Don’t Review, Alter or Amend it. Drop the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
Section 2 of Decree 24, Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Decree 1999, promulgated the 1999 constitution (as amended) which is in use in Nigeria today.
According to Wikipedia, promulgation is the formal proclamation or the declaration that a new statutory or administrative law is enacted after its final approval. In some jurisdictions, this additional step is necessary before the law can take effect.
In essence, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) is a product of the Military, which was foisted on Nigerians through the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Decree 1999, Decree No.24.
Therefore the preamble in the Constitution which reads:
‘We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:
Having firmly and solemnly resolved:
To Live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-Africa solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding.
And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people do hereby Make, Enact and Give to Ourselves the following Constitution…….. is the most fraudulent statement any civilised society such as Nigeria can ever live with.
In the first place, by insinuating that we the people of the federal republic congregated to consent, Make, Enact and Give to ourselves, the Constitution and to operate a federal system of government, is a huge lie. It is a fact that in the letters, the word ‘federal’ is mentioned, but in practical terms Nigeria is practicing a ‘Unitary’ system of government. Almost every aspect of operations of government is concentrated at the centre, holed in Abuja. The unending clamour for the decentralisation of the Nigeria Police is a case in point. This reflects the character of the Nigerian state. There are also strident calls for devolution of powers to the states, the federating units if indeed Nigeria is practicing true federalism. The point being made here is that if indeed ‘we the people’ had agreed to give unto ourselves this constitution, the elected representatives of the people would have been implementing the common agreement and consensus of the people; then the overwhelming clamour for devolution of power would not have been necessary.
Secondly, the statement of having firmly and solemnly resolved: To Live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign Nation is also a lie. This insertion here did not emanate from the people. It is the figment of the imagination of the imposters. If the people had firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation, then concrete and conscious steps would have been taken by the same people toward achieving nationhood through nation building and national cohesion and inclusiveness; and not the strident separatist agitations all over the place. The conclusion on this point is that the people had no hand in the crafting of this constitution being sought to be reviewed. It is obvious that only a few members of the cabal in the military discretely authored the document so called as a constitution and imposed it on the rest of Nigerians.
Thirdly, according to the imagination of the authors of the document, the purpose of the document is to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of Freedom, Equality and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people. The question is, is there any justice, freedom or any conscious drive toward national unity, considering the skewed sectional appointments and nepotistic tendencies being exhibited by the administration. It is my considered view that section 14 in the 1999 constitution (as amended) was inadvertently inserted in the constitution. It is manifestly clear that even primary school children in Nigeria know as undisputed facts that the provisions of section 14 is a grand deception, just dry bones without the flesh and spirit. The section was designed and is a powerful instrument in the hand of dictators and manipulators to mock at its provisions. There is a view that it was plagiarised and smuggled into the document as a deodorant to scent a doubtful federalism and democracy. The said section 14 has no purport in the practice of constitutionalism in our present day Nigeria. All democratic watchers feel their sense of honour, intelligence and integrity insulted by arrant breach of the provision rather than compliance. This constitution is not the making of the people of Nigeria.
Fourthly, the undying calls for restructuring of the Nigeria are a loud proof that ‘we the people’ were shaved in our absence. Otherwise there would not have been this constant bickering among the major ethnic groups through their socio-cultural groups such as Miyeti Allah, Afenifere and Ohaneze. The mutual suspicion and distrust is and has weakened the social fabric that would have bonded the fabrics of the people for national cohesion and stability. However, the bitter acrimony amongst these tribal groups cannot be a product of those who had agreed during the constitution making process to live together in unity. By now Nigeria would have had a development agenda which would have charted the course for national development that would have put the nation on the development pedestal comparable only to countries like Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and other Asian Tigers.
Social justice, equity, rule of law, democratic tenets and good conscience are the values cherished by people who wish to live in freedoms and liberties all over the civilised world. The people of Nigeria would not have wanted to be the exception. To stress the point further, the Nigerian people were never gathered together to aggregate their views to produce the document called a constitution. It is unimaginable that the Nigerian people would have sat and agreed to conspire against themselves and the nation state. The Nigerian people could not have consciously converged to produce a document with loopholes for unmitigated corruption without accountability. The quantum of trillions of Dollars alleged and manifestly frittered away through corruption by exploiting the constitutional provisions is mind boggling. The point being made here is that the 1999 was never a product of the people but a product of a few ruling elite among both the military and civil populace, particularly from a section of the country in order to subjugate the poor and other sections of the country to perpetual servitude while the conspirators continue to appropriate the enormous common wealth of the people.
The basis of the injustices being experienced today is engrained and embedded in the 1999 constitution (which is perpetually always being amended). One wonders what has actually been amended in the constitution since the 1st National Assembly was inaugurated and we are now in the 9th Assembly. It is considered that any alteration made at any constitutional review is always to further tighten the grip to suffocate the people.
Sections 1, 2 & 3 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) sets down the general provisions which appears as premeditated provisions to perpetuate political domination of the country by a particular section. With 19 states in Northern Nigeria and 17 states in Southern Nigeria and with section 48 of the constitution providing for a specific number of senators to be elected into senate from each state, it does require any magic to guess which section of the country dominates the national assembly; where laws, decisions, policies and resolutions which affect the people are taken. No wonder therefore that some people, including law makers, with unpatriotic intentions, quickly refer any contentious issue which ought to be equitably resolved in the national interest, to the National assembly where they have a simple majority to thwart patriotic aspirations. That arrangement is unfair, irrational and structurally defective. It is part of the reason why there has been strident calls for restructuring. In many respects therefore, the constitution is ladened with dangerous pitfalls and landmines to be detonated for selfish, parochial and sectional interests at the appropriate time necessary.
It is very clear that the proclamation of the 1999 constitution was by fiat despite the pretentions to the contrary, that a constitutional Debate Co-ordinating Committee was constituted in 1998 to pilot the debate for a new constitution for Nigeria.
It is imperative to note that the constitutional Debate Co-ordinating Committee in 1998, handed over its Report to the Provisional Ruling Council, the highest decision organ of the Armed forces of the Nigeria that time which eventually promulgated the 1999 constitution via Section 2 of Decree 24, Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (Promulgation) Decree 1999. Note that after the Decree 24, there was no further action or input from the people in respect of the document.
Further note that the attitude of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council then was to rule by fiat. A Fiat is a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort, an authoritative determination or arbitrary order is made. It bears without constant repetition that the ‘’we the people’’ in the 1999 constitution is not only a farce, it is also a fraudulent fiasco.
The Constitution therefore, once infested with the vermin of military dictatorship is void ab-initio.
The legal implication of such voidness or vacuity was explained by Lord Denning in the locus classicus case of U.A.C Vs Macfoy ‘you cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand. In this case, the most touted impression that the people of Nigeria formed the foundation upon which the 1999 constitution was built, is a total misrepresentation by the military junta. The foundation has collapsed. Nothing can stand upon it. The constitution must have to be thrown away. It has no standing in any civilised and democratic society. It should be discarded.
The obstacle here will be the very people junketing all over the country calling for inputs by Nigerians for constitutional alteration, amendment or overhaul – the members of the National Assembly. They will naturally consider that throwing away the current constitution will pull the rug off their feet. So they will do everything to resist it.
The way forward
In view of the very recent developments in the country, such as unmitigated corruption, loss of trust and confidence in governance and the government, loss of faith, lack of legitimacy of the government, mutual suspicion amongst nationalities and coupled with bitter secessionist agitations, the following steps must be urgently taken to save the nation:
1 Set up an All Inclusive Peace and Reconciliation Summit comprising ethnic nationalities to dialogue, forgive each other and reconcile all aggrieved parties, emotions and passions.
2 Set up an Elected Assembly, that will reflect ethnic nationalities based on Equity, Justice and fairness to fashion out fresh terms for the existence and survival of the Nigerian Union OR
3 Agree to adopt the 1963 Constitution with minimal alterations or modifications to meet the current situation and exigencies in the country.
Clement Iornongu Esq
International Centre for Peace Charities and Human Development
View on the current efforts at 1999 Constitutional Amendment in Nigeria
Don’t Review, Alter or Amend it. Drop the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.