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There would be no new Constitution, says Senate

By Sanni Onogu, Abuja

The Senate has ruled out the possibility of a brand new Constitution for Nigeria.

Chairman Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, gave the hint at the National Public Hearing on the review of the constitution in Abuja.

Nigerians and groups, including Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Afe Babalola SAN and former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili have called on the National Assembly to establish a process that would lead to the making of a new Constitution in the country.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) had also called for a new Constitution.

But Omo-Agege said while the agitations are germane, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not include a clause on how to produce fresh constitution.

According to him: “We are ready to listen closely to every view and reflect on every proposal and give due consideration to every contribution.

“Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amending the Constitution, we should make a new Constitution all together.

“We respect this opinion, and we believe it is a most desirable proposition. However, we are conducting this exercise in accordance with the extant legal order, which is the 1999 Constitution.

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“Specifically, Section 9 of the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to alter the provisions of the Constitution and prescribes the manner in which it is to be done.

“Unfortunately, it does not make similar provision or provide mechanism for replacing or re-writing an entirely new Constitution.

“To embark on any process without prior alteration of Section 9 of the Constitution to provide the mode through which an entirely new Constitution could be made, would amount to gross violation of our oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

“In other words, it will take a new Constitutional amendment to be able to give Nigerians a most desired new Constitution. It would be unconstitutional to do otherwise.”

Among requests made by participants at the hearing include the urgent need for a referendum to pave way for the emergence of a new constitution for the country.

Some of the stakeholders also called for full financial autonomy for Local Governments, State legislatures and the judiciary in the country.

There were also calls for the creation of a ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs and the assignment of roles to traditional rulers in the constitution.

The need to make the Federal Capital City (FCC) administratively independent was also canvassed.

The original indigenous development association also called for a state status for the FCT and the appointment of an FCT indigene as a federal executive council members.

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