From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
The Senate, on Tuesday, mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to liaise with the National Judicial Council, (NJC) Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Law Reform Commission, to constitute a law review committee to withdraw copies of different versions of the Constitution in circulation in the country.
Adopting a motion sponsored by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, tagged “Harmonising the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole”, the upper legislative chamber called for the printing and distribution of the authentic, consolidated constitution of the Federation with the different alterations embedded where they belong.
Utazi noted that the constitution came into force on May 29, 1999 with eight chapters, 320 sections and seven schedules, adding that the constitution of any country is the grand norm for which all other laws, instruments and institutions derive their authority, legitimacy and powers.
He said: “Since 1999, the Constitution has successfully gone through three alterations, in July 2010; November 2010 and March 2011 respectively and in each case, amending various provisions to bring them in conformity with contemporary democratic practice and realities.
“These alterations are printed as separate provisions and there has not been an attempt to embed and graft them into the Constitution as one whole living document.”
The lawmaker also expressed worry that there are different versions of the original 1999 Constitution and of the three alterations, with various copies in circulation, affirming that “the Constitution is the heart-beat of the nation and its provisions should not be subjected to the caprices of printers or allowed to have different words and structure.”
He further informed that in some versions, sections 84 ends with sub-section (6), while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with sub-section (7) while the first alteration has provided for sub-section (8) of Section 84, adding that this could also be true of Section 66 (1) (h), which was deleted by Section 2 of the First Alteration Act, but which some versions of the Constitution still retain.
“There are many other mix-ups and this creates confusion for lawyers, judges, Law students, other practitioner, legislators at the various levels, those who consult our Constitution to determine the state of the law, and the general public.
“The existence of various versions of the Constitution makes it an unreliable source of law, whittles down its forces as the fundamental authority for all laws in Nigeria and does not make for certainty of its provisions, dilutes its potency in the hierarchy of laws and makes it susceptible to misinterpretation by mischief makers who may want to take advantage of the situation,” he added.
In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to urgently liaise with relevant organs of the government in ensuring harmonization of the different versions and copies of the Constitution in circulation into one authentic whole.