The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been described as an autocratic and undemocratic document that must be changed.
Director General Nigeria Electoral Institute Abuja, Professor Abubakar Momoh made the remarks while speaking on the theme ‘Culture of Impunity in Nigeria’s Democracy’ as part of activities to round up the 2013 press week of the Lagos State Governor’s Office Correspondents (LAGOCO).
Momoh who spoke through Dr. Surajudeen Mudashiru of the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University, explained that the culture of impunity, which means doing what one likes and getting away with it without any punishment dates back to the colonial era, where brute was the order of the day and then to the military era before the present democratic dispensation.
He said that the military which is autocratic by rule though discipline bequeathed the 1999 constitution with all its undemocratic tenets to Nigeria, stressing that though most Nigerians have spoken against it with some every saying that Nigeria has no constitution, it has remained the basis for governance. He blamed the 1999 constitution for the culture of impunity in the Legislature, Judiciary and the executive.
While alluding to the accident involving the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Idris Wada, and that of the former President of the Academic Staff Union of University,(ASUU), Professor Festus Iyayi, he explained that it is unfortunate that the family of late Festus Iyayi cannot sue due to immunity clause in the 1999 constitution.
He said the democratic dispensation has failed to correct seeming defects in the constitution. For a changed he stressed the need for Nigerians to evolved a constitution which must be democratic and useful to Nigerians.
He called on Nigerians to prevail on lawmakers to evolved a constitution that is devoid of plea bargaining and enthrone the rule of law. He explained that that it is the culture of impunity that breads insurgents when those aggrieved no longer have faith in the judiciary as the last hope of the common man.
In his remarks, Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said that people result to jungle justice when evildoers are treated with kid gloves or left unpunished, stressing that impunity brings nothing good but encourages vices.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Legislative Matters, Comrade Dele Ogunsakin, the governor said that democracy will only survive if Nigeria enthrones the rule of law in every facets of the economy.
Reacting to the lecture, a member of the House of Representatives, Representing Surulere 1 Federal Constituency, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila however disagreed with notion that immunity clause should be removed from the constitution, stressing that but for immunity, the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi would be in jail based on his misunderstanding with President Goodluck Jonathan.
He explained that immunity was inserted in the constitution by the founding fathers so as to protect the executive from distractions that may arise from frivolous legal suits. He also disagreed with the theme of the lecture, arguing that the subject should have been the Culture of Impunity in Nigeria since impunity rears itself across all sectors of the economy.
In his remarks, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, in Lagos, Mr. Remi Ibirogba said that Nigeria is in crisis as a result of the culture of impunity.
Earlier, Chairman LAGOCO, Mr. Joshua Bassey said leadership has failed the nation across sector due to the culture of impunity.
The highpoint of the event was the award ceremony. Among those who received awards at the event are Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, chairman National Union of Road Transport Workers, Comrade Tajudeen Agbede and the Osun State Governor.