A former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN); former House of Representatives member, Dr Usman Bugaje; and celebrity, Folarin Falana, a.k.a. Falz, have faulted the Nigerian 1999 Constitution.
While speaking during the inaugural launch of #FixPoliticsDialogue, they said that the country needed a constitution that will reflect the genuine will of the citizens.
Other panelists and guest speakers at the event are Prof Ayo Atsenuwa, Ann-Kio Briggs, Mike Utsaha, Joyce Daniel and Amyna Usman.
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 organising 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 process.
The Chairperson and Co-Chair of #FixPolitics, Obiageli Ezekwesili and Prof. Remi Sonaiya, 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.
A statement from the organiser quoted Ezekwesili as saying, “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-centred so that Nigerians can draft a new constitution and ratify through a referendum of citizens.”