The 1999 Nigerian constitution has been receiving severe knocks in recent times particularly from regional and other interest groups who are of the opinion that it came short in too many respects. However, it received what could be described as its severest thus far with the bashing it received from the country’s fourth citizen and speaker of the house of representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila. According to him, the legal framework on which the unity of the federating units find a common ground needs to be reworked in order to meet the growing yearnings of the people.
Rt Hon Gbajabiamila made the call in Lagos on Tuesday while addressing participants at the opening of the public hearing on amendment of the constitution.
The Speaker, who opined that the country is already at war, noted that there is an urgent need to amend the constitution in order to address ongoing critical national issues. According to him, the current document fell short of requisite standards mainly because it was hurriedly put together.
“… the 1999 Constitution is the product of a hurried national compromise that we entered into two decades ago in order to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and that we returned to democratic government.”
Going forward, Rt Hon Gbajabiamila, who drew an analogy from the American constitution, which he said denied certain rights to some of its citizens until it was amended over the years T correct the anomalies. He therefore suggested that as a matter of urgency, the national assembly must see itself as being under a mandate to deliver what he referred to as”…a people-oriented constitution…” by seeking the imput of the people themselves.
“The foundational constitution of the United States of America deemed people of colour to be ‘less than’ and denied women the right to vote. It did not include any limits on the President’s term of office and allowed for citizens to be denied the right to vote… Twenty-seven reviews and amendments over 100 years cured these and other defects.”
Rt Hon Gbajabiamila, who appealed to the people to understand that every document like the constitution are often frit with shortcomings until they are sorted out via relevant amendments. According to him, no nation in the world has an error free constitution.
“No nation in the world has a perfect constitution. But we need a near-perfect constitution in Nigeria and we can achieve that through substantive amendments that significantly alter the character of our nation…”
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