Primate calls for new Nigerian federal constitution

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Henri Ndukuba

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria has called on the government to prepare a new constitution for the West African republic rather than amending the constitution imposed by the military in 1999.

Speaking on February 23, 2022 at the start of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria and the House of Bishops, Bishop Henry Ndukuba said, “As we commend the National Assembly for its efforts to revise the constitution At present, we are convinced that what we need is a completely civil constitution made by a sovereign representation of the ethnic nationalities of this country.

Nigeria’s constitutional history has witnessed colonial, tribal, unitary, regional, military and civilian regimes. The 1862 Act, followed by the Southern Nigeria Act of 1906 and the British-supervised Amalgamation Act of 1914 provided the initial legal framework for the government of the colony.

Local discontent prompted the passage of the Clifford Constitution of 1922 which created a 46-member Legislative Council elected from across the colony. After the Second World War, the agitation for greater self-control for Nigerians first led to the Richards Constitution, named after Governor Sir Arthur Richards, but it was not rejected as the colonial administration n did not consult Nigerians when drafting it.

A new constitution named after Governor Sir John Macpherson was adopted in 1951 after a series of national consultations. However, the Macpherson constitution faced objections due to political rivalries between regions of the country. This led to the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 which made Nigeria a federation of three regions: the Northern, Western and Eastern regions, removing the unitary government established in 1951.

In preparation for independence, the London Constitutional Conferences of 1957 and 1958 were held, leading to the Independence Constitution of 1960. In 1963 the Republican Constitution was drawn up, followed by the 1979 Constitution prepared by a appointed committee. This gave way to the 1989 Constitution adopted by the Constituent Assembly, one-third of whose members are appointed by the military. Work began on a 1994 constitution during the reign of Gen. Sani Abacha, but was scrapped after political leaders in the south-west refused to take part after the general canceled the results of the June 12 election. 1993. In 1999, a constitution was promulgated by the military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar after the Constitution Debate Coordinating Committee headed by Justice Niki Tobi held two months of national consultations.

The Nigerian parliament took on the task of amending the military-backed 1999 constitution. Archbishop Ndukuba urged the assembly to prepare a new constitution rather than amending the old one, and to ensure that the new document is prepared by representatives of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.

“It will answer the fundamental question of unity and a prosperous nation,” he told church leaders in Port Harcourt. “We need a new national constitution drawn up by the citizens, not the amendment of a constitution formulated by the army.”

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