Vanguard (Lagos)

18 October 2011

Nigeria: National Assembly Review of the 1999 Constitution

opinion

THE following quote describes absolutist governments: "Like the crowns of France and Spain, the English monarchy had no superior in its realm, it was not in any way answerable to its subjects for its policy or actions, and no lawful means or agencies existed to control, correct, or coerce it if it was guilty of excess or wrong doing...The clearest evidence of English Absolutism, however, was the crown's possession of 'absolute power', something similar to what the French and Spanish jurists held to be inherent in their own monarchies.

In the English context, absolute power designated that part of the royal prerogative that permitted the king to disregard the common law and normal legal process when in his judgment of matters of state and policy, the general welfare and safety of the kingdom, or the arcana imperil were at stake.

This entailed an indefinite range of action subject only to the king's discretion... English judges in the earlier seventeenth century even constructed absolute power to mean that the king had the laws in his own breast, a formula ironically, that the Popes and Roman emperors once used for their own absolutism". (Monarchy, Absolutism, Political System in Perez Zagorin's Rebels and Rulers 1500-1600).

If therefore the hallmark of absolutist power, be it papal, imperial or monarchical, were that the rulers:

-Had no superior in their realm;

-Were not in any way answerable to their subjects;

-That no lawful means or agencies existed to control, correct or coerce them if they were guilty of excess or wrong doing;

-That rulers had the prerogative that permitted them to disregard the law and normal legal process when in their judgment matters of state and policy were at stake, a judgment enabling them to take an infinite range of actions subject only to their discretion, then it can be said that government in Nigeria, at the centre, the state and local areas, is absolutist given the criteria listed above. However the 1999 Constitution stipulates otherwise for Section14:2 (a) states that:

"a) Sovereignty belongs to the People of Nigerian from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority".

If we likened the people to a financier that bankrolls government and the power and authority as finances made available to government, the people's sovereignty would be demonstrated by its ability to withhold all power authority from government.

The Constitution in this construction will be the mechanism by which the people at their discretion supply government the power and authority it requires to function in the service of the people. This is the relationship between the People of Nigeria and Government as stated in Section 14(2)(b) namely, that: "The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government".

Section 14(2)(b) thus describes government as the policy instrument of the sovereign People of Nigeria. Section 14(2)(c), however, suggests that another "agency", other than the sovereign, must facilitate the functioning of the people as the sovereign; this is to be inferred from the following:

"(c) The participation by the people in the government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution".

Subsection 14(2)(c) read in sequence to 14(2)(a) and 14(2)(b) can only mean, where logic is not stood on its head, that the participation of the people in their government in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution is that which ensures that sovereignty belongs "to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its power and authority".

The agency that functions to establish or consolidate Nigeria government as an absolutist institution is an agency that has not ensured that the participation of the people in their government is "in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution".

This result of such operation of this "enabling agency" whose existence is implied in the duty assigned it by Section 14(2)(c) will therefore be the negation of Section 14(2)(c) of the Constitution. The conclusion that follows from the above is that the subsections (a) (b) (c) of Section 14(2) of this 1999 Constitution are yet to be implemented or that they have been suspended by the institutions of government in their administration of the affairs of the people.

In seeking explanations for the present "unconstitutional" relations between government and the People of Nigeria through the examination of the provisions of the Constitution, we discover that this Constitution is premised upon the prior existence of an absolutist government and that its provisions confines the role of the People of Nigeria to voting for those put forward by political parties.

Part 1 of Chapter 5 details the provisions of the Constitution for the National Assembly. Part II does the same for House of Assembly of a state. Chapter VI Part I states the prescriptions of the Constitution for the state executive. Part III contains the provisions captioned supplemental that describes the functions and authority of :

*National population census;

*Nigeria Police Force;

*The Armed Force of the Federation; and

*Political parties

Chapter VII deals with the Judicature

Part 1 pertains to the Federal courts;

Part II with the state courts;

Part III with the Election Tribunal; and

Part IV with the Supplemental.

Chapter VIII provides for the government of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and General Supplemental Provisions.

The import of listing of the institutions of government is to demonstrate the "faiti accompli" prescriptions of the promulgators of This Constitution". Government has prescribed "by fiat" the functions of government. Its operations, powers and authority are also as prescribed.

The Constitution "speaks" absolutistically by fiat; "there shall be" and "what is" is thus confirmed. The "there shall be" are not suggestions, or recommendations, they are certification of the pronouncements of government through whose agency "this Constitution" came into being.

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