Nigeria as a country will be mired in perpetual confusion if the amendment of its current Constitution is not the brainchild of the citizens.
Consequently, if such exercise should be contemplated and carried out, the document that would emerge should make provision for a referendum as a prerequisite for the conduct of any similar future undertakings.
Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto made this observation Wednesday at the closing plenary of the 61st conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) titled: ‘We the People…: A Debate On Constitutional Amendment’ in Port Harcourt, Rivers state moderated by Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN).
Tambuwal “recommend strongly that the National Assembly (NASS) should amend the Constitution again,” after several attempts over the years at making one and reviewing same.
According to him, “unless the lacuna” inherent in the Constitution, other thorny issues bothering the nation, such as fiscal federalism and restructuring, cannot be properly addressed.
Pointing out that the vast majority of Nigerians challenging the acceptability and legitimacy of the subsisting Constitution are correct, the Governor recalled that the Seventh Assembly of the country, in which he served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, “took Constitutional amendment closer to the people” through the instrumentality of public hearings.
“So much was achieved, but unfortunately, it was not signed into law by the government of President Goodluck Jonathan,” he said.
Another panelist at the session, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), agreed with Tambuwal on the insertion of a clause on taking of referendum as a prerequisite for constitutional amendment, but insists that what the country needs now is a ‘brand new Constitution’, and not a an amended one.
Niger Delta activist, Ms. Ann Kio-Briggs, who was also a panelist, acquiesced Ozekhome, noting that ‘the problem Lugard created for Nigeria is what we’re facing today.’
Arguing that ‘heavens didn’t fall’ in many parts of the world when new Constitutions, subject to referendums, were made, Mr Ozekhome, who emphasized that the Nigerian Constitution is ‘bad’ and ‘illegitimate’, said it can’t be amended.
While Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, a civil society activist, described previous attempts at Constitutional reforms as ‘banal’, his co-panelist, Femi Falana (SAN) said any amendment or renewal of the Constitution must take into cognizance the political economy of the country.
Prior to the commencement of the well attended session, Gov. Tambuwal, assisted by the President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, launched two volumes of the ‘Nigerian Bar Journal.’