijuana is outlawed by many governments. In Nigeria, it is often referred to as ‘Indian hemp’, in the country, Cannabis Sativa, which has enjoyed use as fibre, seed and seed oils, medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug traces its origin to Central and South Asia. The drug also has many other aliases igbo, dope, ganja, sensi, kuma, morocco, eja, kpoli, weed, trees, etc. Though usually smoked, the plant can be soaked in alcoholic drinks dubbed ‘monkey-tail’, and consumed mostly in the south-south parts of the country. Some people cook food with it, some boil it to drink as tea, while others just chew the plant and seeds.

Physiologically, cannabis causes euphoria, relaxes the muscles and increases appetite. On the downside, the drug can impair motor skills, cause anxiety and paranoia and decrease short-term memory.

Deemed an illicit drug by the law, it had always been an offence in Nigeria to smoke marijuana, and it has largely been frowned upon by society. However, paradoxically, despite increased hounding of growers, sellers, and users, marijuana appears to be consumed in ever greater quantities.

The Agency saddled with the enforcement of drug laws in Nigeria is the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The Agency has the job of curtailing the consumption of drugs in Nigeria. The general powers of the Agency is contained in section 3 of the NDLEA Act.

Under the NDLEA Act, which came about by the promulgation of Decree Number 48 of 1989, the possession or smoking of cannabis, or even allowing one’s premises to be used for dealing in cannabis, can result in a prison sentence from 15 years to life. Its precursor, the Indian Hemp Act, was even harsher, carrying a maximum sentence of death.

Statistics show that cultivation to transportation and to sales, the marijuana industry connects different cities throughout Nigeria. At many outdoor markets and public motor garages, it is not strange to see marijuana smokers puffing away.

The 2011 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report stated that cannabis use was prevalent among 14.3 per cent of 15 to 64 year olds in Nigeria. The same report in 2014 revealed that Nigeria had made the highest number of cannabis seizures of any African country. Following this report, the NDLEA launched a programme dubbed ‘Operation Weed Eaters’ that aimed to rid the country of cannabis.

While marijuana can be grown in all parts of the country, according to the NDLEA, the states that are notorious for cultivating the plant are Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Edo and Delta. In September, the NDLEA destroyed cannabis farms in Ute and Ose local government areas in Ondo State and arrested 30 suspects, seizing 31 kilograms of dried weed suspected to be marijuana in the Suleja area. Between January and June 2014, NDLEA arrested 4,511 suspected drug traffickers and seized 47,423 kilograms of drugs. Of that number, cannabis accounted for 45,875 kilograms. Though these seizure figures are high, large quantities of marijuana still find their way to the market baffling the law enforcement system.

Legalizing Marijuana in Nigeria
While it is important to note that many countries including Nigeria have enacted harsh laws against the cultivation, possession or sale of cannabis. In fact, dealing or using marijuana in countries such as Singapore, China, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia could land one from four years in jail to public beheadings.

But in recent years, some nations have adopted a different strategy of decriminalizing marijuana usage as a way of combating it. These societies have also often reduced the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation or a fine rather than by imprisonment. The idea has been to focus more resources on those who traffic the drug.

Uruguay made history by becoming the first country to legalise cultivation, trade and usage of marijuana in December 2013. In countries as varied as the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Peru, and Canada, the emphasis has shifted towards the decriminalization of marijuana. Jamaica, a country where marijuana smoking has long been popular, is set to decriminalize it too.

In 2018, Thailand’s military government unanimously approved medical marijuana use, which would make it the first country to legalize cannabis use in any form in Southeast Asia.

There are several laws in Nigeria which prohibit cultivating, possessing and using Marijuana.

Section of 11 of the NDLEA Act provides that:

Any person who, without lawful authority-
(a) imports, manufactures, produces, processes, plants or grows the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or

(b) exports, transports or otherwise traffics in the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life;

(c) sells, buys, exposes or offers for sale or otherwise deals in or with the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life; or

(d) knowingly possesses or uses the drugs popularly known as cocaine, LSD, heroine or any other similar drugs by smoking, inhaling or injecting the said drugs shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than fifteen years but not exceeding 25 years.

See also Okewu v FRN (2012) LPELR-7834(SC); Nwadiem v. FRN (2018) LPELR-9845 (CA)

Similarly, section 7 of the Indian Hemp Act prohibits the use of Indian hemp.

From the above provisions, the law proscribes the illegal cultivation, use, sell and possession of Narcotics. The poser from the above is “whether there could be instances of legal cultivation, use, sell and possession of Narcotics?”

A careful perusal of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act will reveal that there was no mention of legal use of Narcotics. What could appear to seem as a provision for legal use is provided for under section 3 of the NDLEA Act. The section provides that:
(1) Subject to this Act and in addition to any other functions expressly conferred on it by other provisions of this Act, the Agency shall have responsibility for-…

(h) the facilitation of rapid exchange of scientific and technical information and the conduct of research geared towards eradication of illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances;

It is on the heels of this provision that the NDLEA had given a letter of “No Objection” to Medis Oil Company Limited and two others to import seeds of industrial cannabis for research purposes.

Similarly, Under Article 3 paragraph 5 of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to which Nigeria is signatory to, it is envisaged that as a result of research, a drug may be deleted from schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention if researches reveal its therapeutic advantages. At the risk of repetition but for the sake of emphasis the Paragraph provides:

A Party shall, if in its opinion the prevailing conditions in its country render it the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare, prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of any such drug except for amounts which may be necessary for medical and scientific research only, including clinical trials therewith to be conducted under or subject to the direct supervision and control of the party.

A careful reading of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs reveal that Narcotics may be used by signatory states for research and medical purposes. Cannabis plant or its resin or extract with THC content lower than 1% is considered as CBD (medical) cannabis and not psychoactive.

Economic benefits of Marijuana: Thailand as Case Study

Despite the facts that the mischief which several stringent laws against Narcotics seek to prevent is the harm they do to human health, recent medical studies have also indicated that marijuana can also be beneficial to health.

Thailand’s military government unanimously approved medical marijuana use, which would make it the first country to legalize cannabis use in any form in Southeast Asia.

It is apropos to note that Thailand was once infamous for its harsh penalties on drug users, including the death penalty. Cannabis was also once extensively used in Thailand for medicinal purposes as well as clothing, where fibers from both marijuana and hemp plants were used in creating fabrics. Thailand’s cannabis is one of the country’s largest exports.

Globally, the medicinal cannabis industry is projected to be worth $55.8 billion dollars by 2025. Considering the High rate of employment in Nigeria, legalizing Marijuana will provide job opportunities for many Nigerian youths.

Health Benefits of Cannabis
One of the first big medical issue that cannabis was shown to effectively treat is Glaucoma. Ingesting cannabis helps lower the pressure in the eyeball, giving patients at least temporary relief. It can improve lung health. Some conditions like lung cancer and Emphysema have been shown to regress when cannabis is thrown to the mix.

Cannabis can also offer serious relief for arthritis, especially when using quality cannabis creams and balms. It’s helpful for those with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). It could help regulate metabolism: as it helps your body process and deal with food and obesity, it also helps maintain and regulate metabolism.

It also helps people with AIDS/HIV in the sense that cannabis helps those living with it cope by helping them maintain their diets and handle associated pains and aches. It proved effective for treating nausea: chemical compounds in cannabis react with brain receptors to regulate feelings of nausea. Cannabis could potentially treat headache naturally and won’t chew through your stomach lining or take its toll on ones body.

It has also been found to be at least somewhat effective in the treatment of a handful of sexually transmitted diseases, including Herpes and Chlamydia. It could help with speech problems: if anyone has an issue with stuttering, cannabis can help in the same way that it helps calm spasms and twitches. It can improve skin conditions and treat skin conditions like eczema vide cannabis topical.

Recreational Benefits of Marijuana

Apart from the argument for the legalization of cannabis for medical and medicinal purposes, there is the argument that its possession and use for recreational purposes should be decriminalized. As would be seen, some countries have passed legislation that decriminalizes possession up to certain amounts and allows recreational use and cultivation up to certain amounts too.

Notwithstanding, there remain ethical questions to its widespread use. At the core of this ethical debate is the question: Is it morally wrong to be high? I am certain that we will agree that we might not have a winner in that debate. If we are to go by the fact that it impairs cognitive abilities, then it might be morally wrong to ingest anything that impairs our sense of judgment in any way.

Conclusion
Taking clue from the Utilitarian theory that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness”, from the facts and benefits highlighted above, there is really a need to legalize the use of Marijuana in the country.

It is succinct to point out that war on drugs is often far costlier than the drugs themselves. Thus if the money pumped against the use of drugs could be redirected in cultivating Marijuana for economic use, there will be a great boast in the economy of the Country.

Finally, one of the greatest problems in policing the illegal use of cannabis is the enforcement of the laws governing its illegality. This in itself has been one of the big drivers for the calls for its legalization across many countries of the world. Most of the proponents of the legalization of its use for both medical and recreational purposes have stated that its criminalization has not stopped its increasingly widespread use but instead, has helped deny people of its ‘wonder working powers’, as a drug, especially in treating chronic pain as earlier mentioned.

Having considered the benefits accruable to the production, sale and use of Marijuana, it is hereby recommended that the National Assembly should be lobbied to amend the provisions of the NDLEA Act and other relevant laws in order to make room for the legal production, manufacturing, sale and use of Marijuana in Nigeria which in turn boast the economy of the Nation as a whole.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency should also enforce the provisions of 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and allow the use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes.

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