Wanted: A new constitution for Nigeria (3)
By Theo Nkire
We shall then have 110 governments (one federal and 109 provincial) – a saving of 691. The reasons are two. States today are so powerful they consistently usurp the powers of the Local Governments. The Local Governments are invariably so small they can engage in no meaningful development projects; and so weak, they cannot assert their rights against the all powerful State Governments.
The solution is the province which shall combine the powers of the State and the Local Government and even acquire more powers from the Federal Government; be large enough to galvanize the people for effective development and yet be closer to the people than the present day State.
There is no intention to replace today’s all powerful State Governor with an equally powerful Provincial Council Chairman since the Chairman will first be elected to the Council from his Council ward before he is elected Chairman by his colleagues in Council. The executive powers of the Province shall belong to the Council and not to the Chairman. Both the legislative and executive powers of the Province shall be vested in the Council.
Abolish The Bi-Cameral Legislature At The Centre
Nigeria should abolish the Senate and the House and replace them with the unicameral system we have in the States. In our 17-year old experiment with the presidential and bi-cameral system (1979 – 1983; 1999 – 2012) hardly any disagreement between the Senate and the House de-railed legislation; nor has the absence of a second chamber in our States made it impossible for any State to effectively perform its legislative functions. What then is the advantage of a second chamber in the National Assembly? To make it more representative, an additional seat can be added to each province to bring the total number of members to 469, if need be.
The abolition of a second chamber in the National Assembly will help reduce the size and cost of government. It will also help reduce the length of time a bill journeys through the Assembly and the various bottlenecks associated with its passage into law.
For Nigerians to give to themselves a Constitution, they must do so through a referendum. The enactment can be done by their representatives in the National and State Assemblies. However the people must be seen to participate by referring the document to the people for approval before it is enacted into law. While the people’s representatives can amend the Constitution, only the people can give to themselves a Constitution through a referendum.
After chapters Five, Six, Seven and Eight of the existing Constitution have been expunged and other amendments effected, the resultant edition shall be submitted to the people of Nigeria for approval. It is only after their people approved that our representatives in the National and State Assemblies can enact it into law “as is”, without debate or amendment.
I hope this contribution on the Nigerian Constitution will engender debate on the subject. I do not claim any special knowledge of the issues involved. The suggested amendments are not exhaustive. The Seventh Assembly can, for some time, put paid to the frequent call for amendments to the Constitution.
The immortal words of humanist philosopher, Marianne William strengthen my belief that the National Assembly can give Nigeria a worth Constitution: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ………….we ask ourselves ……who am I to be so brilliant, so talented, so gorgeous, so fabulous – who are you not to be?”
Chief Nkire, a former Attorney-General of Abia State of Nigeria, to practise law in Nigeria July 1979, also admitted to practise law in New York, the United States of America, was at different times Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Aba Branch; Member Abia State Judicial Service Commission, National Legal Adviser, National Republican Convention, NRC, and Member of the Constituent Assembly 1988-89.