What is Wrong with Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution?

Two things are wrong with the Constitution. These are –

Problem 1: Too much power given to our federal government e.g police, secondary1999 schools, universities, INEC, business registration, fingerprints identification and criminal records, electricity generation and regulation, fish and fisheries, ports, meteorology, mineral resource and natural gas, nuclear plant, prisons, post office, railways, labor relations, minimum wage, marriage etc

Problem 2: Our government at all levels are given powers it should not have in the first place e.g JAMB, NECO, regulations of political parties, minimum wage, price controls, government media (e.g NTA), agriculture, national education standard, telegraphs and telephones, ports, insurance, national carrier, exchange control, hiring doctors etc

For problem one, how do you know which powers should be given to the federal government and which should not? Lucky you the list is limited. These are –

defense, foreign relations, immigration, federal courts system, patent protection*, protection of our human and property rights, coining money, interstate commerce, measurement standards and taxation needed to pay for the above duties.

Everything else not mentioned above belongs to the state or the people, for examples police and rights not mentioned in the constitution. However, state government’s powers must be limited too by its residents. These should be confined to –

policing, elections, protection of our human and property rights including that of children and the disabled, state’s court system, education** and providing substitute for market failures.

Decentralization

At the state level, power must be considered and adopted at the closest level (decentralization) to the people first i.e your town, then your Local Government Area then your state. For examples, education and elections should be managed by our communities (villages/town/cities) and car registration by state since it doesn’t make sense for each town to have its own car-plate design. Anwar Shah’s article explains what function of government should be assign to what level of government and what level pays for that particular duty to achieve maximum efficiency. Check it out here pages 14,15,17,18.

To solve problem two, remove any item not listed in the recommended powers of state and federal levels above, from the concurrent and exclusive lists of powers in the 1999 Constitution. However, it is important to note that with True Federalism, both state and federal would each have their own constitution.

As a whole, the duties I described for the state and federal levels would protect and preserve your freedom, the one and only function of government. This philosophy is known as liberalism*** but I call it True Federalism.

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To summarize, we need to do the following to fix the constitution –

Solution to problem 1: Take away some of these powers and give it to states. States must then decentralize these powers as appropriate

Solution to problem 2: Completely deprive government at all levels of these powers

Pathway to correct these problems 

In my opinion, the best route to follow to correct problems one and two is to come up with a new constitution and let Nigerians vote on it. This process is known as referendum. Unfortunately, the 1999 Constitution does not provide for this kind of referendum, which means we need to insert it through a constitutional amendment. Once is done, Nigerians could then use the referendum option to come up with a new constitution.

Currently, our only legal option to change the 1999 Constitution is through our politicians, except for the creation of a new state or Local Government Area and recalling of Senators or House of Representatives members of which we would still need the politicians to approve the outcome of the referendum. Therefore, we need a referendum option that would enable Nigerians to change any part of the constitution without having to go through our politicians.

The other option is to ignore the legal process, come up with a new constitution and Nigerians vote on it. This route could potentially be troublesome as it is outside the scope of our constitution.

Benefits of fixing the 1999 Constitution

Fixing the two problems as I recommended above would make you the master and government the servant. This kind of relationship produces prosperity, stability and peace because it makes you the owner and manager of your life, labor and property. Consider for example- you live in a house that is yours but legally on my name. This of course means I could evict you out of the house if you don’t follow my rules, use the house as a collateral for a loan and so on. Aside the fact I could use the house to get richer, I’m depriving you of such opportunity and you are also at my mercy. This exemplifies the nature of our relationship with the current system in almost all aspect of our lives. Our politicians and their associates get richer while the general population remain dirt poor not to mention that they could buy our votes, after all we are at their mercy. This is the reason we are poor and unstable.

If you don’t give government the power over your life and belongings then it cannot control you. For example, if you find coal under your land, it should be yours not the government’s. Unfortunately, the 1999 Constitution says mineral resources in Nigeria belong to the Federal Government; basically transferring your belongings to the government making it the master and you, the servant. Therefore, correcting the two problems of the Constitution mentioned above would effectively transfer property rights to you as well as take government out of running businesses that you and I can run better e.g NNPC, JAMB and so on. This new relationship would transform your life and those around you in an unprecedented manner. This kind of system produces prosperity, stability and peace. This is True Federalism.

Read more about the referendum option here and check out our Facebook page here. Also check out my propose constitution for Nigeria on Ebay here.

Adamu Dankore Muhammad, Whatsapp: +1-319-296-5799

*There’s a strong case against government’s protection of intellectual property

**There’s a strong case against government providing education

***Liberalism means of and pertaining to freedom.

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