Nigeria being ruled without a legal constitution – Mbazulike Amaechi
By Lawrence Nwimo
Elder statesman and First Republic aviation minister, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, has lamented that Nigeria, as a country, has been perpetually ruled with no legal constitution since her independence in 1960.
The 92-year-old ex-minister, who made this known during an interview with Orient Daily on Monday, maintained that since independence, Nigeria had not been ruled with a valid constitution that represents the mind and expectations of Nigerians.
He decried the fact that Nigerian citizens were not duly consulted before the adoption of constitutions used to pilot the affairs of the country since right from independence.
“No legal constitution has been used to rule Nigeria since independence. The 1966, 1979 and 1999 constitutions were not legal. They did not pass through the proper channel of the people but by military decrees,” Chief Amaechi said.
The son of the Ukpor community in Nnewi South local government area of Anambra state recalled that “In 1966, the military took over the government, abolished the constitution and ruled Nigeria without a constitution. The country was governed, throughout the civil war and after, without a constitution at all.
“In 1978, Obasanjo appointed a Rotimi Williams constitution panel. They put up a draft constitution and submitted it to the military. Obasanjo, being a minority in the military, could not influence the recommendation of the Rotimi Williams panel. It was subsequently ignored and deleted. The military promulgated what they felt benefitted them as a decree. So, the constitution was never the will of the people; it was by decree forced on the people.
According to Chief Amaechi, “That decree stayed until the end of the Abacha government when Abdulsalami Abubakar took over and, in 1999, promulgated another one to replace the existing decree. So, these decrees are not core Nigerian constitutions. It means that Nigeria has been ruled as an illegality.”
The nonagenarian argued that reviewing the 1999 constitution would be a futile exercise and that Nigeria can only review that which is in existence.
“It is not possible to review a nonentity. It doesn’t exist. There is no people’s constitution. All those constitutions flying around are constitutions by military decree,” he said.
Recall that, while the National Assembly is currently piloting the amendment of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, some Nigerians have demanded a brand-new constitution for the country, rather than repeated amendments that have not effected any citizen-oriented desired positive change.
Reacting to the ongoing constitutional review, a veteran lawyer and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola SAN, in a similar tone as Amaechi, had said that “It is common knowledge that the 1999 Constitution was made by the military which, in its wisdom, claimed that it was made by the people.
According to Babalola, “It is impossible, by way of amendment, to take away the military system of government under the 1999 Constitution or the power and control of public funds by the resident. Or can we, by way of amendment, change the judicial powers of the president under the 1999 Constitution? he questioned.
Babalola had also maintained that “The root cause of our problems, which has brought Nigeria to the brink of extinction, is the 1999 Constitution foisted on it by the military when it was exiting the rein of governance in 1999.”
Just like Chief Amaechi, Babalola also argued that “The fact remains that you cannot amend a coconut tree which has no branches to become an Iroko tree which has branches. It is a well-known fact that everything about the 1999 constitution is wound round the presidential system of government.”