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The Resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the State of the Judiciary

By Blog, Constitution, PublicationNo Comments

Press Statement by the Forum of Fellows of the Centre for Democracy and Development

Date: Monday, 4th July 2022

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, resigned his appointment on 27th June 2022 and the next in line, Olukayode Ariwoola, was sworn in the same day in an acting capacity, as is the practice. The manner of the resignation – voluntary or forced – and the reason for it – ill-health or cover up for corruption – have raised critical questions on the state of the judiciary. Even more important is the circumstances of the said resignation, the letter from his peers that was leaked to the media.

Fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court had written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, lamenting the parlous situation in the court. In this first-of-its-kind protest letter in the 58-year history of the apex court, the justices chronicled the operational challenges that have almost crippled the efficient adjudication of cases at the court. The aggrieved justices led by the second most senior judge of the Supreme Court, Olukayode Ariwoola, listed the problems to include vehicles, electricity tariff, supply of diesel, Internet services to their residences and chambers, and epileptic electricity supply to the court. The jurists further noted that “we find it strange that despite the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements”.

The justices also complained that for three years the CJN withheld assent to the rules of court, thereby slowing the dispensation of justice. They saw the situation as “the peak of the degeneration of the Court; it is the height of decadence and clear evidence of the absence of probity and moral rectitude.” The import of this leaked letter is that the CJN had lost the respect of virtually the entire justices of the Supreme Court. 

Even more disturbing is that since the “resignation”, there have been allegations, rumours and innuendos in connection with the former CJN, including rumours of bribery and undue interference of his family in the work of the Supreme Court. Although there is no evidence to back this, the speculations suggest that he did not resign of his own volition.

We can surmise from these that all is not well with the Supreme Court. It would be recalled that CJN Tanko Muhammad’s predecessor, Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, was suspended on the 25th of January 2019, following a questionable prosecution by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, at a time also that the residences of several judges, including Justices of the Supreme Court, were raided by security operatives. There is strong evidence of the Executive getting involved in activities that interfere with the independence of the judiciary. In other words, there is a challenge to the constitutional principle of separation of powers and the integrity and the independence of the judiciary. The not so hidden hands of the Presidency have also been often seen in the appointment and removal of judicial officers. Indeed, the same can be said of the relationship between State Governors and the judiciary at the state level.

The Forum of Fellows of the Centre for Democracy and Development therefore make the following observations:

  1. The crises in the Supreme Court reflect a significant challenge with the operations of the principle of the separation of powers and it is important for all democratic forces to strive to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
  2. In recent years, several high-profile mid-night attacks on the houses of senior judicial officers, including justices of the Supreme Court has indicated Executive agency in the harassment and intimidation of the judiciary.
  3. The process of appointment of judicial officers, from the lowest levels right up to the Chief Justice of Nigeria has become politicised and integrity and competence are no longer core criteria in the selection process. The outcome is that there is a steady decline in the quality of judicial officers;
  4. The powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria are excessive within the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council. The same is true of the State Chief Judges in relation to the State judiciary. These should be reviewed to reflect a more collegiate approach among peers.
  5. There is a very high level of corruption in our society which clearly has penetrated the judiciary and threatens to compromise the whole system of justice delivery.
  6. Many judges have become very cosy with politicians and prominent members of society, and no longer keep to the age-old principle of maintaining a healthy distance from political and social networks.

Based on the foregoing, the Forum recommends that:

  1. Defending and protecting the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary should constitute a principal plank of advocacy by all democratic forces and organizations.
  2. The process of appointing judges at all levels, including the CJN, should be reviewed and made more open with a focus on competence and integrity.
  3. The excessive powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria in the control of the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council should be reviewed and transformed into a more collegiate system.
  4. The conditions of service of judicial officers, especially Judges and Magistrates at all levels, should be improved and their tenures properly guaranteed to insulate them from political and societal pressures and corrupting influences.

Signed

CDD Fellows

Professors Adele Jinadu, Jibrin Ibrahim and Okey Ibeanu

FACT CHECK: Did Lamido, Daughter, Son Win PDP Primaries?

By Blog, Constitution, Fact Check, Fact Checks, NewsNo Comments

Verdict: False

Claim:

A viral post suggesting that a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, his daughter and son contested and won Senate, governorship and House of representatives seats.

A version of the well circulated post reads:
“✓Sule Lamido won for Senate.
✓His son won for Governor and
✓His daughter won for Rep.
✓All under PDP in Jigawa state.
✓If this is Tinubu, some people will visit UN headquarters to submit petition of threat to democracy,”

The post has generated several reactions from Nigerians.

Reacting to the post on his Facebook handle, one Engr. Hameed Olalekan wondered why people complained bitterly about Tinubu whose wife, Oluremi, is a senator.

“Lamido and Sons Nigeria Ltd,” another Facebook user, Hauwa Ahmadu, wrote.

A Twitter user, Kemi Biodun lamented saying, “Greedy fellows and tomorrow they will be complaining about Tinubu.”

One Qudus, @Qdpaper2, also tweeted that Lamido, his son and daughter contested and won PDP primaries.

He stated, “Sule Lamido is contesting for Senate, his son Mustapha Lamido is contesting for governor, his daughter is contesting for House of Representatives.

“All of them won their primaries. Family business! Change the name to Tinubu and see the reaction of online mob.”

Verfication Process:

Checks by Daily Trust has shown that neither Lamido nor his daughter contested any elective position in Jigawa State.

However, at the recently concluded primary of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, the governor’s son, Mustapha Lamido, won the PDP governorship ticket.

Mustapha defeated his challenger, Sale Shehu, a former junior Minister for Works, polling all the 829 votes cast.

Mustapha expressed joy at the victory.

“I most sincerely accept this nomination with humility, modesty and determination,” he said.

He also described the congress as historic.

“As we move to the next stage of campaign and elections, I ask you to trust me, work with me, campaign with me and vote for me so that we can make the state great again. And I count on you to come out massively to vote for PDP.

“I urge all of us to avoid politics of division and disunity. The interest of the state is far and above any personal or sectional interest.

“To our traditional rulers and elders, I have great respect for them and will consult them regularly on issues that will assist in moving the state forward. I pledge to campaign peacefully, but vigorously, I therefore as for your support and prayers,” he said.

Daily Fact Check

Conclusion

The claim that former governor Sule Lamido, his daughter and and son contested and won the PDP tickets is misleading as only his son contested and won the PDP governorship ticket.

Is Nigeria’s Economy in Better Shape than in 2015 as Claimed by President Buhari?

By 2023 Elections, Blog, Constitution, Fact Check, Fake News, Food for thought, News, PublicationsNo Comments

Verdict: FALSE

CLAIM:

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with international news outfit Bloomberg  said his administration will be leaving Nigeria in better shape than it met it in 2015. The president also stated that he is leaving Nigeria’s economy better than he met it in 2015 when he assumed office.

According to the president, “We leave Nigeria in a far better place than we found it. Corruption is less hidden, for Nigerians feel empowered to report it without fear, while money is returned; terrorists no longer hold any territory in Nigeria, and their leaders are deceased; and vast infrastructure development sets the country on course for sustainable and equitable growth.”  

Verification Process:

Although the President made extensive comments on different sectors, CDD/Daily Trust verified his claim on the economy, and found out that what the president said were largely false.

Verifying the president’s claim, Daily Trust analysed key economic indices which meet the World Bank’s criteria to ascertain whether an economy is performing or not. These criteria include inflation, debt level, exchange rate, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment rate and distribution of natural resources.

Inflation

Nigeria’s inflation rate in 2015 was a single digit of 9.01 per cent. A breakdown of inflation figures year on year showed that inflation rate at the end of 2015 was 9.01 per cent. In 2016 at the thick of the recession, it skyrocketed to 15.68 per cent. In 2017, it further moved up to 16.52 per cent. It however slowed to 12.09 per cent in 2018 and later 11.40 in 2019.

It again rose to 15.75 per cent in December 2020 which is the highest recorded in the past three years.

In 2021, inflation rate rose for the first time in eight months to 15.63 per cent, the reason attributed to the high yuletide spending.

Subsequently, the latest Consumer Price Index report by the National Bureau of Statistics indicated that Nigeria’s inflation rose to 15.7 per cent in February from 15.6 per cent in January.

Inflation rose to its highest level since 2017, rising from 16.82% recorded in April 2022 to 17.71% in May, according to the recently released Consumer Price Index report, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Debt

On debt level, as of 2015 before President Buhari took over power, Nigeria’s debt revenue stood at N8.8 trillion, according to the Debt Management Office

However, recent statistics from the DMO showed that Nigeria’s debt skyrocketed from N8.8 trillion in 2015 to N41 trillion as at June 2022. This represents an increment of over 500 per cent,

The country’s debt rose from N39.56 trillion in December 2021 to N41.60 trillion in the first three months of 2022 alone.

Fuel prices

In the same vein, checks by CDD/Daily Trust show that fuel price at the Buhari government’s inception stood at N87 per litre. As at May 2016, it had moved from N145 per litre representing a 66 per cent increase.

In 2020, it was further reviewed upwards to N162 per litre. The same year, the product sold for between N165 per litre and N220 per litre at the fueling stations. This was further compounded by the unavailability of the product with the major oil marketers saying they could not continue selling fuel at N165 per litre.

Exchange rate

In 2015 when President Buhari assumed office, the dollar was exchanging at N198/$ in the parallel market. By 2018, it was N306 to the dollar, and in 2019 it went up to N360 to the dollar and eventually exchanged at N520 in 2021.

From 2021 till date, the dollar at the parallel market is exchanging for between N600 to N610 as a result of the recently concluded party primaries where delegates were said to have been bribed with dollars.

Unemployment

Nigeria’s unemployment rate at the last quarter of 2015 stood at 10.4 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The figure went up to 14.2 per cent at the end of 2016. At the end of 2017, it moved up to 20.42 per cent. It moved up to 23.1 per cent in 2018 and the latest figures from the NBS indicate that unemployment rate now stands at 33.3 per cent.

Gross Domestic Product

A breakdown of the GDP figures from the National Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank from 2015 to 2020 shows that Nigeria’s GDP in 2015 when President Buhari assumed office stood at $486 billion; it declined to $404 billion when the country slipped into recession.

In 2017, GDP figures further declined to $375 billion. However in 2018, as the economy began to recover, the figures improved to $397 billion. In 2019, the figure surged to $448 billion.

By 2020, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic which affected virtually every sector of the world economy, Nigeria’s GDP figures declined to $432 billion.

The GDP figures were estimated to have risen to $440 billion in 2021, with 3.98% growth of the economy even though official figures by the World Bank are still being expected.

Conclusion:

Verifying the key economic parameters that determine if an economy is in a good shape, checks by CDD/Daily Trust show that the key economic indices as at 2015 were better than what is obtainable currently. As such, the claim by President Buhari that he is leaving a better economy for Nigerians is FALSE.

FACT CHECK: Did APC Not Engage In Vote Buying As Ekiti Governor-Elect Claimed?

By Blog, Constitution, Election, Fact Check, Fact Checks, Fake News, General, News, Publicaitons, PublicationsNo Comments

VERDICT: FALSE

Claim:
The Ekiti State Governor-elect, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, has claimed that the All Progressives Congress did not engage in vote buying during the June 18, 2022 governorship election which held in the state.
Oyebanji made the claim on Monday while briefing State House correspondents after he was presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by some party big-wigs led by the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, following his victory in the Saturday poll.


He said that as far as he was concerned, his party did not buy votes, while adding that he did
not witness the development in the polling unit where he voted in Ikogosi, Ekiti West LGA.


The governor-elect said he won the election based on the performance of the outgoing
administration in which he played a prominent role.

Verification Process:

In a bid to ascertain the veracity of the claim, Daily Trust looked at several reports by independent and non-partisan Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media who observed the election.

While some of the reports revealed in details the parties involved in voter inducement along with their locations and amounts involved, some others generally agreed to the fact that there was vote-buying across party lines.

According to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) who was on the ground to observe the election, its observers documented 41 instances of vote buying and selling at polling units in LGAs like Ado-Ekiti, Ijero, Ikole Irepodun/Ifelodun, Ise/Orun and Moba.

The statement noted that one of the observable patterns of vote buying was the collection of cash in brown envelopes, which was apparently meant to disguise the content of the envelopes in order to avoid arrest by the anti-corruption agencies.

Also, in a post-election statement issued by another independent observer group, Yiaga Africa, vote buying was reported by its observers in ​​Alowodolu/Ojo – The Apostolic P.S Compound with PU code 13/09/04/00 in Ijero Ward D of Ijero LGA.

“Party agents from APC were reportedly sharing N7,000 to voters who showed how their ballot paper was marked. A similar report on vote-buying by APC was received from Open Space At Bamitale Along St. Mary’s Road in Ikere.

“Also, in Ogidi – in Ipoti Ward A, party agents from PDP and SDP were seen bribing voters. At ​​C. A. C. Gramm. Sch. / Ola Oluwa II with PU code 014 in Ado-Ekiti, APC party agent was also reportedly giving N5,000 to voters who confirmed they had voted for the party,” it stated.

Conclusion

Based on evidence contained in reports groups that observed the governorship election, it is not true that the APC didn’t engage in vote buying as claimed by Oyebanji.

Chukwuma-Soludo

Did Soludo Say Peter Obi’s $20m Investment Is Now Worth $100m? Claim:

By Blog, Constitution, Election, Fact Check, Fact Checks, Featured, General, latest, NewsNo Comments

Claim:

A Facebook user, @Lamentations of a Bishop, on Sunday posted a story alleging that the current Anambra State governor Mr. Charles Soludo, said that Mr. Peter Obi’s $20 million investment in Anambra is worth $100 million today.

Verdict: FALSE

Verification: While verifying this, Daily Trust went through the verified Facebook and Twitter handles of the governor to see if he made such claims but nothing was found.

Further checks by Daily Trust revealed that the governor had gone to the comment section of the post to debunk the claim.

On his verified Facebook page, @Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the Anambra governor’s reply reads: “Where did you read or hear me make such comments. This Fake News has been roundly debunked by my team. We can always carry on with the campaign for our preferred candidates without consciously misleading the reading public. The report is false and never emanated from me,” he said.

Background

Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra state is the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the forth coming presidential election.

Mr. Obi is regarded as one of the successful businessmen in Nigeria with franchise spread across the country.

He is also the former governor of Anambra state.

Conclusion: Following the rebuttal by the Anambra state governor, Daily Trust affirms the claim to be FALSE.

This Fact Check is done in collaboration with the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD)

Nigeria’s Constitutional Review: The Continuing Quest for a Legitimate Grundnorm

By Constitution

Nigeria’s National Assembly has once again embarked on a series of public hearings regarding potential amendments to the 1999 Constitution. Several key issues continue to be debated, including federal restructuring, local government autonomy, state police, and national security. The substance of potential reforms is, of course, crucial, but given public sentiment that the 1999 Constitution was thrust upon Nigeria by the outgoing military regime, genuine and extensive public engagement is also key to ensuring the legitimacy of this process and acceptance of any resulting proposals for constitutional reform – writes Idayat Hassan.

In May and June 2021, committees from both chambers of Nigeria’s National Assembly – the Senate and the House of Representatives – spent a substantial part of their time crisscrossing the country for public hearings on issues relating to the 1999 Constitution. Sitting in centres across the country’s six geo-political zones, federal legislators held sessions to collate the views, ideas and opinions of a broad spectrum of Nigerians on 16 key issues including devolution of powers, the administration of government, resource control, judicial reform, and national security.
As previously analysed on ConstitutionNet, this is not the first substantial effort directed towards altering key aspects of the 1999 Constitution. The first, second and third amendments to the Constitution were debated and signed into law during the tenure of the sixth National Assembly (2007-2011). The seventh National Assembly (2011-2015) conducted a long-winding review process. Despite significant expenditure, the process ultimately failed after the amendments, which were submitted as a single bill, were vetoed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The groundswell of critical voices and stakeholders continues clamoring for a people-driven constitution.

Taking a cue from its predecessors and wary of a potential presidential veto, the eighth National Assembly (2015-2019) adopted a piecemeal approach to the review process by setting up two separate committees, one for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate, with the hope that multiple bills proposing different amendments would have more chance of being passed into law than a single bill. But not all of the amendments could be pushed through before the National Assembly’s tenure lapsed. With the efforts so far failing, the groundswell of critical voices and stakeholders continues clamoring for a people-driven constitution to remedy the lack of public representation in the procedure and substance of the military-led process of making the 1999 Constitution.
Ostensibly to address mounting civil society pressure, in February 2020, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, formed a Committee on Constitutional Review to begin the process of a fifth revision to the Constitution. This 56-member Committee reviewed outcomes from previous public consultations and national conferences (especially the 2014 National Conference), held further consultations and received submissions before deciding on the key issues and process for further public hearings.
Many of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities and interest groups believe that the content and character of the 1999 Constitution has been stifling their growth and development. As a result, the current Constitution has been openly rejected by socio-cultural groups, especially those representing various ethnic groups, civil society, and professional groups within the Nigerian polity. Importantly, too, anger remains in the polity over the historic lie told in the preamble of the 1999 Constitution that “we the people” of Nigeria came together to deliberate upon and collectively approve the nation’s constitution, when such debates and genuine public input did not occur at anything like a national level.
With many Nigerians continuing to clamor for a fresh, people-driven template to drive democracy and good governance, even the public engagement efforts of the current review process are unlikely to be far-reaching enough to gain sufficient popular legitimacy and backing for proposed constitutional changes.
Key areas identified for the 2021 constitutional review
Federal restructuring
Nigerians have complained of structural infirmities occasioned by the state’s arrangement. In response, successive governments have introduced mechanisms to address these challenges, including the creation of states, resource control, and several constitutional review processes. However, since the return to democracy in 1999, the call for federal restructuring has gained prominence due to sentiments of marginalisation, inequality and exclusion.
Several ethnic nationalities in southern states and across the Middle Belt have been strident in calling for the restructuring of Nigeria to increase regional autonomy. Groups, including umbrella socio-cultural bodies like the Afenifere (Yoruba), Ohaneze Ndigbo (Igbo) and the Middle Belt Forum, have consistently argued that the concentration of power in the centre is suffocating subnational entities in the polity. At the heart of demands for restructuring is resource control, which the groups have advocated, if more decentralised, would make Nigeria more productive, economically buoyant and less dependent on oil. Despite these agitations, the National Assembly does not appear to be very keen on the restructuring of the country, and the conversation has assumed more of the historical North (Hausa)-South (Yoruba/Igbo) divide. But, in July 2021, the South-West Governors (predominantly Yoruba groups) submitted a unified position to the ongoing constitution review process, proposing the conversion of the current six geopolitical zones into federating units (hence consolidating the current 35 states). Nevertheless, the challenge of big states, including the memory of the Biafra war, continue to generate resistance for reform.
Local government autonomy
As in previous constitutional reform processes, the quest for local government autonomy has again cropped up as one of the issues for amendment. There are calls that the guarantee of a democratic local government provided for in Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended should be reinforced by specific provisions that would preclude the mass dissolution of local government areas (LGAs), remove the power of state governors to replace elected representatives at the LGA level, and remedy the failure by successive governors to conduct local government election. Instead of elected officials, Caretaker Committees made up of loyal party stalwarts are appointed by the governors.
During the public hearings, many presenters placed an emphasis on the need to ensure the LGAs become more democratic. Nigeria cannot claim to be practicing democracy without representative government at the local level. To do this, LGAs must be untied from the apron strings of state governments. The revenue sharing formula for statutory allocation from the federation account stipulates that the federal government takes about 52 percent, 27 percent for the states, and the local governments receive 21 per cent. However, section 162 of the Constitution provides for a State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA). In practice, the state governors appropriate the entire 48 percent and disburse as they deem fit to the local governments. The lack of democracy at the local government level has led to an abysmal delivery of public goods and services at that level. There are also calls in some quarters for the SJLGA to be abolished, to allow local governments to directly access their funds as a front-line charge from the national consolidated account.
Revenue allocation
How revenue is allocated across the three tiers of the government remains a bone of contention. Although there were no clearly stated proposals on what percentage of allocated revenue should go to which tier of government, the consensus was that the federal government currently takes too much to the detriment of state and local governments. Under the current revenue sharing formula, the federal government takes 52.68%, the states take 26.72%, and 20.60% is received by the local governments. The eight oil producing states in addition receive 13% share from revenue from oil extracted in the relevant state.
State police
While canvassing their views on areas to be reviewed in the Constitution, many interest groups called for the Nigerian constitution to expressly recognise the need for states to have their own police forces. The view is that the federal police has not been able to respond robustly to the security challenges facing Nigeria because it is removed from the local communities. Given the level of insecurity pervading the country, with persistent conflicts between herders and farmers and bandits running amok in parts of the country, this is hard to dispute. In fact, in some parts of the country, regional security structures such as the Amotekun in the South-West, Ebube Agu in the South-East, and the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North-East are already, informally at least, in place and operational.
Removal of immunity clause
Section 308 of the Constitution grants immunity against civil or criminal proceedings for public office holders such as the President, the Governors, and their deputies, while in office. Nigerians have rallied against this provision on the ground that it has been grossly abused and should be removed to allow for swift dispensation of justice.
Strengthening independence of Institutions  
There are proposals to alter Section 121 of the Constitution that would grant financial independence and more oversight powers to the office of Accountant General of the Federation and Auditor General of the Federation, which is believed would strengthen accountability.
Citizenship and indigeneity
The current constitutional provisions privilege indigeneship at the expense of citizenship. The result is that residents who have inhabited an area for centuries cannot lay claim to rights and entitlements simply because s/he does not share a common ancestry with those considered original natives, or indigenes. This has led to exclusion of and discrimination against certain citizens politically, economically and socially in parts of the country they deem to be their home. There are therefore calls to reform the constitutional benefits attributed based on indigenship.
Another issue raised at the hearings is unequal transmission of citizenship via marriage. The Constitution allows citizenship by registration for a woman married to a Nigerian man but precludes a Nigerian woman married to a foreign man to confer citizenship on him. This provision remains unaltered despite advocacy. A foreign man married to a Nigerian woman may pursue the option of citizenship by naturalisation based on fifteen years’ residence in the country.
Constitutional roles for Traditional Rulers
The 1999 Constitution makes no provisions for traditional rulers. With the spate of insecurity in the country, there is a push for traditional authority to be returned to the constitution as in the 1960, 1963 and 1979 constitutions, as traditional rulers are the closest to the citizens and can play an important role in security matters in their communities.
Electoral reform
Nigeria has conducted six general elections since the return to civil rule in 1999. Each successive election has had areas of commendation and areas for improvement. However, there are critical areas for reform to enhance the quality of elections in Nigeria. Other important areas up for review include the determination of pre-election matters, which are currently handled in regular courts as opposed to election petition tribunals. Some of the items up for amendments include expansion of the time for elections to the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, the office of President, and office of Governor, and amendment of the time for the determination of pre-election matters so as to provide sufficient time for the conduct of party primaries and final determination of pre-election matters by the courts prior to the election day.
Public participation: genuine engagement or lip service?
Given public sentiment that the 1999 Constitution was thrust upon Nigeria by the outgoing military regime, genuine and extensive public engagement is key to ensuring legitimacy of this process and acceptance of any resulting proposals for constitutional reform. However, at the public hearings held by the Senate Committee in May 2021, people who were given the opportunity to make presentations were only allocated three minutes. Furthermore, citizens have complained that invitations to the public hearings were issued with insufficient time for preparation or to effectively canvass the key issues that communities wanted to raise. In terms of participation, there have not been attempts to strategically communicate the review process in local languages. Gender considerations have largely been ignored with the drivers of the process being mostly men. Persons with disabilities have also been excluded, with no sign language interpreters present at the engagement sessions. These are just some of the observable gaps, which point to the lack of depth in terms of citizens’ participation and inclusion.

There have not been attempts to strategically communicate the review process in local languages and gender considerations have largely been ignored…

Worse still, people have drawn attention to what was termed ‘undemocratic antics,’ wherein some members of the Committee in public hearing centres gave the impression that they had already made up their minds about the areas they are inclined to amend prior to citizens providing their input. In fact, there is little to indicate that the outcomes of the review process will radically alter the current drift in the polity. The entire review process, like the efforts before it, has mainly come across as a talk shop for the political elite, with a thin veneer of public participation. Across the country, the popular sentiment is that the process lacks the rigor to birth a document which will address demands for true federalism and devolution of powers from the current bloated and outsized federal centre. 
While several interest groups used the review process to express their views on what the direction of the country should be, many others simply condemned the exercise as a sheer waste of time. Considering the ingrained flaws, and the largely incurable defects in the current basic law, they argue that Nigeria’s best option is to adhere to the admonitions of well-meaning statesmen and women who have called for an urgent national dialogue to douse tensions and chart a road map for the unity, stability and orderly governance of the country. To derive the legitimacy of the people at the grassroots, the proceedings and agreed points from such a dialogue should be presented clause by clause for the Nigerian people to vote on in a referendum. That way, the constitution derived from such a process would be widely accepted and would bear the true stamp of “we the people.”
Conclusion: a fragile time to amend the constitution
The ongoing discussions about constitutional amendment are happening at a point in time where there are strident calls for secession in the southern parts of Nigeria. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are agitating for a separate state of Biafra more fiercely than anytime after the Biafra war. IPOB has also established a security arm, christened the Eastern Security Network (ESN). The ESN is accused of killings and destruction of federal government infrastructures in South-East Nigeria. In the South-West, Sunday Igboho has championed the rights of Yoruba people who claim to be under attack from northern Fulani herdsmen. Recent efforts by the Department of Security Services to arrest Sunday Igboho failed, but several of his followers were killed and his property damaged. This move by the federal government has only further heightened the call for secession in south-west Nigeria, in addition to historical secessionist tendencies among the Igbo in the South-East.

Currently Nigerians do not have faith in the ongoing amendment process, many has called it an exercise in futility, waste of time and resources.

With ethnic nationalities calling for the determination of the Nigerian state either through demands on power sharing, revenue sharing and even secession, it remains quite a delicate time to attempt to amend the constitution. Although this is an opportunity to address previous imbalances, the current approach of Nigerian legislators suggests that the process is unlikely to address such thorny issues, and the cycle of significant investment in public review, with disappointing results, will continue. The processes have not yielded the much desired amendments that could cure the aversion of young and old, male and female to the current 1999 constitution as amended. Possible amendments that may sail through the National Assembly include electoral reforms concerning the Independent National Electoral Commission, state police, and revenue allocation, but these may still be vetoed by the President. Currently Nigerians do not have faith in the ongoing amendment process, many has called it an exercise in futilitywaste of time and resources.
Will the Nigerian constitution ever reflect the true letters and meanings of her preamble? The ongoing process to promulgate the Electoral Bill, 2021 is the most recent example that evokes doubt. The Bill allows for electronic voting but prohibits the electronic transmission of election results. Nigerians conducted last-minute lobbying to ensure the electronic transmission of results against the old archaic and chaotic manual collation of election results. The Senate and House of Representatives passed the Bill without the amendment and proceeded on a two-month recess. Hopefully, one day, Nigeria legislators may amend the constitution to reflect the yearnings of her citizens, whom they purportedly represent. Until that day, the preamble to the Constitution “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” may remain an illusion.

Idayat Hassan is the Director of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).