- By Eric Teniola
- MR. Chairman, I will then turn to the section of the Constitution which deals with the executive presidency. I believe, and I intellectually accept, that the recommendations made in that regard are in the interest of this country. The fear of its opponents is that there may be dictatorship. This is the problem of Constitution makers through the ages. You want your country to be run effectively, yet you are afraid because you assume the person who is going to run it is going to usurp the right of individuals.
I believe that most of the time, it is circumstance that br ings about dictatorship. If people behave outside the laws which have been laid down, no Constitution can guarantee extra constitutional repercussions. In the same vein, those who want, for example, that coups be decreed against are just wasting their time because if it happens and it is successful, it becomes legal. When it fails, then you can talk about those who have violated the laws. All we need do is to laid down clearly what the functions of the President are and in what manner they are going to be exercised.
But I have a comment on the section which deals with the election of President. If we want a President we must have a system which enables us to produce one. I will, respectfully observe that the manner set down in this Draft for the election of the President is not likely to produce a President the first time or even the second time.
This Draft Constitution very much revolves around the issue of the President. If we fail to elect a President, the whole constitutional basis is going to be shaken. If you repeat it the second time, and then the third time, your constitution may collapse. I think that whatever problems are being solved by the tortuous procedures that are provided in this Draft, we must be told. We should know these problems so that we might assist in their solution, but this is a point which must be looked at very critically when the time comes.
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that in the report of the committee, a point was made elsewhere about the Minister being subject to Senate examination, but this is not reflected in the Draft. I feel that if elections or appointments to certain offices are subjected to examination or confirmation by the Senate, there is no reason why those who are going to be in the Council of Ministers in this country should not be subjected to the same examination by the Senate.
And when the time comes, Mr. Chairman, we are going to make recommendations to reflect that situation. We are going to propose an amendment, Mr. Chairman. I think we should begin with a clear mind that if we are going to appoint the President, we should give him the powers to do the job. Of course, there is no way we can escape the fear of dictatorship. A Prime Minister can become a dictator. Mr. Chairman, I have a point to make on the issue of Revenue Allocation.
In section 137 under the establishment of certain bodies, one of the functions of the Fiscal Review Commission is to consider the allocation of revenue between States and the Federation, and I think that there is a slight omission here. I think that we must inscribe that it also should consider the allocation of revenue not just between the Federation and the States but the Local Governments as well.
Now, I come to the question of judicature. The chairman of the Drafting Committee has done a commendable job in his introduction, particularly with regard to the question of the Sharia. Although I am not a scholar in that respect, I have listened to scholars. The only reason I am going to make a contribution on this topic is because I think there is genuine ignorance on this matter and this is no fault of the individuals involved. The Sharia is part and parcel of a Muslim’s way of life. It lays down what to do and what not to do and the punishments in that respect.
It sets down what should happen on the death of persons and in all circumstances and situations and I as a Muslim will not feel that I am practising my religion completely without subjecting myself to the provisions of the Sharia. In this Draft and in the 1963 Constitution, and this is no longer a matter of contention in this country, we have agreed on freedom of religion. If we agreed to the freedom of religion, there is no need truncating my freedom.
I must be given the chance to do it fully. If I am not subject to the Sharia, I will regard myself as not having freedom of religion. This is a cardinal point I spoke about earlier. About this place being some kind of educative institution. I think we should learn to know what forms the rock bottom of any society, the point beyond which you cannot push people. You must respect that because you know that there is nothing you can do about it. I do not accept that by what I say I am going to convince one person to cross over to be a Muslim.
I am not saying it so that it will enable our Christian friends to appreciate what we can take and what we cannot take. I am talking about millions of people, not about elite or about some other minor self- inflicting groups on society. I am talking about the life of ordinary people in this country occupying a large part of this country in large numbers, and even if there is just one person, this august gathering must protect the interest of that person. Nobody is saying that the Sharia should be imposed on anyone who does not believe in Islam.
So far what are the arguments we have heard against this proposition? The arguments to me revolve around two events. The first is that we should be careful not to have two parallel legal systems in this country. The second is that we want Islam enshrined in the Constitution. Gentlemen, Honourable Members, we are dealing with a Draft Constitution for a Federation, and I think that lawyers call the several governments in a Federation co-ordinates. Why have governments that operate on their own and can make different laws on residual subjects in the Constitution and only few subjects are listed? Why did you accept this?
You are now telling us that parallel legal system is going to be the ruin of this country. Surely, we have accepted the idea of Federation in order to cater for the problems of pluralities and to recognise the problems which we have as a nation. The issue of parallel legal systems to me is not even as strong as having different governments but we have agreed on that. Now we are saying that parallel legal system is going to be the shaky rock which will make this country to flounder. This does not sound reasonable to me. It might not sound reasonable to any reasonable person.
If Mr. Chairman, the other problem is that we want to enshrine Islam. How is Islam enshrined in the Constitution just because there is going to be a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal. We ought to accept the consequences of our own deeds. In this country we sat down and said the Federation is in a state of imbalance because certain areas were too big and that they threatened the existence of some other areas; so we agreed to create States. Before the creation of States, nobody had come here at the Federal level to ask for a Sharia Court because it could all be taken care of in the States. Now we have agreed that States are going to have Sharia Courts that are going to give the interpretations.