By Tony Akowe, Abuja
The House of Representatives said on Sunday a new Constitution remains impossible because the 1999 Constitution only made provisions for amendments.
The House also said returning to the 1963 constitution as being demanded by some sections of the country was impracticable because it will only take the powers of the people and confer them on a few individuals.
Reacting to agitations in some quarters that the ongoing constitutional amendment process should be abandoned for a brand new Constitution, House spokesman Benjamin Kalu said: “The constitution establishes the parameters and limits of government engagement and power. It serves as a tool for the government to determine the extent to which it can impose laws and regulations on the country’s population.
“The Constitution serves three important functions. It is the legal document from which every institution in the country gets its validity; it contains all the fundamental rights of every Nigerian citizen and it is the basis of the social contract between citizens and the state”.
Speaking on the 1963 constitution, Kalu said: “The 1963 Constitution had certain merits at the time. In that document, an elected president replaced the British Monarch who was Nigeria’s head under the Independence Constitution and the constitution was an autochthonous one credited for being a product of extensive consultation and public input.
“It made the Supreme Court the final court of appeal instead of the British Privy Council and the rights of Nigerian citizens were fully guaranteed and entrenched in it.
“Despite these merits of the 1963 constitution, Nigerians must acknowledge that law is made for man and not man for the law. The 1963 constitution was ideal for a Nigeria that had just attained its independence and was still asserting its sovereignty and freedom from British colonial influence.
“Our country, and indeed, the world have evolved from the prevailing circumstances of 58 years ago and as such, we must focus on improving the current constitution rather than adopting a 6-decade old constitution.
“We must also acknowledge the fact that the 1963 constitution was an imperfect document that had certain demerits. These include the fact that the President was elected by the National Assembly who constituted the minority instead of the majority of the electorate.
“It permitted ‘carpet-crossing’ in which elected politicians shifted party allegiance for personal rewards, there was parliamentary supremacy in the constitution, while the Prime Minister was accountable to the parliament and not to the people.
“So, rather than replacing the 1999 constitution with an archaic one, I am strongly of the opinion that a comparative analysis of the merits and demerits of both Constitutions must be had in order to adopt that which worked from 1963 and expunge that which does not work in the current constitution”.
He added: “While the calls for a total constitutional overhaul are valid and understandable, we must acknowledge that the situation in Nigeria demands a quick review of the constitution as opposed to a total overhaul, for want of time.
“A review of the Constitution has become necessary in the face of growing insecurity and threats exposing the fragility of the Nigerian state. Fortunately, the 9th House of Representatives has severally affirmed its commitment to reviewing the 1999 Constitution in line with the yearnings of Nigerians”.
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