I was aked to run commentary on the 1979 Constitution I posted on a different forum but I protested because I am not a constitutional law lawyer. But I did start, seriatim, with the believe that we can pick one or two things along the way and importantly, know our constitution. Here goes.

 

We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolved: To live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under GOD, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding: AND TO PROVIDE for a cons...titution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons...

 

My comments: Part of the citation. Please note where our priorities lie.

 

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...in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people: DO HEREBY MAKE, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution: - CHAPTER 1 - General Provisions. Part 1. THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. 1(1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the federal republic of Nigeria.

My Comment: We were taught in the university and at the Bar that a law or legislation is as effective as when the true spirit and letters therein contained are adhered to. The spirit of the law can be found in its interpretation that is why we have series of rules to interpret law; golden rule, mischief rule, literary rule...ye I have forgotten my law. Anyway, with current event as it relates to the vacuum of leadership, it seems the drafters of this constitution did not intend for it to be strictly adhered to or as I saw in one of the placards at the Lagos rally yesterday, the 19(7)99 Constitution is a lie a peoples’ Constitution now!
1(2) The federal republic of Nigeria shall not be governed, nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provisions of this constitution. 1(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and that other law to the extent of the inconsistency be void.

My Comment: now these clauses beats me. While I presume 1(2) is to avoid such illegalities like coups and the present situation in Nigeria where some group of people, not in elective positions, are the ones running the affairs of the country, 1(3) can be seen as a defacto and need I say, dejure pre-emption of the Decrees or laws that are inconsistent with common sense and social justice. The military, very smart bunch, when they come in the first thing they do is suspend the constitution. But in my view, only if these military boys are not Nigerians, will they not be bound by the constitution. As with the Bible and Quran, we should all get at least a copy each of the constitution in every household and when there is a perceived breach of the constitution, march out waving the constitution, it will send a greater message than those on placards.
Looking dispationately and objectively at our constitution, one thing clearly stands out; the drafters assumed that WE THE PEOPLE are a homogenous entity, all accept the concept of GOD, ALLAH. OLODUMARE or what have you. The fact that I was raised and brought up by generations of christians, and therefore believe to my core and have faith in GOD, does not give me the right to impose this will on other citizens of WE THE PEOPLE, no matter how well-meaning I may be. If NIGERIA were to be truly a secular state, i will submit that a revised constitution should avoid all assumptions that will raise objections in the here now and future hereafter.

As it has now become evident from recent events, an urgent need, now demands that those who will be saddled with the REVIEW, have a monumental task to re-evalute every clause in order to determine what should be retained, expunged or inserted to make the resulting DOCUMENT one that is acceptable to all WE THE PEOPLE.

ANY OTHER IMPOSITION BASED ON SENTIMENT OR THE WISHFUL THINKING OF A FEW INFLUENTIAL GROUP WILL SURELY FAIL THE TEST OF THE NOW AND THE HEREAFTER.

Posted 24 Jan 2010 0158
THAT JONATHAN CHARLES "BBC HARDTALK" INTERVIEW

Permit me to reproduce below a comment on the correct usage of 'WHENEVER' and 'IF' as applicable to section 145 of the constitutioo. I first posted my comment on this issue on 18 Jan 2010 1317hrs, long before the interview.

The strictures governing the English Language, how it should be written and spoken, is to be found in the English dictionary. 'Our people' should therefore not bend the English grammar rules to suit the PDP 'intelligensia's' interpretatiion; Maduekwe’s ploy, in order to impress Charles claimed, he was one of the drafters of the constitution. However, we know: He who pays peanuts to hire labour, will get monkeys working for him.


DICTIONARY DEFINITION

My comment is based on the dictionary definition. "WHENEVER" and "IF" The problem with the interpreters of our Constitution is that very often they confuse, intentionally or unintentionally, these two words, whose definition in a standard dictionary is reproduced below:
DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF WHENEVR.
Main Entry: whenever.
Part of Speech: conjunction
Definition: at whatever time...AT WHATEVER TIME
Synonyms: at any time, on any occasion, when.

Whenever; AS USED IN THE CONSTITUTION... 145.

Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office,{ until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary } such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.

WHENEVER here MEANS: at whatever time, at any time, on any occasion, when;

The President has no choice here. It is implied that he must do it in some near future. NOT I repeat…. Not that HE MAY DO SO,

as in: ‘IF the President transmits...

meaning: again DICTIONARY DEFINITION of IF:
Main Entry: if
Part of Speech: conjunction
Definition: provided that
Synonyms: assuming that, conceding that, granted that, in case that, on the assumption that, on the occasion that, supposing that,

IF (discretionary) implies,in this case that the President is conceding to do it. In other words doing us a favour. WE ARE NOT HIS SERFS, for him to GRANT US A FAVOUR ! WHO IS HE TO GRANT 150 million Nigerians a favour.

The people suggesting this interpretation are doing so out of mischief, however they will fail, and in time they will pay a heavy price for it.

In my father's days savvy lawyers call it JANKARA law.

Dr Buki Morgan MBBS psc Colindale, London & Surulere, Lagos Posted 18 Jan 2010 13:17hrs
Doc., I must say this impressed on me. Now, you being a medical doctor have shown you are indeed learned and it is a shame to my colleagues, mostly senior, in this case. You have shown that the letters of the constitution is intricately fashioned to purport a certain designed meaning and scenario. For those that can not see the situation as the "real" drafters could, some certain principles of interpretation has been laid down and I beg for want of reasonable justification how a well read lawyer and judge could not interpret the spirit and letters of the constitution. We understand politicking, but you cannot play politics with something that is so obvious to all discerning eyes. Some people need to know when to stop really or they will be stopped prematurely.

I am in agreement with your flow of thought that only an autochthonous constitution can move the people of Nigeria forward. The GOD or belief factor is not really a hindrance; the American constitution has a GOD factor. It is just the attitude of the custodians of the constitution and whether they really fear and/or believe in this GOD.
2(1) Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the federal republic of Nigeria. 2(2) Nigeria shall be a federation consisting of states and a federal capital territory. 3(1) There shall be 19 states in Nigeria, that is to say, Anambra, Bauchi, Bendel, Benue, Borno, Cross Rivers, Gongola, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, and Sokoto.

My Comment: Without saying much, I did a word count for this posting and not surprising it says 419. By design? You tell me. 3(1) has been overtaken by series of events and we have now 36 states, very much divided and yet very dissoluble.
3(2) Each state of Nigeria named in the first column of part I of the first schedule to this constitution shall consist of the area shown opposite thereto in the second column of that schedule. 3(3) The headquarters of the government of each state shall be known as the capital city of that state as shown in the third column of the said part I of the first schedule opposite the state named in the first column thereof.

My Comment: Boooriiiing!!! Perhaps the intention of Madueke (?) and ors here was to distract us by boring us. What struck me really here which I have to apologise to all for is the fact that I have misled you. I looked back at the citation and noticed that this CON-stitution has indeed CON(in)stutionalised the land mass you and I live in. I am unsure whether to refer to it as the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria or the constitution of Nigeria.

If you go back to the citation, it says “We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria…do make and enact for ourselves this constitution” And in the wordings of the constitution that, don’t forget, “We the people of the federal republic of Nigeria” made for ourselves, it goes to refer to a the government of a certain Nigeria and, hold your breath, that this Nigeria shall be known as the federal republic of Nigeria. I hope you are not lost; I am having a thumbing headache too. Now let me set you back on course. A constitution does not create a people, the people create a constitution. This 1979 Nigeria document, I stand to be corrected, was created to make the entity called Nigeria, created and named by Lord Lugard in 1914 a federal republic - a form of government made up of a federal state with a constitution and self-governing subunits.

I paid more attention while studying legal drafting in school and I am sure all the teachers I had for this course, even at law school, stated that every letter of the constitution must be carefully crafted in order to make the document stand the test of time. A comment on the American constitution says “This document, more than 200 years old is the frame work by which America is governed today. The words are rarely modified, but their applicability changes throughout history.” Perhaps to buttress my point, please follow me to the preamble of the American constitution which reads and says, “We the people of the United States, … do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Permit my reference to the American system it is just because we operate the same bicameral legislature but must quickly point out as well, by no way on all fours.

So you can see and now know that the people of the united states made a constitution for the united states of America, while the people of the federal republic of Nigeria made a constitution for Nigeria referred to as the federal republic of Nigeria. What beats me more is the fact that there was no interpretation that may correct this anomaly under part 4 of the 1979 document which deals with interpretation, citation and commencement. I can now see why that grey haired professor amongst others, what’s his name now…Wole Soyinka is or was strongly supporting a referendum of the people living in the area called Nigeria – at least to set things right. There is an acronym that comes to my head now which I will coin for future use so my comments will not be this long – JIPO (Just Insulting People’s Oblongata), so where you see JIPO you know they have taken us for a ride. Long live Nigeria…the federal… what the heck, Long live our people living in our area!!!
3(4) The federal capital Territory shall be as defined in part II of the said First schedule. 3(5) The provisions of this constitution in part I of chapter VIII hereof shall, in relation to the federal capital territory, have effect in the manner set out thereunder.

My Comment: Nothing much to say about this as it is just informative. I remember those years when the seat of government (in effect, the capital) was being moved to Abuja, there was a lot of acrimony about this. Now with benefit of hindsight or perhaps the ability to see into the future then, would we not have kept quite and hurried them to quickly move it if we were able to see that Fashola was coming for Lagos and Lagosian? I wonder if Lagos could have had Fashola if Lagos was still the federal capital. But I am sure they are content at being the economic capital of Nigeria. I hear now of plans to divest Lagos of the role originally invested in Ibadan, Oyo state, that of the administrative centre of the Yoruba states. That is going to need hard work from a new head of administration, a new administration, a visionary leader come 2011 considering the state of the State under the present administration. Should we gaze into a crystal ball for this leader, trust me on this; we won’t have to look far.
Part II: Powers of the federal republic of Nigeria. 4(1) The legislative powers of the federal republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the federation which shall consist of a senate and a house of representatives. 4(2) The national assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included…

My Comment: This is very interesting to know. The legislators themselves do not know what law is or how to respect a law that has been made. How can they themselves make law and expect us to respect it. One of the attributes of law is “break it, pay for it” But nobody pays for anything they break in our country to say the least about our national assembly. How can they solve the following scenario: A man driving his oga was caught not having driving license but started begging for pardon, after some few minutes talk with officer he went to oga for his “license” which oga obliged. Officer returned oga’s complimentary card found within the “license” which reads “member house of representative” with a salute.
Nice Post......

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