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‘Why Nigeria needs new constitution, reduction of legislative committees’

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Ahmad Lawan. Photo: TWITTER/NGRSENATE

To correct the anomalies in Nigeria’s political space, legal minds have called on the National Assembly to commence the process of enacting a new constitution in the country as the present one was foisted on Nigerians by the military.

They also queried the number of standing committees for oversight functions in the National Assembly, saying they were too much as most of their works were overlapping, thereby creating an impression that Nigerians were being over supervised.

The Jurists, who spoke on Tuesday at the 17th edition of the yearly lecture of Crusade for Justice held in Lagos, themed: “Good Governance, A Myth or Reality In Africa?” noted that the present constitutional democratic experience has not yielded the needed result despite undergoing several metamorphoses.

Leading the call at the event, former chief justice of Lagos and chairman, Lagos State Electoral Commission (LASIEC), Justice Ayo Philips (Retd), expressed worries over the manner the country was going backward in a rapid pace despite the huge human and natural resources in the country.

She asked if the 1999 constitution foisted on Nigerians could not be discarded to allow for a people’s constitution devoid of immunity clause as well as guaranteed law and order witnessed in saner climes.

The former judge lamented that the country had so many potentials yet does not seem to get it right.

She averred that until the immunity clause in the constitution was expunged so that offenders could be made to face prosecution, the country would not make appreciable progress.

Also, the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa decried the rationale behind a large number of standing committees in the national assembly, stressing that it bred corruption rather than being in the interest of Nigerians.

Prof Atsenuwa, who spoke on Legislative Oversight Functions in A Democracy, A Case Study of Nigeria, stressed that while the United States of American Senate had only16 standing committees, the Nigerian senate had 56 with 85 for the House of Representatives.

She said such over-bloated committees gave the impression that the country was over supervised, while competency was also lacking in the legislative functions and prolonged struggle with the executive.

The don called for the election of competent people in the legislature for proper legislative oversight, which is an intrinsic aspect of lawmaking.

For the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, respect for the rule of law is on the decline as witnessed by the lack of obedience of court orders by courts of competent jurisdiction.

The don, who spoke on the topic: ‘Rule of Law In Contemporary Nigeria, A Myth Or Reality,’ expressed worries over the use of excessive powers by the executive to suppress oppositions.

Represented by Dr Joyce Okubiro, the dean bemoaned the suppression of freedom of speech by the present administration, even though it rode on it to power.

On his part, the Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the deputy director, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Akin George, called for synergy in the three arms of government without necessarily compromising the checks and balances to guarantee good governance.

Earlier, President and Founder, Crusade for Justice, Richard Nwankwo, called on Nigerians to support activists and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that engage politicians through the judicial process.

The founder, in his address, tagged, “Politics In Nigeria As A Metaphor, Signifying Mess,” pointed out that the nation’s democratic system could be described as an example of “voodoo democracy” supported and anchored on a decree that was engineered by an army of generals who are unrepentant.

He said: “I appeal to Nigerians to support those questioning and challenging political rascality, recklessness, and high handedness through the judicial process and not malign them.

“This brings me to my opening remarks about courage. If you lack courage, why not stay away from the activities of those showing glimpses of courage. It takes courage to challenge evil and those risking their lives, challenging the same, are not stupid.”

He further tasked Nigerians to hold the government accountable. “The decree, now christened the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended by my own understanding, as a constitutional lawyer, is nothing but “Digital Witchcraft,” a ready instrument in the hands of these internal colonialists,” he said.

Nwankwo alleged that critical arms of government were firmly in the hands of misfits, adding that oversight functions have been halted due to internal colonialists and their agents.


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