What it takes to amend the constitution
The 1999 Constitution isn’t in conformity with the 1963 Federal Constitution we inherited from our colonial master, the British Government. Although our name is the Federation of Nigeria and the federal government is the government of the Federation, the 1999 Constitution does not uphold the federal character of the republic of Nigeria.
If this Constitution were federal, the Federal Government would not be controlling the police, oil and minerals exclusively. Like in the 1963 Constitution, the regions would be in control of their own resources. They would have regional or local government police. Certainly the British bequeathed to us a vibrant and workable federal system of government. Sadly, this Constitution has foisted us ethnic domination, and leaders without vision which has stagnated our economic progress and prosperity.
But errors like this are not strange. They can be rectified. Such was the situation in the United States between 1787 and 1788 when their system of Confederation wasn’t working. The papers put forward then is referred to today as the Federalist Papers. Those papers persuaded Americans to adopt a federalist constitution for America. The Americans eventually ratified the current federal system of government in the country. The federal choice by the Americans more than 230 years ago is the success song on every lip in the world today.
It suffices to say, what America is today is the result of profound changes, amendments and political engineering that took blood via the civil war, tears and sacrifices. Nigeria is overcrowding the democracy highway we’re walking in. And the way is developing bump, manholes and craters and these problems are crying for solution.
This brings us to the question of how do we amend the Constitution to give us the country of our dreams? First, the mode of altering the Constitution is written in section 9 of Part 11- Powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. (1) The National Assembly may subject to the provisions of this section, alter any of the provisions of this Constitution. (3) An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of altering the provisions of this section, section 8 or Chapter 1V if this Constitution shall not be passed by either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is approved by the votes of not less than the four-fifths majority of all the members of each House and also approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the States.
Subsection (2) of section 9 was omitted because the alteration of the Constitution applies to the creation of new states. Actually, it isn’t new states we’re creating, it is new regions. The Constitution didn’t envisage the creation of new regions. Though the framers were sure of what they wanted through the stringent provisions enacted. For section 8—An Act of the National Assembly for the purpose of creating a new State (a region in our case)shall only be passed if –(a) a request supported by at least two-thirds majority of members (representing the area demanding the creation of the new State) in each of the following, namely—
(i) the Senate and the House of Representatives;
(ii) the House of Assembly in respect of the area, and
(iii) the local government councils in respect of the area, is received by the National Assembly;
(b) a proposal for the creation of the State is thereafter approved in a referendum by at least two-thirds majority of the people of the area where the demand for creation of the State originated;
© the result of the referendum is then approved by a simple majority of members of the Houses of Assembly; and
(d) the proposal is approved by a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of members of each House of the National Assembly.
This above explanation is the long winding route to true federalism. It is apparent to me, this administration cannot deliver the peoples’ republic of our dreams. We perforce must wait for the new President in 2023, for the struggle to democracy might take more than four years. What we are rooting for are six regional governments on the lines of what has emerged as zones: North-Central, North- East, North-West, South-East, South-South and South-West. These and not the 36 states should be the federating units. The law-making bodies in these regions should be those elected from the present House of Representatives Constituencies.
Each regional government should be headed by a Governor, elected by the region. The powers moved from the Centre such as resource control and regional police and local government control will anchor on the Regional Government. The 36 State structure will be retained. We are aware elections are very expensive. For Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, he had to cough out N279 million to elect local government councils this year. Same goes for Governor Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State. He has proposed N85 billion to conduct new local government elections in the State. This is why the Constitution should be amended to empower the regional governor to appoint chairmen and councilors of local governments.
Democracy, federalism, the rule of law and human rights are settled matters in the world today. They are not matters we can experiment with. We can only imitate other nations. Agitations may continue to fine-tune what is agreeable to us as a preliterate society.
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