Memo to The Constitution Review Committee – By Binzak Azeez
Constitution making or amendment process in any democratic polity is a
herculean task due to its participatory modality – listening to people
of different ideas, values and aspirations. A unanimous constitutional
arrangement is unrealistic even in the most homogeneous sovereign state.
The integration of everyone’s purview into constitutional
configuration is impracticable.
Invariably, every multifaceted state would always encounter more
cumbersome controversy on constitution review exercise. And Nigeria
can’t be an exception in this respect. The review committee should
just maintain a high level of commitment, sincerity, openness and due
process in carrying out the proposed exercise.
Nigeria needs a well – deserved constitutional framework than the
current document, even considering the regular challenges that usually
bedevil other multifaceted sovereign states in nation-building. Although
Nigerians are unanimous in the quest for constitution review, the
absence of a unified modality for the task has been a persistent
obstacle. This exact challenge has also begun to rear its ugly head.
Once and for all, the committee must fashion out a workable modality for
the assignment ahead.
Having found this workable ground, the following provisions of the 1999
Constitution, as amended, should be reviewed. The argument that national
security is subservient to the rule of Law as determined by the
president is a threat to the entire provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
The democratic institutions created by this constitution as well are
liable to suspension at will. The provisions in Sec 6(b) and Sec 36(1)
and (4) should therefore expressly subject national security – related
matters to court determination.
The unenforceable proviso of fundamental objectives and directive
principles of state policy under Sec 6(c) should be rescinded. The
proviso subjects the constitutional objectives of Nigerian government at
all levels to their whims and caprices. The Nigerian government has
chosen mis-governance contrary to the dividends of democracy enshrined
in the objectives of state policy under Chapter two. Therefore, the
provisions in Chapter two should expressly be enforceable in the court.
Immunity Clause in Sec 308 must be removed to strengthen Nigeria’s
democracy. The inclusion of state police in provisions under Sec 214 is
essential to complement and revamp the moribund internal security
architecture in the country.
Lastly, the Nigerian constitution is inconsequential if government
officials continue to choose the court’s order to obey. On the grounds
of contempt of court, there should be provisions that empower the court
to declare the seat of any erring public officers vacant.
Binzak Azeez writes from the faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University,