Legal experts and members of the civil society who converged on Lagos yesterday said that the 1999 constitution cannot be amended by the National Assembly. Speaking at the 7th Beko memorial anniversary symposium in Lagos, a Lagos based lawyer and rights activist, Femi Falana, said the 1999 constitution which Nigeria operates now is “like a knocked engine which cannot be repaired, saying instead, there is need for a new one.
“Though the 1999 constitution was signed into law by the military Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar on May 5, 1999 and it was adopted by the National Assembly, it only operates as a Nigerian legal constitution and not as a legitimate constitution. A legitimate constitution is the one which enjoys people’s contributions and inputs, but the 1999 constitution was enacted as an offshoot of a military decree,” Falana said.
In a similar vein, a professor of international law, Akin Oyebode of University of Lagos, said the responsibility of National legislators is to enact laws, while the draft of a new constitution or its amendment is the responsibility of a constituent assembly.
“It is not the responsibility of National Assembly to amend or draft a new constitution. The National Assembly is meant to make laws. It is the duty of the constituent assembly to draft a constitution.
Recommendations of the constituent assembly will later be subjected to referendum and if we have 51 percent acceptance, then we can say we have a people’s constitution. The present process embarked on by the national legislators is out of it,” Oyebode said.