Nigeria’s Constitutional amendment: after five failed attempts

Nigeria’s Constitutional amendment: after five failed attempts

As society develops, it outgrows some of its archaic and mundane laws hence why there is the need for constant amendment and repealing of some constitutional provisions and clauses which are no longer useful or have become outdated and if still allowing it to be a law will do injustice rather than justice.

But it is really a herculean task to amend a written/ rigid constitution which is the constitution that Nigeria adopted. One of the disadvantages of adopting a written/ rigid Constitution is the difficulty or the cumbersome process for its amendment. This can as well be an advantage, depending on the vantage point you are arguing from.

For the fact that Nigeria’s constitution is written and rigid, we have seen a total of four failed attempts to amend the Constitution, and the fifth amendment attempt which is currently ongoing is already showing some indication that it may likely fail as well. It is more like it has been abandoned already.

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The constitutional amendment itself is constitutional as it was provided for in the constitution; the Constitution provided for it to be amended, thereby vesting the powers to amend or repeal any clause or proviso of the Constitution on the national assembly in the S. 9 of the 1999 Constitution but the national assembly has so far failed to successfully amend this Constitution (in the proper sense of it) twenty-three years after this current Constitution was adopted in 1999.

Be it as it may, in all the yearnings for the constitutional amendment, it all revolves around the clamor (which has been interpreted to be selfish and politically motivated) for the following; Creation of state police, devolution of powers to the states ie the switch from a federal government to a unitary system of government where the regional government will be more powerful and semi-independent from the federal government, creation of more states (this quest is totally political and economically motivated), restructuring and fiscal federalism, the autonomy of the Local Governments; ie the total independence of the LGAs from the state governments, independent political candidacy, etc,

We have come to know that in every attempt to amend the Constitution, there is always that “one thing”  that will make the process come to a halt or make the process a total failure:

The first attempt at reviewing the 1999 Constitution by the 5th assembly failed woefully as a result of the allegation or the conspiracy that the then president Olusegun Obasanjo attempted to elongate his tenure by making a provision for a third term in office for presidents. The national assembly found this out and rejected the bill in totality. The mistake the national assembly made was rejecting the whole bill on the ground of that one clause; you cannot throw the baby out with the bath water, they should have sieved out the selfish clause that was allegedly squeezed in by the then president and then go about with the rest. 

The amendment attempt by the 7th assembly also experienced a catastrophic failure due to the clash between the presidency and the lawmakers. The lawmakers tried to strip the presidency the power to sign constitutional amendments thereby passing them into law but the presidency totally disagreed with them on this and this is what halted that attempt.

We can only hope and pray that this fifth amendment attempt that was initiated by the 9th assembly becomes successful but should in case this attempt fails, the lawmakers should learn from the mistakes of why the previous five attempts failed and do something new here is what I propose:

Firstly, The amendment process should be handled by experts like lawyers, political scientists, economists, etc other than professional politicians. Secondly, the 1999 constitution is a law made by the military government hence why it is inherently defective; a new constitution should be made afresh and the 1999 constitution totally discarded. 

Finally, anyone who will have a direct benefit or who may have a personal interest in the constitutional amendment should never be allowed to be part of the process because personal interest will always overtake patriotism or collective interest. 

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