Disagreements over 1999 Constitution

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A panel is in agreement that the 1999 Constitution is faulty and does not portray the genuine interest of the citizens, but were divergent in their views on whether it should be changed or amended.

The submission of the panelists at the inaugural launch of #FixPoliticsDialogue was contained in a statement by the group’s spokesperson, Ozioma Ubabukoh. The discussants, according to the statement, included Dr. Usman Bugaje, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Prof Ayo Atsenuwa, Ann-Kio Briggs, Mike Utsaha, and Folarin Falana (a.k.a. Falz). Joyce Daniel and Amyna Usma were guest speakers at the event.

The statement reads: “The National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly hold the paraphernalia on which the constitution can be amended or changed, while the civil society groups are expected to be organised around strategic and tactical engagement with the system of governance.

“#FixPolitics has initiated the platform to engender conversation for a total change or amendment of the 1999 Constitution in a way that would guarantee and bring about improvement in the quality of life of the Nigerian citizens.”

READ ALSO: 1999 Constitutional Review: South East Zonal Public Hearing

Bugaje argued that the responsibility to reform or replace the constitution rested on the shoulders of the lawmakers. He said: “For the moment, I think we have to continue to engage, push for change if we can get change, push for that critical amendment that will give us that incremental inch that will take us to where we want to be.”

On her part, Briggs supported a total change of the constitution, stressing that 1999 edition was built on a faulty foundation and noted that Nigeria had gone through different constitutional reforms since 1914. She said: “If, perhaps, we had gone ahead and started the implementation of Goodluck Jonathan’s 2014 National Conference, what would have eventually come out of the attendance to implement the report of that gathering would have been a new constitution.”

Falz said citizens should first collectively prioritize and organize against the worrisome lack of compliance with provisions of existing laws and the culture of impunity by public officials.

Agbakoba advised a dual approach “that is tactical in the short term to achieve amendment and strategic in the longer term to effect an absolute change of constitution when the organizing momentum of civil society is forceful enough to compel it.”

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