By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja
Worried over the confusing documents in circulation passing off as the country’s constitution, the Senate has initiated the first tentative steps in producing an authentic and official document for use by all strata of society.
It directed its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to meet with the country’s chief law officer and Attorney-General, the Nigeria Law Reform Commission (NLRC) and the National Judicial Council, (NJC) with a view to harmonising and producing one authentic document.
After extensive debate on a motion by Senator Chukwuka Utazi on “Harmonising the different versions and copies of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in circulation into one authentic whole”, Senate President Bukola Saraki ruled that the motion be adopted.
Introducing the motion, Utazi noted that “since 1999, the Constitution has successfully gone through three alterations, in July 2010; November 2010 and March 2011 respectively and in each case, amending various provisions to bring them in conformity with contemporary democratic practice and realities.
“These alterations are printed as separate provisions and there has not been an attempt to embed and graft them into the Constitution as one whole living document.”
He went further to point out differences in the various documents in circulation: In one version, Sections 84 ends with sub-section (6), while in other versions, the same Section 84 ends with sub-section (7) while the first alteration has provided for sub-section (8) of Section 84, adding that this could also be true of Section 66 (1) (h), which was deleted by Section 2 of the First Alteration Act, but which some versions of the Constitution still retain.
He added: “There are many other mix-ups and this creates confusion for lawyers, judges, Law students, other practitioner, legislators at the various levels, those who consult our Constitution to determine the state of the law, and the general public.
“The existence of various versions of the Constitution makes it an unreliable source of law, whittles down its forces as the fundamental authority for all laws in Nigeria and does not make for certainty of its provisions, dilutes its potency in the hierarchy of laws and makes it susceptible to misinterpretation by mischief makers who may want to take advantage of the situation.”