The Draft 1999 constitution was given to the Constitutional Debate Co- coordinating Committee (CDCC) to work on by accepting memoranda from different shades of opinion and grafting of issue raised into the final draft.
Essentially, the CDCC was inaugurated on the November 11, 1998 by the Military Government of General Abdusalam Abubakar (Rtd) to among other things, pilot the debate on the new constitution for Nigeria, co-ordinate and collate views for a new constitution for the Federation of Nigeria.
It was reported that the committee benefited from the report of large volumes of memoranda from Nigerians at home and abroad and oral presentations at its hearings. The conviction of the committee from these sources was that the 1979 constitution could be retained with some amendments and additions.
Section 18 provides an instance of such additions. It provides as follows:
1. Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels
2. Government shall promote science and technology.
3. Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and to this end,government shall as and when practicable provide:
a. Free compulsory and universal primary education.
b. Free secondary education
c. Free university education
One significant improvement was that for the first time, there was a constitutional provision on the environment in section 20 to the effect that; “The state shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air, land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria”.
The major shortfall of the constitution is that as lofty and innovative as this provision appears, they are not justiceable as they fell under Chapter II which is on Fundamental Objectives and Directives Principles of State Policy. It would have been more commendable if the provisions were enforceable.
Another innovation is contained in section 147(3) where the president is mandated to appoint at least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigence of such state. This section gives sanction to the even and equitable spread of national political offices.
In the same vein, section 149 provides that a Minister at the Government of the Federation shall not enter upon the duties of his office, unless he had declared his assets and liabilities as prescribed in the constitution. Lastly, the 1999 constitution is not structurally different from the 1979 constitution. In adopted the position of president who is a Chief Executive, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the federation.
In recommending the presidential system, the constitutional conference accepted the main features of the presidential system of government as enunciated in the 1979 constitution.
Examine the peculiar differences and similarities between the 1963, 1979, 1995 and 1999 constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
An in-depth digging into the archives of Nigeria’s constitutional development history is what has been attempted in the foregoing expositions. A thorough research into this history of constitutional development is further recommended as what has been produced here form the basic background knowledge required by the learner.
A thorough investigation into the origins of modern constitutions will reveal that, practically without exception, they were drawn up and adopted because the people wanted a document to guide their governance. The circumstances of constitutional development vary from one jurisdiction to the other. However, in almost all cases, countries have a constitution for the very simple and elementary reason that they wanted, to formally outline, at least, their ethics of governance. This aptly described the situation in Nigeria.
It must be admitted that no constitution is completely adequate and flawless. Hence, there is the need to amend a constitution as occasion and circumstances demand and require.
Succinctly attempt a brief history of Nigeria’s constitutional development between 1979 to date.