By Innocent Anaba, Henry Ojelu & Onozure Dania Dania
In response to the agitations for a review of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly penultimate week, kick-started a public hearing in the six geopolitical zones in the country. Vanguard Law & Human Rights, in this edition, sought the views of senior lawyers on key areas of the constitution that should either be completely expunged or amended.
Those who shared their views include; Olisa Agbakoba, SAN; Olu Daramola, SAN; Kunle Adegoke, SAN; Gbenga Ojo, Malachy Ugwummadu, and Kabir Akingbolu.
Many items on the Exclusive Legislative list should be removed — Agbakoba, SAN
For former Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Chairman, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, the aspect of the constitution dealing with the exclusive and concurrent, and residual legislative lists should be a priority.
According to him: “68 items of power are listed on the exclusive list and reserved for the Federal Government. The other 30 on the concurrent list are powers exercisable by both federal and state governments. This means that the state governments are hopelessly weak. A transfer of powers to states from the legislative lists is most essential to good governance and pursuant to Schedule 4 of the Constitution, legislative functions need to be assigned to local governments. This is the first necessary step to an economically successful and sustainable Nigeria.”
Senate should be scrapped — Daramola, SAN
Expressing pessimism over the ability of the present National Assembly to birth a new constitution that will ensure equity and justice in the country, Daramola, SAN, advocated for a total scrapping of the Senate.
He said: “I am afraid nothing concrete will come out of the exercise. What we deserve is a new constitution. I don’t think the present National Assembly has the courage and conviction to birth a new constitution that will address the hydra-headed challenges facing the country. The country should return to the 1963 Republican Constitution. A bicameral legislature is too expensive for our lean purse.
“The Senate should be scrapped. The country should be restructured into six regions with equal representation in the Legislative Assembly. Sittings of the legislative assembly should be on a part-time basis where members are paid a sitting allowance. Each region should control minerals and other resources in its domain. Each region should have its police. The presidential system should be scrapped and replaced with the cabinet system.
“The power of the Federal Government should be limited to defence, foreign affairs, and national currency. The new constitution should make provision for the right of any region to secede from the federation if two-third of the people in the region so decides in a referendum. The secular character of the country should be respected and guaranteed and no court should be created in it for the adherents of any religion or creed.”
More power should be given to states — Adegoke, SAN
Adegoke, SAN, believes that the ongoing review process is flawed but however, suggested that pending when a better Constitution that would promote equity and justice to all federating units and citizens, more power should be devolved to states.
He said: “The on-going constitutional amendment exercise does not guarantee much expectation. It is a process flawed from the beginning due to the fact that the document being amended is fraught with too many errors of political concoctions. The best is to start a new constitutional conference where a new constitution can be fashioned out or we revert to the 2014 Confab Report which was more democratic and representative in its process than the current exercise.
“Where, however, it becomes imperative to proceed in the present manner, it is important to pay attention to the following, among others too numerous to mention. There must be greater devolution of powers to the states. The exclusive legislative list of the 1999 Constitution is terribly unwieldy and must be weeded with many of the items transferred to the states.
“We must pay attention to fiscal federalism and allow the states to contribute to the purse of the nation from their earnings rather than the other way round in which the Federal Government pulls resources from the states only to withhold the larger chunk to the detriment of the states. Creation of State Police must be allowed to provide for effective policing. Such a police formation must be preceded by the establishment of Police College in each state that desires to have it with a more civilized orientation that is currently prevalent among the federal police;
“There must be greater recognition for independence of the judiciary by relieving the Executive of the over-bearing influence it commands currently in the appointment of judges. It is best to look critically at the 1963 Constitution and adopt the provisions therein which enabled the regions to develop at their pace.
“Quota system is an albatross and must be eliminated. It defeats merit at the altar of mediocrity. State creation should be more along linguistic lines which is more consistent with federalism in a multi-lingual environment like ours; Chapter II of the Constitution relating to Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy should be made justiciable rather than mere decoration; The process for constitutional amendment should not be made rigid as it is currently; The right to self-determination of the federating units must be provided for through a referendum to eliminate the violent agitations currently wreaking the nation.”
State Police should be a priority — Ojo
University don, Gbenga pointed out that in the light of serious security challenges in the country, legalisation of state police should be a priority.
Like other lawyers, he emphasised that piecemeal amendment or review of the Constitution is a waste of time insisting that Nigeria needs a people-oriented Constitution.
He said: “ What we need is a new constitution. Be that as it may, given the insecurity in the country, the first specific area is the state police. JUSUN strike is a testimony that the financial autonomy of the three arms of government is next. Demand of Oduduwa nation, Igbo nation is a clean clear case that Nigeria has to go back to the regional government. This was the position under the 1963 Constitution. Events happening in the country are reflections of the amendment. Then the Niger-Delta agitators have served government notice to renew the agitations. That means we need to address the revenue allocation issue, local government direct allocations. All these boil down to one thing, true federalism.”
Nigeria must return to parliamentary system — Ugwummadu
In an extensive article on why Nigeria needs a new constitution rather than a review, Ugwummadu said that the current presidential system of government in Nigeria has been poorly operated, poorly managed, and now unwieldy, expensive, and unsustainable.
According to him: ‘It is made worse because it is replicated in each of the thirty-six (36) sub-national structures including the Federal Capital Territory with unnecessary and unsustainable bureaucracies gulping about two-third (2/3) of both the National and sub-national budgets with very little left for capital and infrastructural developments.
“Consequently, it is my proposal that we return to Parliamentary System of Government or a thoroughly pruned Presidential government in which ministries of the federation will not exceed twenty-four (24) from the present forty-two (42) ministries. This will require that S.147 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, providing that at least, one minister must be appointed from each state of the federation be dispensed with. Indeed, some of the ministries and ministers, agencies and departments of government performing overlapping functions and responsibilities should be fused together to reduce the size and cost of running the currently over- bloated bureaucracies.
“The same should be applicable to the sub national government with a drastically pruned retinue and bureaucracies. Similarly, it is our proposal that the federating states should be reconstituted along the recognized geopolitical zones in this country but not more than 12 states to foster economically viable entities with capacities to bring about development and competition among the regions.
“The only provisio should be that people and groups within the relevant local governments should be allowed to decide which federating units to join. Similarly, it is proposed that we resort to a bicameral Legislature at the centre having members who will operate on part-time basis. In the first republic, many Parliamentarians were lecturers, lawyers and professionals who rushed back to their jobs after sitting. It is curious how we intend to continue with the present bogus and expensive structure without a debilitating end.”
LGA administration should be independent of states — Akingbolu
On his part, Akingbolu identified issues of requirements for right of appeal and local government administration as critical areas that should be amended.
He said: “The area of the right of appeal, sections 242 and 243 (a) there is the requirement for a party to seek leave to appeal on issues of mixed law and fact. This requirement is not necessary because it causes a delay in our judicial system and increases the volume of cases at the appellate courts, more so because leave is rarely denied.
“In sections 7 and 8 of the Constitution, local government administration should be made independent of the state governors who have technically scrapped the local government as the third tier of government or nearly turned them to an extension of their offices by superintending over them as such. This becomes necessary if the mantra of restructuring being sung by the Governors is anything to go by.
Section 121(3) of the Constitution which deals with the independence of the judiciary ought to be amended so that the money due to the judiciary be paid to the head of court concerned rather than the nebulous way it is put.”