The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the 1999 constitution falls short of the standard expected of a constitution.
Mr Gbajabiamila described the document as a “hurried compromise.”
He stated this at the Lagos centre of the special committee on constitution review zonal public hearing.
The committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase, is conducting public hearing across all the geopolitical zones.
The South-west zone has two centres; Lagos and Akure centres. The Lagos centre comprises Lagos, Oyo and Ogun States while Akure centre is hosting Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States.
“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 other to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and that we returned to democratic government.”
Mr Gbajabiamila noted that not all constitutions are perfect, citing the Constitution of the United States as an example.
He explained that the imperfection of the Nigerian constitution informed the ongoing amendment process.
“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,” he said.
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“Twenty-seven reviews and amendments, over one hundred years cured these and other defects.”
He added, “The task before us now is to use this process of review and amendment to devise for ourselves a constitution that resolves the issues of identity and political structure, of 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.”
The speaker also preached against “artificial red lines that restrict honest conversation.”
Calls for new constitution
Mr Gbajabiamila’s statement is coming in the wake of growing calls for the adoption of a new constitution.
Legal veteran, Afe Babalola, recently called on the National Assembly to adopt the 1963 constitution, as he described any attempt to amend the current 1999 constitution as a waste of time.
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural association, Afenifere, has also called for the adoption of a new constitution before the 2023 general elections.
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