The Senate, on Thursday, ruled out the possibility of giving Nigerians a new constitution despite a mass campaign for it.
Different stakeholders and groups, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, had called for a new constitution that will capture the agitations of many Nigerians, instead of amending the present 1999 constitution, which they said had outlived its usefulness.
- Boko Haram War: Let’s Emulate Late Idriss Deby – Buba Galadima
- Buhari seeks global backing to develop Niger Basin, completes tenure as NBA chair
They said the current 1999 constitution can not sufficiently address the socio-economic challenges currently pummeling the nation.
“There is a very simple solution to the growing insecurity in the country and that is a new constitution,” Afe Babalola, an erudite lawyer, had said.
But speaking at a national public hearing on the alteration to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution in Abuja, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, said it would be unconstitutional to embark on any process to provide an entirely new law without prior alteration of Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution.
Omo-Agege said: “Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amending the Constitution, we should make a new Constitution all together. We respect this opinion, and we believe it is a most desirable proposition.
“However, we are conducting this exercise in accordance with the extant 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 the manner in which it is to be done.
“Unfortunately, it does not make similar provision or provide mechanism for replacing or re-writing an entirely new Constitution.
“To embark on any process without prior alteration of Section 9 of the Constitution to provide the mode through which an entirely new Constitution could be made, would amount to gross violation of our oath of allegiance to the Constitution.
“In other words, it will take a new Constitutional amendment to be able to give Nigerians a most desired new Constitution. It would be 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.