Joomla templates and Joomla extensions from

In order to view this page you need Flash Player 9+ support!

Get Adobe Flash player


Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:00
1901 Hits

Nigeria's Constitution Review

THE debate on the review of Nigeria's Constitution or its total repeal has been on the front-burner of national discourse for some time now. The current 1999 Constitution has been cited as one, if not the only fundamental flaws of the practice of true federalism in Nigeria.

To review the Constitution, a broad-based approach which is  open to all citizens to ensure popular participation has been set in place in all 360 federal constituencies in the country.

The programme is a consultative initiative of the House of Representatives aimed at ensuring a more participatory, inclusive and transparent review of the Constitution.

It is designed to embrace all segments and sectors of the polity including  Members of the State House of Assembly in the particular federal constituency,  local government chairmen, Nigerian Labour Congress,  Trade Union Congress,  Civil Society Organisations, National Association of Nigerian Students,  Nigerian Youth Council etc.

According to Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, “one key concern of the committee and the House of Representatives on the exercise has been how to achieve constitution amendment with the participation and involvement of the people.”

The ultimate intention is to open a fresh chapter in the country's history.

This is not surprising. For a country that has groped in the dark for long, per military dictatorships, democracy and its concomitant wing of rule of law were most desirable ideals long sought after.

As the fundamental of any modern society, the Constitution is a legitimate foundation of the rule of law doctrine.  Sadly enough, the current 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has, right from its preamble, contradicted itself as it affirms that "We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria...having enacted and given to ourselves this Constitution", when,  indeed, it was decreed into existence by the military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Almost a replica of the 1979 Constitution fashioned by the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Constitution had stronger claim to legitimacy than the current one.  At least the former Constitution was a product of a quasi-parliament that went by the name of the Constituent Assembly and which was presided over by late Honourable Justice Anthony Aniagolu.

Therefore, when, in subsequent sections to the preamble, the 1999 Constitution tries to assert supremacy over other laws that run inconsistent with its provisions, it finds itself mired in its own contradictions.

 By its very unitary command structure of having power devolving from the federal government to the states and then to the local governments, and with executive and legislative powers concentrated in one arm of government, the idea of military government is, in itself, an anti-thesis to federalism. How then could a non-federal institution have made a federal law?   This is a moot point indeed.

Attempt to resolve the riddle by co-opting former military rulers into civilian government has created further complications as Nigeria keeps roaming with legal contraptions rather than having the foundations for enduring democracy ideologically fashioned out.

Further down the roots of national malaise is the problem of ethnic diversity. The hue and cry is that Nigeria was a colonial creation which did not take into cognisance the fact that political interest could, therefore, be divergent. This has been the point of argument for those who ceaselessly seek for creation of more states via Constitutional review. The result of endless creation of States is the burden of bureaucracy that manifests in form of over-head costs, which, in the ritual turn of annual budgeting, has always kept Nigeria's economy in a cripple condition.

At the inception of his administration, President Goodluck Jonathan had promised to deliver on a people's Constitution. To do that in Nigeria means to create a conducive political environment that would encourage the evolution of a Constitution that, in all facets of national life, would promote the welfare of the ordinary citizen of the country.

Where laws not only have teeth but are equally capable of biting in a manner that would check-mate the excesses of the political class thereby ensuring that infrastructure, goods and services are put at the doorsteps of the ordinary Nigerian, a good quantum of national agitation would have been assuaged.

The Jonathan Administration must deliver on its promise.  Where, as the recent newspaper opinion poll has shown, the higher percentage of Nigerians are yearning for new Constitution, their wishes must be duly granted. Where there are too many loopholes in the current 1999 Constitution, and surgical operations need be ideologically carried out on it, it must be done with dispatch. And if it is found to have out-lived its usefulness, then its carcass must be thrown out through the window without let or hindrance, so as to pave way for the birth of a new Constitution.

We note that the peoples' public sessions will feature a panel of experts and stakeholders.  We  expect that  through this open process,  credibility is injected to ensure genuine ownership by Nigerians.  

The active participation of members of the community  and other stakeholders augurs for a much more inclusive Constitution than previously experienced.  An opportunity not to be missed.   Nigerians should arise and participate fully in this exercise.

Add comment