Wanted: A new constitution for Nigeria (2)

on   /   in Law & Human Rights 12:10 am   /   Comments

By Theo Nkire

There is the National Assembly Act, the Nigeria Police Act, the Electoral Act; and where there is no Act or law now in place on any subject contained in any of the four offending chapters of the Constitution, the National Assembly or State Assembly concerned can enact one.

My position is further strengthened by the fact that of the 52 amendments effected on the Nigerian Constitution in three separate alteration Acts in 2010, not one involved any of the 46 Sections contained in the first four chapters. The first alteration Act 2010 involved 29 amendments to 29 sections of the Constitution running from Section 66 to Section 285.

The second alteration Act 2010 affected 9 Sections from Section 76 to Section 285 while the third alteration Act 2010 involved 12 Sections of the Constitution falling between Sections 81 and 318; and alterations to the Third and Seventh Schedules to the Principal Act.  No single alteration affected any of the first 46 Sections of the Constitution which this contributor seeks to preserve.

For 11 years, there was no amendment to the Nigerian Constitution.  In one year and indeed in virtually one exercise, 52 Amendments were effected to the Constitution and yet there are calls for more.

It is pertinent to repeat that a Constitution is a sacred document.  Frequent amendments to this sacred document tend to desecrate it and render it easily vulnerable.  For example, Section 285 of the Constitution was amended in the first alteration Act 2010 and altered again in the second alteration Act 2010 both dated same day, 6 January 2011.

Why, for example should the Constitution of Nigeria be the law to prescribe the number of days a tribunal would require to try and determine an election petition filed before her?  This ought to be the province of the Electoral Act, not the Constitution.

Besides, an essential quality of law – good law – is certainty. The law of the Constitution must not change like the wind.  It must be constant.  It must be sure.  Amendments to it must be few and far between.

This is why I think the first four chapters of the Constitution constitute the necessary framework upon which our laws can be built.  The other four chapters are unnecessary additions to the Constitution.  They ought to be expunged since whatever value they may bring to our Constitution will not be lost to our legal system merely because they are cited as Acts of the National Assembly or laws of States.

Other Issues

Corruption

Nigeria must write the war against corruption into the Constitution. This will assure citizens that government is indeed, serious about the fight against corruption. Ghana found a beautiful way of entrenching probity and accountability in her Constitution when she included the pursuit of those virtues in the Preamble to her Constitution.

Nigeria can borrow a leaf from her neighbour and if she cannot find a better place, she can, for example, insert the words “probity and accountability” after the words “Equity and justice” in line 3 of paragraph 3 of the Preamble to the Constitution so that the said paragraph 3 of the Preamble shall read as follows:  “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, Equity and Justice; Probity and Accountability, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people.”

Abolish States, Local Govts

Nigeria is over-governed.  With a total of 801 governments (one federal, 36 state, 768 local and six area, FCT) Nigeria has too many governments.  A reduction in this number will make for greater effectiveness and efficiency.  Nigeria will be better managed if a provincial system of government based on the existing Senatorial districts is introduced.

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