Senate has ruled out a new constitution for Nigerians despite a massive campaign for it.
Several stakeholders, including Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have called for a new constitution that will reflect the agitations of many Nigerians, rather than amending the existing constitution, which they have said has outlived its usefulness.
According to them, the current constitution of 1999 can’t adequately address the socio-economic challenges now afflicting the country.
Afe Babalola, an erudite lawyer, had said that there is a very simple solution to the growing insecurity in the country, and that is a new constitution.
Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Senate President, said it would be unconstitutional to provide an entirely new law without first amending Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution at a public hearing in Abuja.
Omo-Agege noted “Now, some of our compatriots want us to write a new Constitution rather than amend the current one.”. We respect this opinion, and believe that it is one that is very desirable.
However, we are conducting this exercise in accordance with the existing 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 how it may be done.
“Unfortunately, it does not make similar provisions or provide mechanisms for replacing or writing an entirely new Constitution.
“To proceed without first altering Section 9 of the Constitution, which provides the mechanism by which an entirely new Constitution can be authored, would be to violate our oath of allegiance to the Constitution.
A new Constitutional amendment will be needed to give Nigerians the most desired new Constitution. It is unconstitutional to do otherwise.”
Ezekwesili wants a referendum for new constitution
But a former Minister of Education, Obi Ezekwesili, insisted at the hearing that production of a brand new constitution remained the only way to address the nation’s social, political and economic crisis.
She urged the constitution review panel to consider just one amendment to the law which would only provide for a referendum to produce a brand new constitution.
“The National Assembly should work with citizens to outline a new constitution Process and the Agenda for a single-issue amendment of the 1999 Constitution to allow a referendum on new constitution,” she said.
Earlier, Senate President Ahmad Lawan advised Nigerians with pressing views to build a national consensus around them to ensure the amendment of the constitution in their favour.