The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) has several flaws like every human being but it is clear that he is a believer in Nigeria’s democratic project. Unlike ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan under whom constitutional review exercises were truncated either by the National Assembly or the president, Buhari holds the ace as being one under whom most constitutional alterations have taken place. A total of 21 alterations have so far been carried out under the outgoing government in three tranches. First was in 2018 when five constitutional alterations took place while the second was on Friday, March 17, 2023 when a total of 16 new alterations were carried out on the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
The extant Nigerian constitution has thus far been altered five times. Twice in 2010 under former President Umaru Yar’Adua administration and thrice under the incumbent president. Incidentally both of them are northerners from the same state of Katsina and also Muslims. The two southern presidents who are also Christians – Obasanjo and Jonathan did not succeed. The constitutional review exercise under Obasanjo was derailed in May 2006 over his purported third term ambition. Jonathan on his own vetoed the constitutional alteration bills in 2015 and advanced reasons for doing so in a seven-page letter read on the floor of the Senate on April 15, 2015. He said he could not sign the new proposals into law due to irregularities and an attempt by the lawmakers to violate the doctrine of Separation of Powers.
Among alterations of the constitution signed into law in 2010, ex-President Musa Yar’Adua made the Independent National Electoral Commission to be on First Line Charge on Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation. This gesture was similarly extended to the National Assembly and federal Judiciary. The age qualification of INEC chairman was reduced from 50 to 40 years and those of National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners were reduced from 40 to 35 years. It was also then that the number of judges at the Election Petition Tribunals was reduced from five to three and governorship election petition was made to now terminate at the Supreme Court rather than Court of Appeal where it used to end before 2011. Also, election petitions were now given a time limit of 180 days at the tribunal and 60 days each at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. It was also in the 2010 constitution amendment that the National Industrial Court became the Court of Superior Records.
On May 31, 2018, President Buhari signed the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill which reduced age qualifications for some political offices into law. They include that of President from 40 to 35 years, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly from 30 to 25 years. On June 8, 2018, Buhari signed four constitutional alteration bills into law. They include Constitution amendment number 21 which relates to the determination of pre-election matters. It has reduced the date and time of determining pre-election matters to ensure that pre-election matters in court do not get into the time of the elections and do not pend thereafter.
An amendment to bill number 16, assented to by the President, now ensures that a vice president or a deputy governor who succeeds and completes the tenure of a president or governor can only run for the office one more time. The other amendment is bill number 9 which gives the INEC sufficient time to conduct run-off and bye elections. It has increased the number from seven to 21 days and generally widened the latitude of the commission to handle election matters upon vacancy occurring. The president same day also assented to the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill which granted financial autonomy and independence to the House of Assembly of the respective states and to the judiciary of the respective states.
Out of the 35 bills sent to President Buhari for assent in January 2023, he eventually signed 16 into law. They are as follows: Fifth Alteration (No.1), the Bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to change the names of Afikpo North and Afikpo South Local Government Areas; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.2), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to change the name of Kunchi Local Government Area; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.3), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to change the names of Egbado North and Egbado South Local Government Areas; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.4), the Bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to correct the name of Atigbo Local Government Area; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.5), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN 1999 to correct the name of Obia/Akpor Local Government Area; and for related matters.
- Buhari’s practice of military democracy
- Buhari’s exit in 2023, solution to Nigeria’s problems – Afenifere
- PDP backs The Economist’s alleged Buhari’s regime incompetence
Others include: Fifth Alteration (No.6), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to provide for the financial independence of State Houses of Assembly and State Judiciary; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.8), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to regulate the first session and inauguration of members-elect of the National and State Houses of Assembly; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.9), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to delete the reference to the provisions of the Criminal Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, Criminal Procedure Code or Evidence Act; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.10), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to exclude the period of intervening events in the computation of time for determining pre-election petitions, election petitions and appeals; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.12), the bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for the post-call qualification of the Secretary of the National Judicial Council; and for related matters.
Most significant for me are the devolution of power bills. They include the Fifth Alteration (No.15), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to delete the item “prisons” in the Exclusive Legislative List and redesignate it as “Correctional Services” in the Concurrent Legislative List; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.16), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to move the item “railways” from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List; and for related matters. Fifth Alteration (No.17), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to allow states generate, transmit and distribute electricity in areas covered by the national grid; and for related matters.
I am also impressed with Fifth Alteration (No.23). The bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to require the president and governors to submit the names of persons nominated as ministers or commissioners within 60 days of taking the oath of office for confirmation by the Senate or state House of Assembly; and for related matters.
In Fifth Alteration (No.32), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN, 1999 to correct the error in the definition of the boundary of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; and for related matters. Lastly, is the Fifth Alteration (No.34), the bill seeks to alter the CFRN 1999 to require the government to direct its policy towards ensuring right to food and food security in Nigeria; and for related matters.
As I have said during media interviews since the President signed the aforementioned 16 bills, though President Buhari did not previously believe in restructuring, however, his parting gift of amending the 68 items on the exclusive legislative lists and devolving correctional services (Prisons), electricity and railways to the concurrent legislative lists shows that the President has shifted his hardline position on restructuring to effect these changes. It is also heart-warming that the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the 28 new and re-elected governors will have only 60 days to constitute their cabinet both at federal and state levels. Unlike 2015 when it took Buhari about six months to constitute his cabinet and unlike situations in some states where commissioners are not appointed one year into the administration of a new governor, that’s now in the past. Equally heart-warming is the further alteration of the constitution to effectively ensure that state Houses of Assembly and the judiciary are now financially and administratively independent.
- Twitter @jideojong
Lagos-based robbers arrested after operation in Ogun
UK immigration detains, questions Peter Obi for ‘impostor’s crimes’
How 10th NASS leaders will emerge – Senate spokesman
House leadership: Pro-G5 Reps plot to scuttle PDP plans
Benue govt suspends enforcement of anti-grazing law temporarily
National Assembly proposes jail terms for Ponzi scheme promoters
Suspension gale in Edo APC as party battles post-poll crisis
AMCON bars Arik Air founder from airline’s premises