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Lesson Note

Subject: Government

Topic: Constitutional development in Nigeria At And after Independence.

Lesson objective: by the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. Enumerate the major provisions of the Nigerian Independence Constitution of 1960;
  2. Highlight the major merits of the Nigerian republican constitution of 1963;
  3. Discuss the major features of the 1999 Republican constitution.

Lesson Summary / Discussion


Previously we discussed Constitution, and constitutional development in Nigeria before independence. In this lesson, our focus is on Constitutional development in Nigeria at and after Independence. These constitutions are discussed below:

The Independence Constitution of 1960


  1. The Constitution made Nigeria a sovereign state with effect from 1 October, 1960.
  2. It provided for the appointment of a Governor-General for Nigeria who was also the representative of the Queen of England.
  3. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain was retained as the highest Court of Appeal.
  4. The office of prime minister was designated to perform executive functions.
  5. The constitution embraced the British parliamentary system of government.
  6. The Fundamental human rights were entrenched in the constitution.
  7. Provisions were made for definition of citizenship.
  8. Judicial service Commission was provided for in the constitution.
  9. Public Service Commission was established.
  10. It provided for a bi-cameral legislature.
  11. Legislative powers were listed as exclusive, concurrent and residual lists.
  12. The constitution provided a procedure for amending itself.

Merits of Independence Constitution of 1960

  1. The constitution granted full Independence status to Nigeria.
  2. Nigerians were made to occupy the highest political offices of the Governor-General and prime-minister.
  3. It introduced fundamental human rights of the citizens into the constitution for the first time.
  4. Bicameral legislature was introduced for Nigerians through the constitution
  5. The lask and responsibility of amending the constitution was vesled in the hands of Nigerians.
  6. The division of govermmental powers into exclusive, concurront and residual lists made the task of administration easier.

Demerits of Independence Constitution of 1960

  1. The Queen of England was still he head of state of Nigeria
  2. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain was retained as the Highest Court of Appeal.
  3. The Independence constitution was not completely fashioned by Nigerians as there wcre inputs of the British which were meant to protect their interest to the detriment of Nigerians.
  4. The members of the upper house, the Senate were appointed and not elected.

The Republican Constitution Of 1963
The Republican constitution came into effect on October 1, 1963.

Features of the Republican Constitution of 1963

  1. The Queen of England ceased to be the Head of Sate of Nigeria.
  2. The Supreme Court was made the highest court as against the previous Privy Council in London.
  3. The emergency power was conferred on the federal government.
  4. The governor general was to be known as the President.
  5. The constitution also containcd ihe process and procedure to be followed in creating Iew regions and altering the existing ones.
  6. It devised a revenue allocation formula based on certain principles like: need, derivation, national intrcst, etc.

Merits of Republican Constitution of 1963

  1. The Queen of England ceased to be the Nigerian head of state thereby
  2. making Nigeria to be a full independent state.
  3. The Supreme Court of Nigeria became the highest Court of Appeal and it replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain.
  4. The constitution attempted to provide an acceptable revenue allocation formula.
  5. The republican constitution guaranteed the libcrty of the cilizens through the entrenchment of fundamental human rights.
  6. The Supreme Court was empowered to check the abuse of powers by the executive and legislative organs ol government
  7. Nigerians were made to be in full charge of their own aftairs.
  8. The increase of the seats in the senate from 44 to 56 and that of House of
  9. Representatives lrom 305 to 312 ensured broader representation of various interest and groups in the federal government.

Demerits of Republican Constitution of 1963

  1. There was fusion of power which made it difficult for the rights and liberty of the citizens to be fully guaranteed.
  2. The President was not elected by the electorates but rather by the members of the National Assembly who constituted minority of Nigerian population.
  3. The parliament was supreme and not the constitution.
  4. The prime minister owes allegiance to the parliament instead of the electorates.
  5. The constilution created two offices i.e. the prime Minister’s and the president’s. This created friction and intense struggle for power Between the two top political office holders.

The 1979 Republican Constitution
The 1979 republican constitution was a product of Murtala/Obasanjo Military regime. Following the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed. Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo as his successor perfected all the arrangements and procedures that brought into existence the 1979 Republican constitution. A
Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) made up of 50 members headed by late Chief Rotimi Williams was established in 1975. Later, a Constituent Assembly (CA) under the chairmanship of Justice Udo Udoma was established to ratify the draft constitution by the CIC. The Constiluent Assembly comprised
230 members. The constitution was finally pronmulgated into law and it came into eflect on October 1, 1979.

Features of 1979 Republican Constitution

  1. One of the remarkable features of the constitution is that it abandoned the parliamentary democratic system and embraced presidential democratic system of govemment.
  2. The President assumed office through direct voting by the electorate.
  3. The President was the head of state and commander in-chief of the Armed Forces.
  4. There was the principle of separation of powers among the three organs of government.
  5. The President and governors could hold office for four years of not more than two terms if re-elected.
  6. The President and vice-president could be removed from office by impeachment.
  7. The National Assembly was bicameral which comprised the Senator and House of Representatives.
  8. The constitution provided for multi-party system.
  9. The constitution stipulated that political parties were to establish offices in at least 2/5 of the then nineteen (19) states before they could be registered and recognized by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO).
  10. The constitulion stated that the federal government was to exercise functions on items in the exclusive list while the state government was to handle the items in the residual list.

Merits of 1979 Republican Constitution

  1. The constitution helped to directiy check the activities of the ministers as the President was empowered to hire and fire the ministers.
  2. The separation of power built in by the constitution helped to check abuse of powers by the organs of government.
  3. The supremacy of the constitution helped to limit executive and legislative arbitrariness.
  4. The fundamental human ights of the citizens were consolidated and guaranteed.
  5. The fact that the President was elected by the electorates made him above party pressures and manipulations.
  6. The entrenchmcnt of a fixed tenure of office for the political office holders helped to check dictatorial tendency.

Demerits of 1979 Republican Constitution

  1. The presidency was overburdcncd as there was high concenlration of power in the hands of the President.
  2. The Presidential system was two expensive to operate as the organs of government were separated.
  3. Since members of the legislature were diffcrent from the executive, free flow of informmation was hindered. This created friction between the executive and the legislature.
  4. Lobbying became a normal practice which later manifested in the form of bribery and corruption.
  5. There was high level of ncpotism and tribalism as the appointments of
  6. Citizens into federal establishments were not based on federal character and merits.

The 1989 Republican constitution

The Constitution was fashioned out by General lbrahim Babangida’s military regime. After a Constitution Review Comnitlee (CRC) was set up and a Constituent Assembly was subsequently set up to deliberate on the draft constitution, the highest ruling body which was the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) made some amendments and finally approved the draft constitution into law by 1 of October, 1992.
The 1989 constitution was a review of the Republican constitution of 1979 as it still retained the presidential system of govenment. The National Assembly was bicameral and the executive president was to serve as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The governors were chief executives of their states. The constitution provided for Fundamental human rights and separation of powers. The constitution among other provisions stipulated the functions of the three tiers of government and their relationship.
The supremacy of constitution was maintained.

The 1999 Nigerian Constitution
The constitution was put together under the supervision of the
Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) led by General Abdulsalam Abubakar who became the head of state, after the death of (General Sani Abacha in June 1998. The constitution maintained all the features of the 1979 republican constitution and it came into effect on May 29, 1999.
The constitution retained the presidential system of government with tne president as the Head of State and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The National Assembly also remains bicameral with 109 senators at the upper house
(Senate) and 360 members of House of Representatives and each representing the three hundred and sixty (360) federal constituencies.
The constitulion advocated separation of powers among the three organs of govermment. Fundamental human nghts were also entrenched in the
constitution while the procedure for its amendment was clearly stated. The
functions of the federal, state and local govenment within their area of
jurisdiction were also itemized in the constitution.

There was also a brave attempt to amend the 1999 constitution by
President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 after the reports of the Constitution
Review Committee headed by the then deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu was submitted to the National Assembly. But due to nationwide perceptions of most Nigerians that the constitution amendment was a ploy to extend the tenure of Obasanjo’s civilian administration beyond 2007, it was
opposed by most Nigerians and the bill for the amendment of the constitution was dropped due to its inability to secure the support of 2/3 of members of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively.
Done studying? See previous lessons in Government.

Lesson Evaluation / Test

  1. Enumerate the major provisions of the Nigerian Independence Constitution of 1960.
  2. Highlight the major merits of the Nigerian republican constitution of 1963.
  3. Discuss the major features of the 1999 Republican constitution.
  4. Nigerian Republican constitutions.

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