ILLEGALITIES are gradually creeping into the conduct of the nation’s legislative affairs. It is worse that illegalities are becoming part of Nigeria’s legislative processes.
The Child Rights Act 2003, CRA, witnessed the affront. After its passage, States laid out different ploys to avoid its implementation. It was the first time under our federal constitution that States rejected a federal law, claiming that their Assemblies would domesticate the law. The Freedom of Information Act 2010, FoIA, is undergoing the same rigmarole. Incidentally, they are the only two laws State Assemblies insist on domesticating. These laws are fundamental to Nigeria’s future.
The National Assembly makes laws for the entire federation. State Assemblies make laws for their States. According to Section 4 (5), “If any law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void”.
States do not have laws on the child rights and the freedom of information. We do not have cases of conflict between state and federal laws, which the Constitution still resolves in favour of federal laws. We have States un-making federal laws.
Domestication of laws, according to Section 12 (1) of the Constitution, applies to treaties between Nigeria and other countries. The States have appropriated domestication to desecrate the Constitution.
Child’s rights are so important; we expected States would be enthusiastic about implementing them. The FoIA expands on the liberties the Constitution awards the public. Section 22 of the Constitution which states, “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people,” is stronger than the FoIA.
The National Assembly watches as State Assemblies assume its constitutional roles under the dubious claim of domesticating laws the National Assembly validly made. How do they get away with such illegalities that breach the Constitution? What provisions in the Constitution give them the powers to re-make federal laws to their satisfaction? The States during public hearings made inputs into the same laws.
Domestication is an excuse for breaking the law. States can contest the laws in court, not break wantonly as they are doing.
Attempts by different States to weaken the laws by throwing out aspects they consider unpleasant are unacceptable, illegal and should stop. The National Assembly has a major responsibility to protect the Constitution from the fragrant abuses of state legislatures that are assuming the place of the National Assembly.