The Nigerian Senate has demanded for the withdrawal of the various versions of the country’s constitution in circulation, so as to facilitate a harmonisation of the comprehensive copy of the constitution.
Senate’s demand for the withdrawal of the constitution was sequel to a motion on the need to harmonise the different versions and copies of the constitution of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole. The motion was sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi during plenary.
Consequently, Senate directed 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, and the Law Reform Commission, to constitute a Law Review Committee to execute the mandate.
To achieve this, the Senate called for “the printing and distribution of the authentic, consolidated Constitution of the Federation with the different alterations embedded where they belong to make the Constitution one whole document to guide the generality of the Nigerian populace and the international community”.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Constitution came into force on May 29, 1999 with eight chapters, 320 sections and seven schedules.
According to Senator Utazi, who led the debate on the motion, “the Constitution of any country is the grand norm for which all other laws, instruments and institutions derive their authority, legitimacy and powers”.
“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”, he stressed.
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”.
Senator Utazi further noted 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.
He added: “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 senator therefore submitted that “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”.
Ruling on the motion, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to urgently liaise with relevant organs of the government in ensuring harmonisation of the different versions and copies of the Constitution in circulation into one authentic whole.