One important report that occupied the minds of legislators was that of constitution review, as committee resumed for third legislative session yesterday, June 25
Chairman of the Senate CRC, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, had, on June 5, presented the report of the committee on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution after which the Senate President announced that the debate would commence as soon as lawmakers returned from their annual recess.
If Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and the entire CRC of the Seventh Senate are described as Nigeria’s Nostradamus, the comparison may not be too far off.
Where others before the 51-year-old Ekweremadu failed, he has succeeded. Right now, the Senator, representing Enugu West Senatorial District, holds the record of superintending the committee, which has successfully altered the country’s constitution three times in a row now, having chaired the CRC for a record two sessions (Sixth and Seventh Senate).
Before his entry into the National Assembly in 2003, there was one unsuccessful attempt to amend the 1999 Constitution in 2000 and even when he got elected into the Red Chamber, there was another unsuccessful attempt to amend the same document, which was overwhelmingly rejected on May 16, 2006.
Perhaps, Ekweremadu, Chairman of the Senate CRC, conscious of the two woeful attempts in the National Assembly knew that history beckoned when the newly re-constituted CRC then, embarked on another round of constitution amendment.
With the backing of a willing, experienced and mature Senate President, David Mark, Ekweremadu and his team would go on to successfully amend the Constitution in 2011, just a few weeks shy of his second sojourn in the Sixth Senate.
Unlike his first outing in the Sixth National Assembly, however, where only a handful of amendments of the 1999 Constitution led to a reformed electoral process, which eventually berthed a successful general elections in April 2011, this time around, Ekweremadu and his ‘gang’ of 46 Senators in the CRC have dared to be more adventurous.
A record 31 amendments have been successfully pulled through this time around but not without some intense horse-trading and backbiting, even from supposed kinsmen and cronies.
A poignant amendment of the Constitution this time around is a buffering of section 9 which would hopefully, in the wisdom of the Senate CRC, help to berth a new Constitution, in a direct response, perhaps, to skeptics who harp on the fact that the 1999 Constitution is a creation of the military.
Some Nigerians from all walks of life have pointed out at different times that the 1999 Constitution is not a product of “We, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” but a document hastily put together by a military regime which never wanted civilians to succeed in the democratic experiment.
Some skeptics even went further to demand the drafting of an entirely new Constitution which would be the product of all Nigerians and not just a document foisted on the country by a select class of Nigerians. Simply put, they want a new Constitution that would reflect the complexities of our mutual co-existence as a nation-state.
Perhaps, conscious of this agitation, the Ekweremadu-led committee was painstakingly exhaustive in altering section 9 from just three sub sections to expanding sub section (3) to incorporate 14 more amendments; thereby setting down for posterity, the process of drafting an entirely new constitution for the country, if such a time and demand ever arise.