Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has taken a swipe at recent political developments in Nigeria, lamenting that the controversies trailing the primary elections conducted by some political parties were indications of a failing democracy.
This verdict came just as some members of the House of Representatives canvassed for the establishment of a Constitutional Court in Nigeria to enhance prompt interpretation of relevant sections of the Constitution whenever the need arose.
Dogara, who spoke at the public presentation of the book; “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aids to the Interpretation of the Constitution, Statutes and Private Documents” authored by Hon Justice Roseline Ukeje, argued that democracy was all about adherence to rule of law and due process.
He added that the controversial primaries were as a result of observing the laws in the breach.
He said that the just concluded primary elections by political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections in the country does not in any way show that Nigeria’s democracy is advancing.
“If you look at it very well you begin to wonder judgies from different primaries conducted by political party as to whether we are making progress in the advancement of our democracy.
“Democracy is all about laws; it’s all about due process, about the rule of law. Therefore, the deeper your laws, the deeper your democracy. We can deepen our laws by deepening the interpretation of these laws to make them applicable to situations that may arise after the laws have been written. There are no better ways to deepen our democracy,” he said.
Dogara commended the former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (Justice Roseline Ukeje) who came out of retirement to write the book in order to enrich jurisprudence and the dispensation of justice.
According to the Speaker, there has been a “yawning gap in this area of law”, noting the efforts of the erudite jurist will go a long way in plugging the loopholes.
“The issue of interpretation of statutes including the constitution is absolutely important in the advancement of our democracy. This book is a noble effort by the former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court because in all cases, the Judges who interpret “these laws would not have sat in the hollowed chambers of parliament, so they are not there in the contemplation or when these laws are made, and therefore they are not there when the laws are crafted. But then they must interpret them.
“I believe this wonderful endeavour is going to be very helpful, it’s going to be like a compass in the hands of a pilgrim, for legislation drafters that we have in parliament, and most importantly to the Judges whose responsibility is to ensure Justice according to law,” Dogara said.
In a separate presentation at the event, a former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumuni Jibrin, expressed concern on the practice of subjecting certain explicit portions of the law to the slow and tedious process at the various levels of the court system.
Jibrin canvassed the establishment of a special court for the interpretation of the provisions of the constitution whenever the need arises
“My concern is why do we have to go through all the processes in court for the issues that require interpretation when such aspects of the law are explicit and do not require any interpretation,” he said.
“During the period of my suspension, I started thinking that maybe we need a Constitutional Court like they have in South Africa.
“The essence is that when we require a simple constitutional question it should not take more than 48 hours or a maximum of one week to get the interpretation done,” he said
Leader of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, acknowledged that the it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to interpret the provisions of the constitution but that the idea of a special court could be explored when the merits and demerits might have been examined.