By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
Abuja-Following the National Assembly’s plan to make significant amendments to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the Country representative of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung(KAS), Mrs Hildegard Behrendt-Kigozi has said that Constitutional review will help the country develop better.
Behrendt-Kigozi who said this at a Roundtable for Civil Society Organisation and Media on Constitutional Review in Abuja, noted that though the review will not solve all the problems as not all of the problems in Nigeria are related to law, said it will help to solve some of the problems and it is a step in the right direction.
She noted that there is a lot of work to be done from different angles, but stressed that it is important for talks to hold in Parliament, with executives everywhere.
The KAS Country Director said; “Citizens should make their voices heard that they want a review and they should also speak out on what they like most, in case if the house of representative stops the amendment, people should come out, raise their voice in the media and other channels to say please this is not what we want, we want amendment.
“Talking will help and elections are coming in 2019 and if people could come out and say we will not elect you if you don’t put some changes, instead we will look for a party who will promise us that the new people will do the changes which we want since they have a powerful tool”.
On the issue of Local government autonomy, she said it is important but expressed fears that there might be problems if local government is not qualified enough.
“Local government will need checks and balances so as not to think they can do what they like. Local government autonomy will be very helpful as it will help the populace directly challenge the people they voted in because they are from the same place but the people cannot challenge the Governor” she added.
Speaking on the topic “Constitutional Review”, the Head of Department, History, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife , Dr. Tunji Ogunyemi noted that no law can have any force of legitimacy and legality in a democratic state except it is anchored on the foundations laid by the constitution.
He explained that several attempts have been made in Nigeria since 1914 to unmake and reform constitutional rules, adding that Nigeria has had 10 clearly definable constitutions in her 103 years history of political struggle and nation building leading to an average of one constitution in every decade.
While noting that more than 40 areas of the fundamental law has been put up for significant amendments by the NASS, he however listed six areas of the amendment that touch directly on the very essence of Nigeria as a federation and a democracy seeking to respect the due process of law.
The six areas includes; Separation of powers of the offices of the Attorney-General of the Federation from the office if the Minister of Justice (cf.sections 150(1) and 195(1)); The powers to order expenditure in default of appropriation (cf.sections 82, 122); Removing the law making powers of the Executive organs of government (cf. sections 32, 315).
Others are: Fiscal autonomy of Local Government Councils (cf.section 162(5,6&8)); Political autonomy of Local Government Councils (cf.sections 2(2) and sections 7(1)) and Reduction in the Executive Powers of the Federal Government in favour of the Concurrent or Residuary Powers (cf.Second Schedule Parts 1 and 11).
Dr. Ogunyemi further submitted that the Nigerian Constitution is very faulty in the areas of imposing huge administrative cost on the country through the creation of a plethora of constitutional bodies that only help to increase the cost of governance at the expense of provision for economic development
He stated that Nigeria is in an uneven federation as it has two clearly divergent political and economic permutations with the North having a group of 79 states and the south consisting of 17 states.
According to him; “The challenge in Nigeria is in ensuring both vertical and horizontal balance in the apportionment of tax powers in the allocation of revenue derivable from all sources with utmost sense of equity and without doing any significant violence to the principle of federalism which the country’s founding fathers successfully established in 1954.
“Law makers should note this and make consequential amendments or alterations to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 at any time they have the opportunity”.