Senate rules out new Constitution

The Senate yesterday ruled out the possibility of the National Assembly producing a brand new Constitution for Nigeria.

It gave reasons.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Ovie Omo-Agege, gave the hint in his welcome address at the National Public Hearing on the review of the Constitution in Abuja.

Many eminent Nigerians and groups, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, have, at various times, advised the National Assembly to establish a process that would lead to the making of a new Constitution for the country.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) had also called for a new constitution for the country.

But Omo-Agege said while the agitations were germane, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not include a clause on how to produce a fresh document.

He said: “As we work towards an inclusive amendment process underpinned by the public good, free from manipulations by self-interested or partisan actors and not dominated by destructive or short-term motives, I encourage you all to make your inputs with candour and be guided, very importantly, by national interest.

“We are ready to listen closely to every view and reflect on every proposal and give due consideration to every contribution.

“Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amend the Constitution, we should make a new one altogether.

 

“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.”

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