11 April 2017

Nigeria: Senate Orders Withdrawal of Nigeria Constitution From Circulation

Photo: Premium Times

Disturbed over the proliferation of versions and copies of the 1999 Constitution as amended in the country, the Senate has called for the immediate withdrawal of the document in circulation, with a bid to harmonizing it into one constitution that would be a uniform one.

Against this backdrop the Senate Tuesday mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to liaise with the National Judicial and the Attorney-General and other relevant agencies to withdraw the different versions of the Constitution in circulation, just as it urged the Committee to with all the other government agencies to authorize the printing and distribution of an authentic and consolidated version which should reflect the different alterations in the Constitution since 1999.

The Senate particularly called for "the printing and distribution of the authentic, consolidated Constitution of the Federation with the different alterations embedded where they belong to make the Constitution one whole document to guide the generality of the Nigerian populace and the international community".

The resolution of the Senate was sequel to subsequent to motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North and titled, "Harmonising the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole."

Presenting the motion, Senator Utazi stressed that the Constitution came into force on May 29, 1999 with eight chapters, 320 sections and seven schedules, adding that in some versions, Sections 84 ends with subsection (6) while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with subsection 7.

Senator Utazi said, "The senate: Recognizes that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came into force on May 29, 1999 with eight Chapters, Three Hundred and Twenty Sections and Seven Schedules;

"Aware that the Constitution of any Country is the grand norm from which all other laws, instruments and institutions derive their authority, legitimacy and powers;

"Aware that since 1999, the Constitution has successfully gone through three alterations, in July 2010, November 2010 and March 2011 respectively and in each case, amending various provisions to bring them in conformity with contemporary democratic practice and realities;

"Concerned that these alterations are printed as separate provisions and there has not been an attempt to embed and graft them into the Constitution as one whole living document;

"Worried that there are different versions of the original 1999 Constitution and of the three alterations, with various copies in circulation. Worried that the Constitution is the heart-beat of the nation and its provisions should not be subjected to the caprices of printers or allowed to have different words and structure;

"Aware for instance that in some versions, Section 84 ends with subsection (6), while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with subsection (7) while the first alteration has provided for subsection (8) of Section 84. This is also true of Section 66 (1) (h), which was deleted by Section 2 of the First Alteration Act, but which some versions of the constitution still retain. There are many other mix-ups and this creates confusion for Lawyers, Judges, law Students, other Practitioners, Legislators at the various levels, those who consult our Constitution to determine the state of the law, and the general public;

"Concerned that the existence of various versions of the Constitution makes it an unreliable source of law, whittles down its force as the fundamental authority for all laws in Nigeria and does not make for certainty of its provisions, dilutes its potency in the hierarchy of laws and makes it susceptible to misinterpretation by mischief-makers who may want to take advantage of the situation,

In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki then ruled and mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to urgently liaise with relevant organs of the government in ensuring harmonization of the different versions and copies of the Constitution in circulation into one authentic whole.


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