NBA President, Chief Okey Wali (SAN)
By Tobi Soniyi
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Tuesday said the process towards the amendment of the 1999 Constitution was disorderly.
The association’s president, Chief Okey Wali (SAN), who expressed reservations at the ongoing process, said there should be a referendum.
He said: “The ongoing process does not appear to be very orderly. There is no clear agenda or known methodology.”
According to him, various government structures like the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, the House of Representatives Committee on the Review of the Constitution, the Justice Belgore Presidential Committee on the Review of the Constitution (whose white paper is yet to be released), the Governors’ Forum, etc. are all working towards the said amendment.”
He said: “In fact, the House of Representatives will be holding a public hearing session simultaneously in all the 360 federal constituencies on Saturday, November 10, 2012.
“Our first instinct was not to be a part of this because we did not think that a one- day gathering in 360 federal constituencies would be productive towards reasonable amendment of the 1999 Constitution, but on a second thought, we decided to attend but without prejudice to our reservations on the inadequacy of the process and on any attempt to any claim to legitimacy if Nigerians are not given opportunities in the future to effectively participate in the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
“We will continue to call for a referendum, at the final stage of the process, thereby giving the average Nigerian, a say in the amendment. Only then could any legitimate claim be made to it being a constitution by ‘we the people of Nigeria’”.
He said that Nigeria was at a crucial trajectory.
“The NBA is of the view that the 1999 Constitution, as it is, cannot sustain our present democracy. The 1999 Constitution contains good provisions; however, it also contains weak and obnoxious provisions and equally admits of several lacunae,” he added.
Admitting that the constitution has a legitimacy burden, the NBA boss said: “But the big issue is whether all the aspiration of a people must be reflected in one fell swoop in their constitution.
“We think not. The standard practice in older and most contemporary democracies is that constitutional perfection is evolutionary.”
He consequently inaugurated two committees on constitutional review and law reform, as well as a committee on rule of law.