Nigeria’s current Constitution has been operational since 1999. Since that time, the Constitution has undergone four different amendments, and the fifth of such exercises is currently ongoing. The 9th National Assembly — composed of 109 members of the Senate and 360 members of the House of Representatives —responsible for the ongoing constitutional amendment voted on 1 March 2022 in Abuja on 68 proposed clauses being considered in the ongoing exercise.
This analysis seeks to highlight, for economic, policy-making and political reasons, some of the more consequential amendments.
Some of the bulls raise questions. For example, the proposed amendments related to letting sub-national units take care of power generation and railways are good and forward-looking on the surface, but they fail to answer a key question: who will pay?
The position of women in Nigeria’s politics will continue to be in question. Despite Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo – wife of the Vice President’s presence at the National Assembly, the amendments seeking for more female political participation did not receive the constitutionally required ⅔ votes to pass either in the House of Representatives or the Senate
Diaspora voting will become a key issue as we move forward. Nigerians in the diaspora contribute $20 billion annually to the economy and shape the discourse around governance in Nigeria. Hence, some feel they should be allowed to vote without the need to come home.
A bill to stop cross-carpeting and reckless defection failed to pass raising more questions than answers, while the amendment that requires the Executive to submit the names of cabinet members within 30 days of taking office will put paid to the kind of uncertainty witnessed when President Buhari failed to appoint a cabinet for six months in 2015, and more recently when Edo’s Governor Obaseki ran his state without a cabinet for a year.
One of the most important amendments, on decoupling the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice passed. Legal practitioners in the country have long called for these offices to be split.
The legal hurdles that potentially hinder these changes from becoming the laws of the land are inexhaustible. According to the labyrinth of the Constitution, the proposed alterations now go to the country’s 36 state assemblies who will vote on them. Each alteration passed by the National Assembly must receive the support of a majority of votes in at least two-thirds of the State Houses of Assembly for them to pass. The amendments that receive such approvals will then be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Historically, constitutional amendment exercises have not occurred this late into the term of a sitting administration. The federal lawmakers chose to prioritise an amendment to the country’s electoral laws which might have had an impact on the voting timelines for changing the constitution. With the first party election conventions set for late March and the primaries’ season due to commence around mid-year, state lawmakers are pressed for time to have their say on these alterations before the distractions of electoral politics kick in.
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