Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.
Nigerians are wondering if we can vote for a new constitution.
The curiosity began, again, when Chileans voted on October 25, 2020, for a new constitution. 78% of Chileans voted in the referendum that the constitution should be re-written, and 79% voted that the constitution should be written by new writers elected by the people. Curiously, the “Chilean revolt” has gotten Nigerians wondering if we can also vote for a new constitution.
What Is A Referendum?
A referendum is a general vote by the people on a single political decision which has been referred to them for a direct decision.
A referendum can be a nationwide vote on whether a country should change its old constitution to a new constitution, or whether it should make a policy decision or not.
An example of a popular referendum in action is the “United Kingdom European Union Membership Referendum” of 2016, which is popularly known as the “Brexit referendum”. In that referendum, 52% of UK citizens voted to leave the European Union, and 48% voted that the UK should remain in the European Union.
The vote is binding, and the UK left the European Union on January 31st, 2020.
Can Nigerians Partake In A Referendum?
There is no provision in the Nigerian constitution that provides for a direct referendum in the constitution.
However, Section 14(a) of the Nigerian constitution states that “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authorities”.
Section 14 (b) states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
Still, the constitution does not state exactly how the Nigerian people can vote to change or amend the constitution, or even for or against any political issue, even though it declares that “sovereignty belongs to the people”.
Who Can Change The Constitution?
Under Nigerian laws, lawmakers have almost all the powers to amend the constitution. Section 8 and 9 of the constitution dictates the processes by which the constitution can be amended, most of which leaves the powers in the hands of the national assembly and state houses of assembly.
Some people have recommended that Nigeria should set up a “National Referendum Commission”, going by the provisions of Section 14 of the constitution that “sovereignty belongs to the Nigerian people”, and even the government and the constitution derive their powers from the people.
Also, many democracies in the world have a provision for referendum in their constitution. Article 2(1) of the Romanian Constitution, for instance, provides that:
“National Sovereignty belongs to the Romanian people who shall exercise it through their representative bodies, established as a result of free periodic and fair elections, as well as by means of a Referendum.”
So, if Nigeria has referendums often, so many national issues can be easily solved like whether different Nigerian tribes still want to stay together as one or whether Nigerians want a particular government policy or not.
As it stands, lawmakers and political leaders make almost all the political decisions on behalf of the Nigerian people.
We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how to unfuck yourself when the Nigerian government moves mad. Check back every weekday for more Zikoko Citizen explainers.
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