…Enact laws to enable citizens sue govt for lack of security, good roads, healthcare system, education, others By Levinus Nwabughiogu For purposes of proper governance, the House of Representatives is on the verge of enacting a law that would make first degrees in the form of Bachelors of Science/Art, B.SC/B.A or Higher National Diploma, HND, minimum qualifications for election into the offices of Nigeria’s President and governors.
The House is also seeking to make a law that would make justiciable, lack of social infrastructure, such as health facilities, good roads, water, schools, among others, enshrined in chapter two of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) so that citizens can have the right to take government to court in breach of the laws.
To this end, two bills are currently before the House waiting for a debate on the issues soon, having been respectively read for the first time. Essentially, the bills are seeking alterations of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to provide for the new laws. Exclusively obtained by Vanguard, both bills are being sponsored by Ben Rollands Igbakpa representing Ethiope Federal Constituency of Delta State.
While the first bill is titled “A Bill for An Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for Related Matters/Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Bill, 2020 (Increasing the Minimum Educational Qualification for President and Governors)”, the second one is also captioned “A Bill for An Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for Related Matters/Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Bill, 2020 (to make chapter 11 of the constitution justiciable.”
The first bill is specifically demanding the alteration of Sections 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution. “Section 131 of the Principal Act is altered in subsection (1), paragraph (d) by inserting immediate after the word “at least”, the word “a first degree from a University or Polytechnic or its equivalent “Section 177 of the Principal Act is altered in subsection (1), paragraph (d) by inserting immediately after the word “at least”, the word “a first degree from a University or Polytechnic or its equivalent”, the Bill stated.
At the moment, the exact laws in section 131(d) provided that “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.’’ Similarly, section 177 (d) also provided that “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”
Contacted to speak on the bill which was introduced last year to the House, waiting for second reading soon, the sponsor, Igbakpa said it would help put the seekers and occupants of the higher officers on their toes, in that proper discretion acquired through good education would be required to effectively run such offices. According to him, the era of possessing only a school certificate to run for exalted offices was gone.
He said: “This Bill seeks to alter sections 131 and 177 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to raise the bar on the minimum educational qualification for election as both President and Governor. “The world is growing. The era of somebody having attempted school certificate, I don’t think, it is still tenable. These days, people in government do meetings on-line.
These days, people have to be spontaneous in speaking. “It is not always that government will be working with prepared speeches. So, somebody at the level of governance should be intelligent and vast and the only way to acquire such knowledge is by going to school beyond the school cert so that we can place our leaders at par with leaders all over the world that they can stand at the world stage and discuss issues, policies without putting it on paper, without reading statements.
“That’s the essence of the Bill because if you come with school cert and a Doctorate degree holder or a professor is speaking somewhere, no matter how smart the person is, you will see the difference in your own. that’s the issue.” On the second bill to make chapter 11 of the constitution justiciable by ensuring that Section 6 of the Principal Act is altered, in subsection (6), paragraph (c), first line, by removing the word “not” immediately after “shall”, Igbakpa said government needed to be held responsible through a court action, especially when it reneged on its promises or abdicated on its responsibility.
He said: “This bill seeks to alter section 6 (6)(c) of the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 in order to make the fundamental objectives and directives Principles of the State policy under chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution justiciable so that citizens can begin to approach the courts whenever there is a breach of those sections. “Like now, it is the right of every child, according to the Universal Basic Education, to be educated.
But if children are not educated in areas that government cannot provide education, you cannot take the government to court. When they are unable to provide security for the people, the people cannot also take government to court. “There are basic necessities of life such as shelter, food, education, security. It is only freedom that is justiciable when someone is arrested but what about when government cannot provide security and people are being kidnapped and deprived of that fundamental right everyday.
Who do you sue? You cannot sue the government. “So, that is exactly what we are saying. The people demand infrastructure. We deserve water, clean environment, good roads, quality health. But the government cannot provide them. And because it is not justiciable, you cannot sue the government. ‘’Let’s say government did not provide a health center in your area, and God, forbids, a pregnant woman losses her life, you cannot sue the government. You can only sue if the woman went to hospital and there is negligence. ‘’But where there is no provision of what the constitution guarantees, because the essence of government is to protect lives and properties and when the government doesn’t do it, you cannot sue the government.
“The essence of this bill is for those things to be justifiable that you can now go to court to seek for those rights that the government did not provide because of corruption or ineptitude, whatever it is. So, that’s it, really.’’ The bills are expected to be listed for second reading in the House soon.