Nigeria's historical need: Constitutional Amendment or Replacement?


After being willed into existence from Lord Lugard and Miss Shaw's colonial laboratory of artificial insemination, Nigeria has battled issues that concern her existence, one of which concerns constitutional matters. This piece thus seeks to explain what Nigeria needs as pertains her constitution- a total overhaul birthing a new constitution, or a facial rebranding of the former. Gabriel L. Negretto in his work on Latin America, (In Replacing and Amending Constitutions: The Logic of Constitutional Change in Latin America) confirms that replacement and amendment are two substantively different means of constitutional transformation. Without compariaon, no doubt, Nigeria, fusion in and out of different republics has involved either of these means of constitutional transformation. How the dynamics of time affects our stance and choice for the future hence comes to play.

image source: pexels
Like Equity to common law, Constitutional Amendment is a phrase to mean "a modification of the constitution of a nation or state.". Similarly, Constitutional replacement means a total look different from the existing body of rules. S9, 1999 CFRN deals with the process by which the constitution can be amended depending on the part of the constitution that is to be altered. There is a procedure for four-fifth majority of each member of the House of Assembly, stringent for alteration. The other procedure covers a two-third majority, and at least 24 State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. Then, the President gives an assent.


The saying that there is no perfect Government structure or constitution is that such does not operate itself but by human beings that should have the sense of what is good or bad and judgement between right and wrong. Constitutional amendment is not a piecemeal exercise undertaken in each term of Government. Where you cannot bring about a brand new constitution, you carry out a holistic amendment. Analysts have blamed the People's Democratic Party (PDP) that controlled the Federal Government since May 1999 on the emergence of a new constitution, the means and machinery to have carried these, as they are today, were abundant in the country.

In constitutional amendment, it will be proper to touch areas like religion, properly define it and what it accommodates. Also, Government Structure should also shift emphasis from too much administration to direct means of production, clearly defining areas of responsibility of the tiers; minimised duplicity of function but what the Federal Government can delegate to Local Governments in the exclusive, concurrent and residual lists. The constitution should also adopt a Rotational Presidency system cut through regions, ethnics and religions to bridge discontent in the hearts off citizens

A restructure of the Police is highly essential. The current centralised system with one Inspector General at the national should change and positive policies be effected. State Government area Police should not be contemplated. The Governor and hierarchy of the State will covert the Police as their private army against their opponents. The potential abuse is too much to ignore. 

Generally, the immunity clause in the Constitution that covers the President and Governors should be edited. Also a four year term is enough for honest, serious and competent leaders to achieve results. A re-election should be based on a standard of performance. Again, the number of Traditional Rulers in Nigeria is about thrice that of the members of the National Assembly. Traditional Rulers should not be accorded constitutional recognition as it brings them to conflict with the secular society leading to their replacement with elected Mayors. Some Traditional Rulers do not have or maintain the tradition of succession by  hereditary. Some are only appointed- kings are born. In the northern Nigeria, the Emirs double as Traditional Rulers and heads of religious bodies. We do not want to maintain feudalism in dilution and abreast of democracy. Traditional Rulers are better recognised within their localities.

We should at this stage be able to bring about a new constitution or carry out a holistic amendment. Truth remains still that if a constitution is properly amended, there may be little or no need for a new one. However, If either of them comes forth, it should only be reviewed at specific intervals, say per 10 years. The National Assembly needs to reduce its annual vacation from six to three weeks, consolidate and streamline its operation in order to minimise cost. 

Constitutions are likely replaced when constitutional crises are frequent and political actors lack capacity to implement changes by amendments or judicial interpretation, or when a constitutional regime has a power-concentrating design. Arguably, the frequency of amendments depends on the length, detail of the constitution and the interaction between the rigidity of the amendment procedure and the fragmentised party systems. By normative implications of this analysis, constitutional amendments in Nigeria is long overdue. This is because Nigeria has pulled through all of these.

Conclusively, whether it is the case of constitution amendment or replacement in Nigeria, the fact still remains that the evil in the system would not permit true functionality of the process. For example, the commendable strides of the Bukola-Saraki led senate once mentioned certain clauses for amendment, ranging from Devolution of powers, the land use Act, affirmation action for women and state creation boundary adjustment amongst others. These were frustrated by the ethnic, political and religious interests of the law makers as well as a lack of understanding of the implications of some of these clauses if they are left untouched. There is the failure of the Senate, but then a new constitution would be appreciated.

Post a Comment

0 Comments