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Random musings on constitutional amendments – by Onwubiko


Random musings on constitutional amendments - by Emmanuel Onwubiko

As the intellectual head of the Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA), I’m hereby writing on behalf of the nearly 10,000 registered members of the organization that has for almost ten years of registration been actively engaged in carrying out advocacy programmes with the fundamental aims and objectives of promoting, protecting and nurturing the respect for the human rights of the citizenry and for the enthronement of a law based democracy in Nigeria. 

We write randomly to appreciate the renewed but seemingly unending effort by the National Assembly to strengthen the constitution through fundamental amendments.

We say your constitutional amendment enterprise has seemingly become a regular feature of all the sessions of the National Assembly and we want to start by asking this National Assembly to take greater time to ensure that this would be the last time in many decades to come that the Nigerian constitution would be tinkered with particularly because the tax payers are made to cough out humongous amount of money that is usually frittered in the processes leading to the constitutional amendments. 

We have watched with considerable trepidation the attempt by some of the members of the constitutional amendment committee of the National Assembly who met at a retreat in Lagos at the weekend to reduce the process of amending the nation’s grund norm to a season of redistribution of our commonwealth to the elite. 

The suggestion whether remotely or otherwise of the introduction of life pension for principal leaders of the National Assembly is not only selfish,  self-serving and irrational but goes a long way in painting the graphic picture of a committee that may turn out to be just as bad and pecuniary inclined as all the other previous committees that unsuccessfully attempted to amend the 1999 constitution. 

What are the germane and/or key questions that must be answered logically by those privileged to amend our national constitution?  

The issue of insecurity and police reforms are as critical as the need to consolidate provisions that clothes the anti-graft agencies with more powers to wage law based war against corruption which remains a hydra headed monster. 

The policing institution in Nigeria is weak and compromised so a lot of places in Nigeria are left without security which brings us to the imperative of creating a state police. 

The current Nigeria Police Force has a notorious origin in such a way that the colonialists who set it up made it primarily to serve as defenders and protectors of the few ruling class. 

There is therefore the need to properly situate the Nigeria Police in such a way that national security and not person al security of executive officials of government would become their focus. 

The current police force is farcical and rotten from top to bottom thereby making it imperative that the entire institution be overhauled through this constitutional amendment process. 

That armed hoodlums unleash violence on innocent people is precipitated by a weak and inefficient policing institution. 

Corollary, the judiciary must be reformed to weed out unprincipled judges with ethical challenges.

We are writing to hereby inform you that as our humble contribution to the success of the constitutional amendment  process that we undertake to carry out massive enlightenment campaigns to sensitize Nigerians on the imperative of supporting the ongoing amendments so this assignment becomes the very last for many decades to come. 

Also, we charge the National Assembly’s constitutional amendments committee to introduce provisions that would institutionalise anti-graft fight as a truly pan -Nigerian project and stop the agencies from playing politics of ‘he who pays the piper should dictate the tunes’. 

As a starting point, the immunity clause in section 308 (1) should be deleted so certain Nigerians are not clothed by the Constitution to be lawless. 

A situation whereby the President Vice president Governors and their Deputies are treated as sacred cows throughout their tenures is unsustainable and amount to the promotion of impunity. 

This section 308 has created monsters out of these set of executive officials of the Nigerian State excluded from criminal prosecution. 

Section 308 is similar to what the North Korean dictator enjoys. 

This immunity clause breeds corruption which breeds poor governance and mass poverty on an unpardonable scale.

We are of the firm belief that corruption amongst politically exposed persons is the root cause of all human rights violations. 

That thousands of Nigerians die from seemingly curable ailments such as malaria fever and typhoid due to collapsed health infrastructures is a product of section 308 of the Constitution which makes these benefitting executive state officials as persons who are above the law. 

As a human rights group we have called attention to all the previous National Assembly’s constitution amendments committee to wipe out thus immunity clause but our pleas fell on deaf ears. 

Besides, our platforms made up basically of committed patriots who work on voluntary basis have often engaged in the advocacy activities that promote good governance. 

We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for the recently published manifesto for waging law-based war against corruption which was presented in London recently at a global anti-graft forum hosted by the government of Great Britain.

We make haste to however observe that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has yet to show sufficient respect for the constitutional provisions that speak to the issue of respect for the Fundamental Rights of the accused as expounded in Section 36(5) thus:

“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty…

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