May 27, 2024

This new constitution was intended to replace the existing 90-year-old document, which many stakeholders considered outdated

The National House of Chiefs has deferred the adoption of the new Dagbon Constitution, citing concerns related to boundary issues within the region.

This new constitution was intended to replace the existing 90-year-old document, which many stakeholders considered outdated.

However, the House of Chiefs expressed fears that these ongoing land disputes could jeopardise the stability and long-term success of the proposed governance system.

A need for change

After nearly four decades of turmoil, Ya Na Abukari II, the overlord of Dagbon, established the Dagbon Constitutional Review Committee.

The purpose of this committee was to review the outdated constitution, which had not seen revisions since 1930. The aging document had contributed to a series of chieftaincy succession disputes and land-related conflicts in the region.

In a statement read on behalf of Ya Na Abukari II during a meeting of the National House of Chiefs at Manhyia in Kumasi on 19 October 2023, the leader of the Dagbon traditional council called for the House’s endorsement of the new constitution.

“It took the committee I set up, the Dagbon Traditional Council and a legal consultant two years to consider the 90-year-old Dagbon Constitution and make appropriate amendments for the rapid development of Dagbon… I urge this august House to endorse what is before it and recommend it to the Honourable Minister for Chieftaincy Affairs”, the Ya-Na appealed.

Concerns

However, the endorsement did not proceed as planned. Some of the chiefs expressed reservations about the proposed constitution, emphasising the need for clearer boundaries and jurisdictional lines to prevent future disputes. Leading this charge was Kpembiwura Banbange Ndefeso IV, the Paramount Chief of the Kpembi Traditional Area.

“These boundary points are inconsistent with the available traditional and administrative boundaries that have existed between the Gonja and the Dagbon Kingdom over decades”, the Kpembiwura stated as he read a raft of petitions sent to his office by the Gonja Youth Association.

“Clearly, the adoption of the proposed Dagbon Constitution with these identifiable inaccuracies will amount to unjustifiable and unfair deletions of land belonging to the Gonja Community in favour of Dagbon. We want the House to conduct due diligence to ascertain the veracity of the claim being made before consideration and adoption”.

“I would have wished that if we had the resources, this constitution would be sent back home so that people who share boundaries would have extensive consultation and workshops to deal with this matter”, another chief said.

Even a strong defence of the new constitution by Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, a former foreign affairs minister who served as a consultant to the committee that reviewed the constitution, failed to convince the eminent chiefs.

“They have lived within those boundaries in peace and, of course, there are a few issues here and there. There may be issues about boundaries between us and our neighbours and therefore, the Dagbon traditional authority should set up a technical committee to determine precise boundaries. Right now, we don’t have precise boundaries.”

“The issues that have been raised regarding boundaries have been anticipated. Provision has been made to take care of it. We are submitting that this process can go on and the issues of boundaries will be taken on board at the appropriate time,” Mumuni said.

Ruling

After a thorough and lengthy deliberation, the House decided to postpone the adoption of the Dagbon Constitution due to these concerns.

Naa Puowelle Karbo III, Vice President of the National House of Chiefs, explained that while this delay is challenging, it is seen as a necessary step to ensure the successful implementation of the constitution and the long-term stability of the Dagbon region.

“The National House of Chiefs has decided that they should go back and have some consultation and then come back. We have no problem with the various aspects of the Constitution,” he ruled.

The paramount chief, however, did not announce any new date.

When adopted, the Dagbon Constitution will be sent to the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, as well as the Attorney General’s Department.

They will issue and publish a Legislative Instrument to provide it with the necessary legal backing.

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