Agitations for a new constitution may have hit brick wall as the Senate ha disagreed with the idea of a brand-new constitution.
At a public hearing on the review of the constitution in Abuja, yesterday, the Senate declared it will be good to have a new constitution to replace the current one but that the extant law does not support it.
One of those that have been canvassing for a brand-new constitution is a senior lawyer, Afe Babalola (SAN). He described the 1999 Constitution as part of the problems of the country and advised President Muhammadu Buhari to consider the drafting of a new constitution that will capture the demands of many Nigerians.
He said: “There is a very simple solution to the growing insecurity in the country and that is a new constitution. We need a new constitution where the different nations that were formed together can develop at their own pace. West was doing well during the old constitution, likewise the East and even the North but the one we are using now is managed by leaders who see politics as the only lucrative business.”
Supporting his line of thought are speakers at the second Never Again Conference (NAC), which was held virtually in January.
One of the speakers was Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, he alongside other eminent Nigerians like Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Peter Obi, Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, Mbazulike Amaechi, Tanko Yakassai, Pat Utomi, Shehu Sani, Onyeka Onwenu, Godknows Igali, Ankkio Briggs, Ahmed Joda and Charity Shekari spoke in favour of a new constitution.
In reaction to such calls, the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Ovie Omo-Agege, said that Section 9 of the Constitution had already foreclosed a new constitution.
He stated: “Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amending the Constitution, we should make a new one altogether. We respect this opinion, and we believe it is a most desirable proposition.
“However, we are conducting this exercise in accordance with the extant legal order, which is the 1999 Constitution. Specifically, Section 9 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to alter the provisions of the Constitution and prescribes the manner in which it is to be done. Unfortunately, it does not make similar provision or provide mechanism for replacing or re-writing an entirely new Constitution.
“In other words, it will take a new Constitutional amendment to be able to give Nigerians a most desired new Constitution. It would be unconstitutional to do otherwise,” he stressed.
But because most Nigerians are demanding for a new constitution, the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution has indicated that the 2014 recommendations of the National Conference will be useful resources for the ongoing effort to review the 1999 Constitution.
But in a swift reaction to the Senate’s statement about the impossibility of drafting a new constitution, a non-political group, Southeast and South-South Professionals (SESSPN) through its President, Barrister Hannibal Uwaifo, said that a new constitution had become imperative to answer the yearnings of majority of Nigerians who are tired of the 1999 Constitution.
According to them: “It is the view of SESSPN that the FG should stop believing that the present agitation for structural changes and the deteriorating security challenges would fizzle out without a decisive response to the yearnings of Nigerians for a new constitution and for equity and justice in the affairs of Nigerians.”