Senate worried by distorted versions of constitution, calls for the withdrawal
The Senate has expressed worries over the distorted versions of the amended 1999 Constitution that are currently in circulation across the country.
The upper legislative arm therefore called for the immediate withdrawal of the document in circulation, until it was harmonized.
It also mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to liaise with the National Judicial and the Attorney-General and other relevant agencies to ensure the withdrawal of the different versions within a reasonable time frame.
The Committee was further directed to work with all the relevant government agencies to authorize the printing and distribution of an authentic and consolidated version which should reflect the various amendments in the Constitution since 1999.
The resolution of the Senate prompted by motion from Senator Chukwuka Utazi, PDP, Enugu North and titled, “Harmonizing the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole.”
Senator Utazi had observed that the Constitution which came into effect on May 29, 1999 with eight chapters, 320 sections and seven schedules, has conflicting versions, stressing that Sections 84 ends with subsection (6) while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with subsection 7. Senator Utazi in the motion noted that; “The senate: Recognizes that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came into force on May 29, 1999 with eight Chapters, Three Hundred and Twenty Sections and Seven Schedules; “Aware that the Constitution of any Country is the grand norm from which all other laws, instruments and institutions derive their authority, legitimacy and powers; “Aware that 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; “Concerned that 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; “Worried that there are different versions of the original 1999 Constitution and of the three alterations, with various copies in circulation. Worried 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; “Aware for instance that in some versions, Section 84 ends with subsection (6), while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with subsection (7) while the first alteration has provided for subsection (8) of Section 84. This is also 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 Practitioners, Legislators at the various levels, those who consult our Constitution to determine the state of the law, and the general public; “Concerned that the existence of various versions of the Constitution makes it an unreliable source of law, whittles down its force 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.
Senate President Bukola Saraki reacted to the motion swiftly mandating the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to immediately liaise with relevant agencies of government to its harmonization.