Ozekhome Faults Omo-Agege On Senate’s Power To Birth New Constitution


*Says under Section 4, NASS can give Nigeria peoples constitution

Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, has faulted the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege’s claim that the Senate or the National Assembly lacks the power to birth a new constitution for Nigeria and so can only amend the current constitution.

Ozekhome told The Nation, Not TheNigerialawyer on Saturday in a telephone chat that contrary to the impression Senator Omo-Agege tried to create, “the National Assembly, through Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) can give Nigerians a new constitution.

He explained that while Section 9 of the constitution gives the lawmakers power to amend the constitution, Section 4 of the same constitution gives them power to make new laws for peace, order and good government in Nigeria. “But do we have peace and order in Nigeria today,” he asked? Pointing out that there is no peace and order in the country, the human rights activist said it has become necessary to find the root cause of the problems in the country. He also said concerned Nigerians have traced the root cause of the problems to the fundamental flaws in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a constitution he said is flawed and imposed on the people by the military.

Omo-Agege, also a lawyer, who is the Deputy Senate President, has said the senate cannot grant the request of many Nigerians who had called on the National Assembly to establish a process that would lead to the making of a new Constitution for the country. As he puts it: “Now, some of our compatriots have urged that rather than amend the Constitution, we should make a new one altogether.

“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.

“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 a similar provision or provide a mechanism for replacing or re-writing an entirely new Constitution.”

Faulting this argument, Ozekhome said: “why are they always talking about Section 9 of the Constitution which gives them power to amend the constitution; why are they not looking at Section 4 of the same constitution which actually allows them to make new laws and through which they can make a simple law, an Act of the National Assembly, allowing a Constituent Assembly of the people.

“So we can subject all the views of Nigerians that NASS is presently collating from across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, including Abuja, and all the beautiful views in the 1963 Constitution, which is the most beautiful federal constitution Nigeria has ever had because it emanated from the 1960 Constitution which was discussed by Nigerians through their leaders, the nationalists, at the various Constitutional Conferences and the 2014 National Conference which also have some wonderful provisions to the people’s votes through referendum at the said Constituent Assembly of the people. All the beautiful materials would be collated and subjected to the people’s votes through the Constituent Assembly. This is what we call a referendum.

This will bring about a new constitution; the peoples constitution. Now, why are they afraid to bring in a referendum clause? What are they afraid of? This is the issue.”

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