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Nigerian Constitution


Emeagwali's discussion of the 1995 Draft Constitution for Nigeria. The interview took place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington DC on December 5, 1998.

What constitutional provisions could serve as the most effective antidote to future forceful seizure of political authority other than through constitutional means?

EMEAGWALI: The most powerful way to stop the military from overthrowing elected governments is to punish those who seized power in the past. We have decriminalized treason.

If we grant immunity to those that suspended our earlier constitutions then we will be expected to grant immunity to those that will suspend the proposed constitution. Suspending the constitution and ruling by military decree has brought chaos, confusion and lawlessness in Nigeria. We cannot accept this type of conduct from past and future military leaders.

We have to make coup plotting an unprofitable exercise. We should confiscate the assets and cancel the pensions of military officers who are clearly proven under a judicial process to have participated in coups or are enjoying a lifestyle that is inconsistent with their official salary.

How can a general on $200 a month own a brand new Mercedes Benz and live in a million dollar mansion? Former corrupt and abusive heads of state have the freedom to live in Nigeria, travel with Nigerian passport and enjoy their wealth, with impunity. What will discourage an ambitious soldier from declaring himself the new president of Nigeria?

Strengthening and creating an independent judiciary will make it difficult to overthrow elected government as well as reduce election frauds.

We should urge the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations to refuse to recognize any military government that emerges in the future. Other nations should be encouraged and authorized to arrest and imprison coup planners and their collaborators whenever they travel abroad.

Nigerians living abroad could bring human rights charges against abusive dictators. Abacha received a strong opposition from Nigerian-Europeans and Nigerian-Americans and retaliated by eliminating dual citizenship in the 1995 draft constitution. Augusto Pinochet was arrested because his accusers were Chilean-Europeans.

Similarly, Nigerians abroad can set the legal groundwork to arrest a former Head of State who ventures into Europe or the United States for medical treatment.

Most importantly, every Nigerian has the responsibility to defend or fight for the restoration of our constitution. School curriculums should include civics education that includes an understanding of social responsibility to fight against corruption and suspension of the constitution.


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