Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives, during the public hearing on the review of the Nigerian Constitution held in Lagos State, criticized the 1999 Constitution, noting that it “falls short of this standard.” He said that “the 1999 Constitution is the product of a hurried national compromise that we entered into two decades ago in order to ensure that the military returned to the barracks and that we returned to democratic government.”
According to him, “the foundational constitution of the United States of America deemed people of colour to be ‘less than’ and denied women the right to vote. It did not include any limits on the President’s term of office and allowed for citizens to be denied the right to vote for failure to pay the ‘poll tax’. Twenty-seven reviews and amendments, over one hundred years cured these and other defects.
“No nation in the world has a perfect constitution, but we need a near-perfect constitution in Nigeria and we can achieve that through substantive amendments that significantly alter the character of our nation.
“Therefore, the task before us now is to use this process of review and amendment to devise for ourselves a constitution that resolves the issues of identity and political structure, of human rights and the administration of government, resource control, national security and so much else, that have fractured our nation and hindered our progress and prosperity.
“Our job is to produce a constitution that turns the page on our past, yet heeds its many painful lessons. It is not an easy task, but it is a necessary and urgent one.”