Lagos based human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has joined those demanding for a return to the 1963 Constitution and gave reasons the country must do so.
He argued that a return to that constitution, with necessary modifications will end the controversies over how the country is going to be restructured and address the agitating issues in Nigeria.
According to Falana, the 1963 Constitution is the only constitution in the country to be “written and enacted by the Nigerian people through their representatives in the parliament.” Other constitutions he said were enacted and imposed on Nigerians by either the colonial rulers or military dictators.
“What is required is a restructuring that will return the country to the status quo ante bellum. The country has to return to the 1963 Constitution with necessary modifications. In the first place, that was the constitution suspended by the military dictators in January 1966. Secondly, that remains the only constitution that was ever written and enacted by the Nigerian people through their representatives in the parliament. All other constitutions were enacted and imposed on Nigerians by either colonial rulers or military dictators.
“In its manifesto, the All Progressives Congress had promised to restructure the country in order to restore federalism and the federal spirit. Restructuring means the devolution of powers in line with the principles of federalism. In the Nigerian context, devolution of powers means that the Federal Government will be in charge of defence, foreign affairs, immigration, inter-state commerce, fiscal and monetary policy e.t.c. while the states will manage their own affairs and develop at their own pace. But federalism in the first republic was anchored on an effective welfare policy,” he said.
He further contended that the setting up of the APC Meaning of Restructuring Committee led by Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State was unnecessary.
“The APC was convinced that the country ought to be restructured. Hence it campaigned and won the election partly on account of its commitment to restructure the country. So, the ruling party cannot turn round and say it does not know what restructuring means. Incidentally, the Chairman of the Meaning of Restructuring Committee of the APC is Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. Under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Mr. El-Rufai was in charge of the Bureau of Public Enterprises which restructured the economy of Nigeria through privatisation. In selling our commonwealth to a few business interests, Mr. El-Rufai perfectly understood the meaning of restructuring,” Falana said.
On why the Senate refused devolution of power to states he said, “The National Assembly under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki is controlled by the APC. Since the APC wants to retain the status quo at all costs, the National Assembly was encouraged to kick against devolution of powers from the centre to the states. Not only was power devolution rejected, the National Assembly also resolved to concentrate more powers in the centre.
“This should not surprise the Nigerian people since some of the principal officers of the National Assembly are eyeing the Presidency. They are anxious to exercise the enormous powers of the President of the republic.”
Speaking generally on different constitutions he said, “The Independence constitution was enacted by the British colonial regime. Hence Queen Elizabeth remained our titular head of state. But the 1963 Constitution which was enacted by the Nigerian people turned Nigeria into a federal republic. The 1979 Constitution was a schedule to Decree 102 of 1979 enacted and signed by General Olusegun Obasanjo. The 1999 Constitution was enacted and signed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar. The document is a schedule to Decree No 24 of 1999. When we demanded for a popular and democratic constitution produced by a Sovereign National Conference, the Abubakar junta said that it had no time to convene the conference. It was agreed on all hands that a new constitution would be produced upon the restoration of democratic rule.”
Despite the National Assembly’s rejection of proposed devolution of power bill in its efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution, demands for the restructuring of the country have continued to mount.
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