Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has called for the amendment of the 1999 constitution adding that its needed to create a provision for achieving a new constitution in the country.
Ekweremadu, who made this known while speaking to journalists in Enugu, also said that while calls for a national dialogue was not a bad idea, operationalising the outcomes of previous dialogues and botched constitution amendment efforts would help the nation faster.
He spoke on the sideline of the two-day Public Hearing on Constitution amendment for Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi States.
“I have heard the suggestions for a new constitution over and over again. Some say, bring back the 1960 Constitution; some say bring back the 1963 Constitution. Some others say, okay, why don’t we just throw away this constitution and bring a new one.
“However, there is no such provision to do so under our present Constitution, unless you are calling for anarchy. If you say we need a new constitution, the answer is simple. When other countries like Kenya and Brazil had a similar challenge, what they simply did was to amend the original constitution in order to make a provision for how a new constitution can be enacted.
“So, we need to amend Section 9 on how we can create a new Constitution, including the issue of referendum, to be able to do that.
“We have done a whole of amendments, which many Nigerians don’t even know about. So, there is confusion already in differentiating what has been amended and what has not been amend. And it will only increase as we make more amendments. Even with ordinary Acts of the National Assembly, after several amendments or a far-reaching amendment, the usual and proper thing we do is to repeal and reenact the law.
“Whether we are doing a new constitution today, tomorrow or next year, we need to take advantage of this constitution amendment exercise to provide for and spell out how a new constitution can come into being. That way, at the appropriate time, we can now trigger that provision and be able to have a conversation, draft a new constitution, and go through the constitutional provision and have it approved at the requite levels and with the requisite numbers so that we can have a new constitution that will encompass all these amendments,” he said.
Speaking on the calls for a national dialogue by ethnic nationalities, the lawmaker, who chairs the Enugu centre of the South East zonal hearing,said that once any nation runs into a problem the right thing to do will be to come together and talk.
“Just as someone suggested, why don’t we just dust up all of the constitution amendments we have done before or simply improve on them and get the reasonable and required number to approve it and send it to the president? That is my opinion too.
“In the same manner, if we say let us look at those issues and resolutions we have had in the past confabs, nothing is new, and nothing has changed. But if we look at the recommendations and set up a committee to look at it in one week, we can now find a way to legislate on it.
“It is not enough to talk, we have to agree on how do we operationalise what we discussed. That is the issue. Unless we address this, it will be like every other talks or confabs.
“The laws are straightforward” and it was better for the states and federal officials to meet on the matter to resolve the impasse.
“If you look at the Constitution, the issue of grazing essentially should be a matter for the states because it has to do with land. Under the Land Use Act, which is part of our Constitution, the lands belong to the States and not to the Federal Government. So, when the states met and said, look, we don’t want open grazing, it was within the purview of their powers.
“I think we need to have a meeting at some point between the state officials and federal officials at some point instead of talking as if they don’t read anything in the constitution. We can’t be insulting ourselves in the pages of newspapers,” he added.