Constitutional amendments should be purposeful and up to expectations

Amid widespread criticism of previous efforts, the 10th National Assembly is on the verge of embarking on another expensive venture of amending the 1999 Constitution. The House of Representatives Committee on Constitution Review recently held its pre-inaugural meeting, pledging to complete the task in December 2025. “Ït is not out of place to guess that there is some level of fatigue in the amendment process by some vocal sections of the populace,” noted Deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of the Committee, Benjamin Kalu. “The twin challenge of insecurity and economic difficulties could temper the confidence of our citizens.”   

Indeed, since the Fourth Republic, there have been five attempts by the National Assembly to alter the 1999 Constitution. But they all mostly ended as waste as there are hardly significant amendments with beneficial impact on the people. Besides a few alterations like some judicial reforms, age reduction, movement of few responsibilities of government like the railways from the exclusive to the recurrent list, the outcomes were out of sync with the resources injected. During the last exercise for instance, both chambers of the National Assembly went round the six geographical zones of the country to conduct public hearings and received memoranda from different interest groups at huge public expense.

However, out of the 44 bills transmitted to the state Houses of assembly, less than one-third of the states performed their roles in accordance with the constitution. Perhaps one of its most prized constitutional amendments, the Electoral Act, 2022, suffered major setbacks as the controversy in what the law says in the transmission of votes in real time to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s viewing portal has led to intense calls for further amendments. Perhaps it was in acknowledgement of the growing attacks that the Speaker of the House of Representatives Abbas Tajudeen stated recently that the10th House will pursue constitutional reform “purposely, deliberately, and expeditiously.”

The lawmakers must understand that they cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different outcome. There are important issues that are crying for attention. Since the military incursion into our polity, the federation has been run like a unitary state – which is not only suffocating but leaves little room for innovations. There is a consensus that the present structure of the federation is increasingly becoming a recipe for uncertainty and instability. How do we restructure certain aspects of our federation that impede development and often lead to needless tension? More importantly, how do we ensure efficient and effective security in the country? Should we tinker with the current arrangement? What about state police that is now subject of a national conversation?

 Amid the increasing wave of crime and banditry in the country occasioned by the failure of the Nigeria Police to maintain law and order, there have been nationwide calls for the establishment of state police for effective policing. The aim is to hire locals familiar with the environment, language and all the nuances of culture to help identify, fight crimes, and solve problems. The relative success of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North-east, Amotekun in the Southwest and others evidently inspired the recent formation of Community protection guards in Zamfara State.

 As the former security chief General Aliyu Gusau clearly stated, Nigeria is too big and complex to be policed from Abuja, an assertion endorsed by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s governors. Indeed President Bola Tinubu and the governors met last week and agreed on the need to establish state police to combat insecurity more effectively.

 The National Assembly should make constitutional amendments that impact positively on governance and the people.    

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