Controversy Trails Legality Of 1999 Constitution


*No amount of amendment can give legality to the illegal 1999 Constitution says Ozekhome

*It is only the court that can void the constitution, replied Omo-Agege


As the national public hearing on the review of the 1999 constitution came to an end on Friday in Abuja, more controversy trails the legality of the law book and desirability for a new one.

While representatives of the five South South states under the umbrella of BRADEC United Assembly described the 1999 Constitution as illegal and a contraption not desirable by majority of Nigerians, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo- Agege said it is only a court of competent jurisdiction that can set aside the constitution as illegal.

Responding to BRADEC’s submission that making of a new constitution is possible through the elected representatives in the National Assembly, the Deputy Senate President advised the body to approach the court and stop the implementation of the Constitution.

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekjome, a member of BRADEC who made a personal presentation at the second day of the Senate public hearing
said the 1999 Constitution is an illegal document which should be jettisoned rather than decorating it with series of amended clauses.

He specifically said there is “no amount of amendment can make illegality, legal”.

Rather, he called on the Senate Committee to adopt various recommendations of past Consultative bodies and memoranda submitted during the zonal hearings, in commencing the process for a new constitution.

Ozekhome took up Senator Omo – Agege on his submission on Thursday that the National Assembly lacks the powers to set the entire 1999 Constitution aside and birth a new document.

The Senior Advocate said though the National Assembly lacks the powers; it can begin the process of bringing about a new constitution for the country.

He said the “1999 Constitution was hurriedly compiled from the schedules of Decree 4 by the military.

“The constitution is a unitary document which over concentrated powers at the centre in a federation.”

Ozekhome said “the 1999 Constitution to “an illegitimate child” , pointing out that no amount of amendments will give it legitimacy.

“You cannot put something on nothing”, he told the Panel.

After the adoption of their submission, the spokesperson for BRADEC, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi faulted the remarks by Omo – Agege that the Nigerian people cannot have a brand new constitution even when it is widely accepted that the 1999 Constitution is seriously flawed.

The group said while it may not be feasible to immediately have a new constitution; the National Assembly can begin the process now.

The Deputy Senate President, thereafter urged Ozekhome and by extension, BRADEC to first seek the amendment of Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution before commencing the process of having a new constitution.

A member of the Senate Committee on constitution review, Opeyemi Bamidele also supported this assertion by the Committee chairman.

Bamidele (APC Ekiti) said though having a new constitution is desirable but the current situation and letters of the constitution does not allow for it.

He advised those clamouring for a new constitution to sit back and look at the process to be involved while asking how would the nation be administered when the process is ongoing.

The senator urged all Nigerians to allow the ongoing process be concluded while there will be an opportunity for further review as amendment is a continuous process.

Bringing the two day deliberations to a close at 12.30pm, Committee chairman,Omo -Agege appreciated all sections of Nigerians, corporate bodies, ethnic nationalities, religious bodies, professional groups and individuals that made presentations at the zonal and national hearings.

He said the Committee has tried as possible to harness inputs from people, which will make the alteration, a people alteration.

The chairman, however, advised those that made submissions not to rest on their oars but reach out to their elected representatives in both chambers of the National Assembly to ensure adequate representation during the voting process on items listed for alteration.