Senior Lawyer Canvasses Fresh Amendment to 1999 Constitution

Senior Lawyer Canvasses Fresh Amendment to 1999 Constitution

·      Faults 36-state federal structure, proposes six-region federation 

·      Says current federating units lack capacity for self-sustenance

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari signed 16 Constitution Amendment Bills into law on Friday, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Joseph B. Daudu (SAN), canvassed fresh amendments to the 1999 Constitution that will decisively reduce the power of the federal government.

Daudu, also a former Secretary-General of the International Council of Jurists, observed that comprehensive restructuring should be the main thrust of the next amendment to the constitution to adopt a six-region federal structure.

He made the recommendations in response to THISDAY’s inquiries on the constitutional amendment that allowed states to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid.

Buhari had signed the constitutional amendment that allowed states to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid.

The President had assented to 19 bills, 16 of which altered some provisions of the 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, now Fifth Alteration Bills 2023.

Reacting to Buhari’s assent to Fifth Alteration Bills 2023, Daudu noted that the constitutional amendment “is a welcome development.”

According to him, nothing should be taken away from fully commending the National Assembly and President for bringing to a conclusion such a much-discussed and financially expensive exercise.

The senior lawyer, however, observed that the problems with the federation “do not lie in the letter of the law per se, but in the mentality of the persons administering those laws.

“Now that the 1999 Constitution has been further amended, let us wait and see the impact it will have on the society and how they will be implemented,” Daudu emphasised the need to ensure full implementation of the Fifth Amendment.

Beyond the 16 amendments to the 1999 Constitution, Daudu canvassed the need to determine the governmental structure that is cost-effective and efficient for Nigeria

While he agreed that Nigeria should continue to practice federalism, Daudu noted that the critical question “is whether it is politically wise and indeed financially prudent to run the 36 state structures that we are presently practicing.”

For obvious reasons, the senior lawyer observed that restructuring “ought to have been the main thrust of this amendment exercise embarked upon by the ninth National Assembly.

“It requires great political willpower, lacking, to propose and support a venture such as restructuring Nigeria into six regions consisting of the six zones now entrenched in our political psyche and lexicon.

“The regions are South-west, South-east, South-south, North-central, North-west, and North-east, which will be the component zones of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while the centre remains in Abuja,” he suggested.

He explained the benefits of the six-region federal structure proposal, noting that it would reduce the cost of governance and the over-bearing nature of the presidency in Abuja at the penurious expense of the States.

The senior advocate said: “From this angle, we must examine the potency and cogency of the present amendments.

“The real question is where will these fragmented entities, i.e., the present 36 States raise enough funds to build modern railway infrastructure within the boundaries of their respective territories.

“It is almost impossible to carry out such a venture in a situation where most of these states cannot pay the salaries or wage bill of their civil servants and run basic amenities,” Daudu explained.

While acknowledging that the amendments “are a step in the right direction,” Daudu explained that the federation needed much more than mere tokenism in the matters of a constitutional amendment.

He thus noted that Nigeria, as a federation, required concrete measures to catapult it to the next stage of nationhood.

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