I can say categorically that Nigeria needs a new constitution. The current happenings in Nigeria has clearly shown that the continuous panel-beating of the 1999 Constitution is not the panacea to the political and socio-economic challenges the nation is presently facing.
The 1999 Constitution was built on a faulty foundation; All worthy Constitutions are made by Citizens and their representatives. Such Citizens and their representatives are people who are fully engaged in the Constitution-making process and who understand that their future welfare and that of their descendants will be shaped by the Constitution they make.
However, in this instance, neither the people of Nigerian nor their representatives actually wrote the supposed (1999) Constitution. Rather, the Constitution was merely imposed on the people of Nigeria by dictatorial military leaders who had their own axe to grind.
This same Constitution was adopted in the democratic dispensation manned by the Civilian regime with the restoration of Section 1 (earlier suspended by the Military Government). Section 1 of the Constitution guarantees its Supremacy and it provides as follows:
1. (1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(2) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.
Little wonder the Constitution has inevitable undergone several legislative surgical operations to no avail. Hence, the necessity for the enactment of a new Constitution for the country.
Furthermore, it is doubtful that the 1999 Constitution had the significant inputs of sound legal minds who have good command of the nature of Constitutional Law. Apart from being verbose, the Constitution is too specific to be interpreted to suit changing circumstances and other forms of laws, which could have stood out as separate statutory laws, were muddled up in the so-called grundnorm.
Therefore, we need to sit down and write a new Constitution which will promote true federalism in the country if we are to be progressive and compete favourably with other countries in the world. The new Constitution should consider the nation’s heterogeneous nature for effective nation building.
In addition, it should be geared towards political and economic sustainability. For example, the 1999 Constitution provides for just the sharing of the country’s financial resources among the three tiers of government. This provision needs to be overhauled in the new Constitution to ensure the country has a saving culture.
The refrain from the conventional sharing of the Country’s financial resources coupled with the provision for States government to run their affairs with their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) will leave States with no option than to put on their thinking caps thus making for financial independence.
In conclusion, Nigeria needs a new Constitution that would adequately carter for the country’s pressing issues which the current Constitution has been unable to deal with because the peculiarity of the Nation does not reflect in the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
THE LEGAL DIARY
Joseph Jagunmolu Ogunmodede