It’s like the 1963 Constitution holds the ace, By Echefuna ’R G Onyebeadi

Posted by News Express | 28 November 2020 | 463 times

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This is my opinion on the ongoing discussion on whether to continue to amend the military constitution imposed on Nigerians since 1999 or discard same for a new one.

For a start, let me state that, having read all the post-independence Constitutions of Nigeria, it seems to me that the 1963 Constitution better represents and defines our essence and purpose more as a people under God Almighty.

Going by multiple factors when the 1963 Constitution was in operation, despite certain operational lapses and given the benefit of hindsight, that period under reference seemingly marks the golden era of Nigeria in terms of governance modalities.

The first three sections of chapter 1 of the said 1963 Constitution provides as follows:

Chapter 1: The Federation and its territories

Effect of this Constitution

1. This Constitution shall have the force of law throughout Nigeria and, subject to the provisions of section 4 of this constitution, if any other law (including the constitution of a Region) is inconsistent with this constitution, this constitution shall prevail and the other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

Establishment of the Federal Republic

2. Nigeria shall be a Federation comprising of regions and a Federal territory and shall be a republic by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Territories of the Federation

3. (1) There shall be four Regions, that is to say, Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria and Mid-Western Nigeria.

(2) The Regions and Federal territory shall consist of the areas comprised in those territories respectively on the thirtieth day of September, 1963.

Contrary to 1 above, no state in Nigeria today operates its own constitution. Wherein then lays our claim to a “Federal Republic of Nigeria”?

By 2 above, Nigeria was affirmed as a federation in word and indeed while section 3 defines the territories of the federation.

These opening provisions of the 1963 Constitution are core and very fundamental to the corporate existence, peace and good governance of the country, Nigeria.

Therefore, it is my candid opinion that it makes better sense to revert to this 1963 Constitution that affirms our individuality in our collective as a country without compromising the integrity of one Nigeria.

While advocating that we adopt this 1963 as is with a possibility of future alterations as provided for in section 4 of Chapter 1 of the said constitution come 2023, the question that readily agitates the mind is: What becomes of the present states in Nigeria and the so called “six geopolitical zones”?

Let me first invite us to take note that, many of the states in Nigeria today are highly insolvent and not viable even with the present “feeding bottle system” of the Federal Government.

The much-taunted “six geopolitical zones” has no force of any law whatsoever and has never been a part of any constitution of Nigeria.

If the said “six geopolitical zones”, which was crafted during the military interregnum for some administrative convenience aimed at begging the reality or curing the symptom instead of the disease were that perfect and generally acceptable, why was it not incorporated into the military constitution imposed on Nigerians since 1999 or added to the 1999 constitution in the previous amendments of the incurably defective 1999 constitution?

So, going forward, the states as presently constituted should first find their location within the four regions specified in the 1963 Constitution, probably as autonomous provinces therein.

The states, or parts thereof, could then be free to merge and/or demerge from the region and/or team up with others within their region and/or in agreement with another region or part thereof to form another state/region or remain autonomous within their respective region by negotiations, followed by referendum and/or legislative affirmation.

To this end, therefore, the present so called “six geopolitical zones”, which doesn’t have the force of any known law and not enforceable, should be dispensed with forthwith.

Consequently, instead of the recurrent ritual and wasteful exercises to continue to amend the present comatose 1999 constitution, the National Assembly should simply delete the schedule that incorporated the 1999 Constitution into the military decree that created it (which is now assumed to be an Act of the National Assembly) and replace same with the 1963 Constitution for the concurrence of States House of Assembly, to become the “amended” Constitution that will become operational come 2023, at the expiration of all the current elective positions, as an act of the National Assembly.

This new act of the National Assembly that incorporates the 1963 Constitution should then become the basis for all elective offices come 2023.

By the foregoing simple action, Nigeria would have killed two birds with just one stone at a very minimal cost and time-saving, as follows:

(i) that of restructuring the polity, and

(ii) that of giving ourselves a cost-effective and easy-to-operate constitution, which is truly of “We The People!”




•Prof. Echefuna ’R G Onyebeadi writes from Abuja.

Source: News Express

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