A lawyer, Wahab Shittu has said that the Senate must consider the religious and cultural sentiments of all Nigerians while attempting to amend certain provisions of the 1999 constitution.
Mr Shittu, who was a guest on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, disclosed this on Wednesday while reacting to the controversy in the senate during the clause by clause consideration of the report of the constitutional amendment committee on Tuesday.
During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, a former Zamfara State Governor and current Senator, Sani Yerima had literally pressed the Senate to reverse a vote that appeared to outlaw underage marriage, almost marring a crucial constitution amendment vote.
He had insisted that under Islamic tenet, a woman is of age once married and countering that order as already stated in the constitution would be discriminatory and in violation of another section of the constitution directing the National Assembly to steer away from Islamic marriage.
Mr Shittu said since Nigeria is a diversified country with several religious and ethnic tendencies, “any constitutional amendments these tendencies in order to be acceptable.”
He said for any constitutional engineering process to be acceptable, it must be rooted on the consciousness of Nigerians.
“Any constitutional amendment process that will be valid the result of such process must be taken to a plebiscite or a referendum of Nigerian people so that the document that ultimately emerges reflects the wishes and aspirations of the people,” he said.
He faulted the preamble of the present Nigerian constitution which says “we the people of Nigeria have given ourselves this constitution.”
He said, “I recall that late Chief Rotimi William in one of the paper which he delivered said by that provision, the constitution tells a lie against itself, because the document did not emanate from the people. It was bequeathed to the people by the military.”
Mr Shittu said though Nigeria claims to be practicing a federal system of government, the tenets of true federalism is lacking in the country.
He said, “Nigeria claims to be a federation and in a federation there are certain fundamentals that must be put in place before we can clearly say we operate a federal constitution.
“One there must be true federalism in the provisions. There must be true fiscal federalism in the provisions. There must be devolution of powers to the federating units and there must be autonomy of states.
The lawyer said if truly Nigeria was operating a federal system of government, the argument about state police is unnecessary “because it is an integral part of federalism.”
He said what is currently practiced in Nigeria is “federalism in the reverse gear. A unitary system of government masquerading as a federal set up, that’s what we have.
He said the model of a true federalism to look at is that of the United States of America where states have autonomy in regulating their affairs while paying taxes to the centre.