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How To Amend The Nigerian Constitution

How to Amend the Nigerian Constitution

The Nigerian Constitution, which was enacted in 1999, is the supreme law of the country. It outlines the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, the structure of government, and the procedures for lawmaking, among other things. However, since its enactment, there have been calls for its amendment to accommodate changing societal demands and address various issues. This article explores the process of amending the Nigerian Constitution.

Understanding the Constitution Amendment Process

The Nigerian Constitution can be amended by the National Assembly or through a referendum. The National Assembly, which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, is responsible for making laws for the country. The Constitution provides that any amendment to its provisions must be passed by two-thirds of the members of both houses of the National Assembly.

After the amendment bill has been passed by the National Assembly, it is sent to the President for assent. If the President signs the bill, it becomes law, and the Constitution is amended. However, if the President refuses to sign the bill, it can still become law if it is passed again by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.

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Alternatively, the Constitution can be amended through a referendum. This process requires that at least two-thirds of the State Houses of Assembly pass a resolution calling for a national referendum on the proposed amendment. If the referendum is successful, the Constitution is amended.

Initiating the Amendment Process

The Constitution provides that any member of the National Assembly can initiate the amendment process by proposing a bill. The proposed amendment must be in line with the provisions of the Constitution and must be passed by two-thirds of the members of both houses of the National Assembly.

The amendment process can also be initiated by the President, who can propose a bill to the National Assembly. However, any bill proposed by the President must be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum outlining the rationale for the proposed amendment.

Factors to Consider When Proposing an Amendment

When proposing an amendment to the Nigerian Constitution, several factors must be considered. These include:

The Public Interest

The proposed amendment must be in the public interest and must address a pressing societal need. It must also not violate any fundamental rights or undermine the principles of democracy, social justice, and the rule of law.

The Views of Stakeholders

The views of stakeholders, including civil society organizations, the media, and other interest groups, must be taken into account when proposing an amendment. This ensures that the amendment is inclusive, participatory, and reflects the wishes of the people.

The Political Climate

The political climate and power dynamics in the country must also be taken into account when proposing an amendment. This ensures that the amendment is feasible and has a higher chance of succeeding.

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Challenges in Amending the Constitution

Amending the Nigerian Constitution is not without challenges. Some of the challenges include:

Political Interests

Political interests often affect the amendment process. Some politicians may oppose amendments that threaten their interests, while others may support amendments that align with their interests.

Lack of Political Will

Lack of political will is another challenge in amending the Constitution. Some politicians may not be willing to support an amendment that is perceived to be politically unpopular, even if it is in the public interest.

Resource Constraints

Amending the Constitution requires resources, including time, money, and expertise. The National Assembly may lack the resources needed to carry out the amendment process effectively.

Conclusion

In conclusion, amending the Nigerian Constitution is an important process that requires careful consideration of various factors. The process must be inclusive, participatory, and in the public interest. However, there are also challenges that must be overcome for the process to be successful.

FAQs

1. How long does it take to amend the Constitution?

The length of time it takes to amend the Nigerian Constitution varies depending on several factors. However, the process can take several months to a few years.

2. Can the Constitution be amended to allow for a third term for the President?

No, the Nigerian Constitution prohibits a President from serving more than two terms. This provision can only be amended by a constitutional amendment, which is unlikely to happen.

3. Can the Constitution be amended to abolish the Senate?

Yes, the Constitution can be amended to abolish the Senate. However, such an amendment must be in line with the provisions of the Constitution.

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4. Can the President veto a constitutional amendment?

Yes, the President can veto a constitutional amendment. However, the amendment can still become law if it is passed again by two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly.

5. Can the Constitution be amended through a popular initiative?

No, the Nigerian Constitution does not provide for a popular initiative to amend the Constitution. The Constitution can only be amended by the National Assembly or through a referendum.