Constitutional Lawyer and pro-democracy activist, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, has stated that ”the great tragedy in Nigeria” is that the country’s constitution is illegal.
He stated this today when he featured on TVC News Nigeria’s ”This Morning” programme.
Speaking against the backdrop of the Constitution Amendment exercise which began today in the National Assembly, Dr Abayomi said that what we have in Nigeria is not amendable because it is not a constitution. Rather, ”it is a constitution vested on the people by the military that lied about itself by saying ‘we the people’. It is a lie! ‘We the people hereby met and gave to us this constitution….” We never did!”
He explained that since the military government gave itself legislative powers to make laws through decree 1 of 1984, the same military couldn’t have given Nigeria a constitution. Dr Abayomi added that what exists as a constitution emerged through decree 24 of 1999 which came into effect on 29 May 1999, after all the governments in Nigeria had been created.
“…Maybe the people of Nigeria want a situation where the salary of a legislator is not more than 20 times the minimum wage so that the legislator would feel the pain of the people.”
According to him, ”it is not a constitution that brought about the national government. A national government had come into existence before the constitution, yet every constitutional expert knows that it is a constitution that gives a nation a government. It is not a government that gives a nation a constitution.” He explained that a constitution is validated by the procedure of making it, not by its content.
Dr Abayomi advocated that the National Assembly should enact a law that would enable cerebral representatives of Nigeria’s diverse ethnic groups to meet and draft a valid constitution. He said: ”This is the best time to have a constitution. We can now decide what manner of nation we want to have. In other words, what manner of government do we want to have in order to build a great nation…It is good to have a nation. But it should be by agreement. Not by force. Not a National Assembly that is anxious to protect its privileged position.”
He posited that one of Nigeria’s biggest problems is ”the type of National Assembly the nation has. The wealth of the nation that is consumed by the National Assembly is ungodly. If you now say that you are doing constitutional amendment, are you going to amend it to reduce the consumption of the National Assembly?”
In this vein, he said that when representatives of the people meet to make a valid constitution, they could decide to review the consumption patterns of legislators. According to him, ”maybe the people of Nigeria want a situation where the salary of a legislator is not more than 20 times the minimum wage so that the legislator would feel the pain of the people. After all, they are supposed to represent their joy and their pain. But in the present situation, they don’t represent their pain.”
When Yori Folarin, the anchor of ”This Morning” conjectured that the National Assembly could be empty if the idea of a legislator earning just twenty (20) times Nigeria’s minimum wage gets enacted as law, Dr Abayomi responded that this justifies why Nigeria needs a constitution of the people by the people and for the people.
While most callers on the programme condemned the National Assembly for initiating the process of another constitutional amendment, Ola, a caller from Abuja, supported the Legislators, noting that it is within their rights to amend the constitution, since the APC-led government has distanced itself from the outcome of the Constitutional Conference of 2014.
Dr Abayomi replied that the constitution has been amended thrice by this same National Assembly at high cost to the nation. He said ”if they continue like that, within a period of twenty (20) years, they would have amended the constitution twenty (20) times”.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Lawyer also spoke about State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, stating that they are not effective. He said: ”They just exist in name. They are just an appendage of the Governor. In this country, the Houses of Assembly are just another department of the Executive Governor of the several states of the Federation”.
Lincornellah’s blog is watching out to see and report if the National Assembly or any State House of Assembly in Nigeria would publicly respond to Dr Abayomi’s position.
- Cornelius Ellah