Like a circus, the 9th Senate is going the way of its predecessors as it had set up a 56-member committee at the beginning of this year for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution. Since the return of democracy in 1999, successive National Assemblies had embarked on money guzzling constitution reviews with no corresponding results . The exercise has, regrettably, become a routine of some sort and business as usual.
A case in point is the 7th National Assembly which, after spending about N1billion criss- crossing the length and breadth of the country, failed to get the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, to assent to the bill even as efforts by the then Assembly to veto the president also failed woefully.
This Newspaper wholly endorses the position of the Northern Elders Forum ( NEC) which has posited that since 1999, the National Assembly have spent huge amounts of Nigerian people’s money to fund the constitution review processes without any commensurate impact on the lives of the citizens.
The northern elders made it clear that it is convinced that this repetitive initiative of the Senate is a predictable waste of time, scarce resources and energy of the nation, and should be rejected by all Nigerians.
They said, “Nothing fundamental or of any value has come out of these grand schemes to exploit our collective desire to address our political and economic fundamentals. This National Assembly is also following suit, and it should not be encouraged on this path.
“Nigeria’s future rests largely on its willingness to address major constraints to equity and justice, a functional structure, consistent good governance, security for all citizens, a credible electoral process, growing understanding between and among all groups and an economy that grows and narrows inequalities between and classes and regions.”
Also, a Pan-Yoruba Summit Group, YSG, has joined forces with the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, to decry the constitution review exercise embarked upon by the Senate, saying “there is now a unanimity from all sections of the country to jettison the 1999 Constitution and fashion a new one acceptable to all Nigerians.”
The group said holding the polls without restructuring the polity will spell doom for the country, and aligned with the position of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, that the Senate’s ongoing move to review 1999 is a waste of scarce resources, adding that it could be part of plans to abort restructuring of Nigeria before the next general elections.
Another group, the Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) has said it supports the position of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on the planned review of the 1999 constitution, noting that the proposed exercise will be a waste of time and resources.
We agree completely with the position of these regional groups.
Another Constitution review at this point in our nation’s history when resources are few and far between will be nothing but another meaningless jamboree.
We recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had disclosed recently that Nigeria’s revenue has dropped by 65 per cent. It will, therefore, not make economic sense to expend over N1 billion in a period when the government had adopted some cost saving measures like the removal of fuel and electricity subsidies We insist that the routine Constitution review as being initiated presently does not constitute an emergency and so can be made to wait for a better time when the nation would have overcome it’s current economic challenges imposed by the ravaging Covid-19 global pandemic.
Besides , the contentious issues in every constitution review include the removal of some items from the executive to concurrent list , state police , devolution of powers to state , power generation, mining, separation of the office of the attorney general from the minister/ commissioner of justice .Ironically, most of these items often times failed to get the endorsement of the state assemblies. And there’s nothing to suggest that the same fate will not await the current exercise.
Come to think of it, must a constitution be amended every four years? It seems that it’s only in our clime that things happen this way. For instance, since 1789 the United States of America’s Constitution has been amended only 27 times.The British on their part have an unwritten constitution.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, some of these contentious issues can be introduced as private member or executive bills . In our previous editorials, we had consistently called for the creation of state police to tackle the complete breakdown of security in the country . An executive bill to the National Assembly can address that . The National Assembly members are meant to make laws and undertake proper oversights to hold the other arms of government accountable. Unfortunately, oversight functions have been reduced to an extortionist scheme. It’s an indisputable fact that Nigeria has never lacked good laws but the implementation of the laws have always been the issue.
We insist that most of the present concerns can be addressed by way of bills rather than a holistic review of the construction. We also unequivocally reject the idea of a whole new constitution as being canvassed by some ethnic and regional champions. No constitution in the world is perfect. What Nigerians want is accountable leadership, equity and fairness .