The Nigerian 1999 Constitution is faulty and not a true reflection of the genuine will of the citizens, panelists at the inaugural launch of #FixPoliticsDialogue have argued.
Their submission was contained in a statement issued on Thursday by the #FixPolitics Spokesperson, Ozioma Ubabukoh.
The FP said, “The panelists unanimously agreed that the subsisting document is flawed and needs to be reformed, but were different in their view on whether the constitution be changed or amended.”
The panelists included Dr Usman Bugaje, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Prof Ayo Atsenuwa, Ann-Kio Briggs, Mike Utsaha, and Folarin Falana, a.k.a. Falz. Joyce Daniel and Amyna Usma were guest speakers at the event.
“The National Assembly and Houses of Assembly hold the paraphernalia on which the constitution can be amended or changed, while the civil society groups are expected to be organised around strategic and tactical engagement with the system of governance.
“#FixPolitics has initiated the platform to engender conversation for a total change or amendment of the 1999 Constitution in a way that would guarantee and bring about improvement in the quality of life of the Nigerian citizens,” the panelists submitted, according to the statement.
Bugaje argued that the responsibility to reform or replace the constitution rested on the shoulders of the lawmakers.
He said, “For the moment, I think we have to continue to engage, push for change if we can get change, push for that critical amendment that will give us that incremental inch that will take us to where we want to be.”
On her part, Briggs supported a total change of the constitution, stressing that the 1999 edition was built on a faulty foundation, and noted that Nigeria had gone through different constitutional reforms since 1914.
“If, perhaps, we had gone ahead and started the implementation of Goodluck Jonathan’s 2014 National Conference, what would have eventually come out of the attendance to implement the report of that gathering would have been a new constitution,” Briggs said.
She further argued that the right to achieve a CONSTITUTIONAL reform belonged to the electorate and not to the members of the legislature.
Falz OPINED THAT THE REAL AND URGENT FOCUS SHOULD BE TO TACKLE THE HABITUAL LACK OF RESPECT FOR The RULE OF LAW AND POOR RECORD OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY BY NIGERIA’s POLITICAL CLASS. He recommended that citizens should first collectively prioritise and organise against the worrisome lack of compliance with provisions of existing laws and the culture of impunity by public officials.
Agbakoba advised a dual approach “that is tactical in the short term to achieve amendment and strategic in the longer term to effect absolute change of constitution when the organiaing momentum of civil society is forceful enough to compel it.”
He added, “Civil society should at this time critically engage the National Assembly to amend some critical aspects like the Exclusive List to reduce the scale of functions, powers and resources of the federal government.”
Atsenuwa and Usman argued that it was impossible to get a new constitution from the existing framework and that citizens should therefore realistically engage the
Obiageli Ezekwesili and Prof. Remi Sonaiya, the Chairperson and Co-Chair of #FixPolitics, respectively, said the group had already engaged the existing system through a submission to the National Assembly asking that the 1999 Constitution be discarded and replace with a new one.
Ezekwesili stated, “For us in #FixPolitics, we have asked the National Assembly to immediately launch a new constitutional process by first convening a national conversation that is people-led and people-centered so that Nigerians can draft a new constitution and ratify through a referendum of citizens.”
The Executive Director, #FixPolitics, Anthony Ubani, in a welcome remark, noted, “The #FixPoliticsDialogue is a non-partisan platform where citizens, political class and other actors in the Nigerian polity can be engaged to free and fully debate and discuss critical national issues.