Gbajabiamila -1999 constitution falls short of national standards

Written by on June 1, 2021

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has listed the issues with the 1999 Constitution presently run by Nigeria, saying the law was hurriedly
put together and falls short of the required standards.

Gbajabiamila said this in Lagos on Tuesday at the public hearing organised by the House’ Special Committee on the Review of the Constitution.

The Speaker noted that the hearing was part of a deliberate effort by the National Assembly to seek the guidance and support of citizens towards amending the
Constitution.

He also noted that it was not the first time the parliament had undertaken such a task, “but this may very well be the most important constitutional amendment process in
our nation’s recent history because the decisions we make now will have far-reaching consequences for the future of Nigeria.”

Gbajabiamila said, “A nation’s Constitution is the foundation of its existence. It is supposed to set the terms of our nationhood and define who we are in a manner that
reflects both our common truths and highest aspirations. Our constitution falls short of this standard because the 1999 Constitution is the product of a hurried national
compromise that we entered into two decades ago in order to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and that we returned to democratic government.

“It was always the intention that we will one day as one people and one nation, return to amend this document so that it gives voice to the yearnings of the Nigerian
people and sets out in clear details how we intend to achieve the shared ambitions of our nationhood. Providence has cast upon the 9th National Assembly the
responsibility to write such a constitution for the Nigerian people.

“The foundational constitution of the United States of America deemed people of colour to be ‘less than’ and denied women the right to vote. It did not include any limits
on the President’s term of office and allowed for citizens to be denied the right to vote for failure to pay the ‘poll tax’.

“Twenty-seven reviews and amendments, over one hundred years cured these and other defects. No nation in the world has a perfect constitution, but we need a near
perfect constitution in Nigeria and we can achieve that through substantive amendments that significantly alter the character of our nation.”

The Speaker stated that the task before the lawmakers was now to use the process of review and amendment to devise a Constitution that resolves the issues of identity
and political structure, human rights and the administration of government, resource control, national security and “so much else that have fractured our nation and
hindered our progress and prosperity.”

He added that the National Assembly is to produce a Constitution that “turns the page on our past, yet heeds its many painful lessons.” While noting that it is not an easy
task, he stressed that it is a necessary and urgent one.

Gbajabiamila said, “We will not be able to deliver on this historic assignment if we restrict ourselves to tinkering around the edges of the constitution or by imposing upon
ourselves artificial redlines that restrict honest conversation.

“We will have failed in our mandate if the Constitution that emerges from this process continues to look to our past rather than reflect our present and speak to our future.
We have an opportunity for renewal, and we must seize it, or face the harsh judgment of history.

“Through this constitutional review process, we have it in our power to restructure our government to make it more effective, reorganise our politics to make it more
inclusive, enshrine efficient mechanisms for holding the institutions of state to account and put an end to the debilitating conflicts that even now continue to tear our nation
apart.

“We will do what is necessary to achieve these outcomes because all of us in the House of Representatives recognise that this moment in our history is fraught with
promise and peril, and the future of our country lies in our hands.”

 

 



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