Some Nigerians gathered on social media to call for the complete change of the nation’s constitution. The reason for the clamour is that many have pointed out several things they consider lapses in the law and a piecemeal amendment of each item seems to take too much time; hence a complete revamp was called for.
In response to the outcry, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, stated that those asking for a new constitution should ‘perish the thought’ because the National Assembly lacks the powers to do such.
He made this statement when he hosted members of the Alliance of Nigerian Patriots in Abuja. While he might have put it in a hilarious packaging, his words ring true. The Senate merely has the power to reform the constitution not change it entirely.
The procedure for a reform of the constitution entails the proposed change being passed by votes of a four-fifths majority of all the members of each National House of Assembly. Then the approved bill must be endorsed in two-thirds of the state legislative assemblies (24 of the 36), before it can be sent to the President of the Republic for his assent.
The Constitution itself does not use the word “amendment” but instead provides in section 9(2) that;
“(2) An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution shall not be passed… in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all members of that House and…”
However, the major constitutional replacement people seek is not impossible. A constitutional conference would have to be held and the formation of a ‘new’ constitution could be based on the recommendations of a Sovereign National Conference or an elected Constituent Assembly.
A general conference would be set up to discuss every aspect of the nation’s political, economic, social and religious well-being in order to produce the agenda that would form the basis of a constitution. And whatever is decided on still has to be fed to the public to ensure they agree with all the tenets.
Unfortunately, the process is long and arduous. A process the Nigerian government would never feel eager to take on.
Toluwanimi Onakoya is a spirited writer, creative and videographer. Her biggest drive is to connect with people and depict tales using various forms of media.
Toluwanimi is available on Instagram and Twitter @nimi_onaks