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Features of Nigeria Constitutional Law and Development
The components of Nigerian Constitution
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 starts in this format
"We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding
And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people
Do hereby make, enact, and give to ourselves the following Constitution:-"
Any country without a Constitution is like a country without a guide or sense of direction, or like a sheep without shepherd. The country of that kind operates in darkness and the citizens act and behave the way they like. The reason is because there is no set of rule that stands to direct the way things are to be done and the penalties that awaits the offenders. But, in a practical sense, this kind of country does not exist in the modern world. In summary, every country must have constitution irrespective of its population and location. The question is: what is a Constitution?
A Constitution is an instrument of the government, made by the people, establishing the structure of the government, regulating the powers of the government, rights and duties of the individual functions and providing remedies to unconstitutional acts. The Constitution is made for both the government and the citizens. Nobody is above the Constitution of his country. Even the president of the nation is not above the Constitution of the country he rules. He must face the court once he acts against the Constitution of the country. That your father works with the president does not prevent you from facing any penalty when you do anything contrary to the Constitution.
Nigerian Constitutional Law has its features and development. Though one of the challenges in Nigeria is that those who are the leaders at times do not abide by this constitution to the core. The features of the Constitution of this country are basically six in number. The development of the Constitution of any country can be traced back to Aristotle.
Government officials in the country are mandated to respect and work with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is clearly stated in Chapter II Section 13, that is chapter two section 13 of the Law.
"It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government, and all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the apply the provisions of this chapter of this constitution".
The Features of Nigeria Constitutional Law
What are the features of Nigerian Constitutional Law? All Constitutions have their features and that of Federal Republic of Nigeria will not be an exception. The fundamental features of Nigeria Constitutional law are: presidential form of government, separation of powers, federalism, rule of Law, and the supremacy of the constitution. It is important to know that these features can be further divided depending on the area the author of any book wants to elaborate on.
Presidential form of government: The president of any country has the veto power (the power to reject any decision made by the Law-making body). He is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the country. In Nigeria, the president appoints the ministers that work with him. Every minister is a member of the cabinet. Note that the president can exercise his power directly or through the ministers, vice president or through other officers. The ministers can be appointed through the president political parties or outside of his party. The president is a member of the ruling party but not the head of the ruling. Example, in 2013, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is President Goodluck Jonathan while the head of his political party is Adamu Mu'azu (PDP chairman). The ministers are to be obedience to the president or otherwise stop working with the president of the country. Note that the legislature and the executive are not basically the member of the president's political party.
The president is not a member of the parliament but he is responsible for the parliament and also the people. If the president misconducts the affairs of the nation, the people and the parliament have the right to impeach him. They will not vote for the president if he contests for next election because of his weaknesses.
Separation of powers: The three arms of government provided by the Nigerian government are: the executive, legislative and the judicial arms of government. These three arms of government are equal and independent on each other. Separation of powers is division of powers and functions of the government among the three independent and separate arms of government. These three arms act as check and balance to one another. The origin of the three arms of government can be traced back to an English philosopher called John Locke (1632-1704).
The members of the executive council implement the Law. When the Law-making arm (legislative arm) of the country passes the Law to them, their own duty is to implement (to make the Law effective). They check and implement the weaknesses in the Law. According to the constitution of Nigeria, the governor of a state can exercises his executive powers through his vice, commissioners of the state or through the officers in the public services of the state.
The Legislative arm is the Law-making arm of the government. This arm is empowered to make the Laws that govern any citizen of the country. In the other words, this branch of the organ of the government makes the Law that govern the nation. In Chapter one, subsection 1 of the section 4 (Section 4.1) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria writes ''The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representative". The Law made by this arm is supreme over any other Laws in the country. No matter how strong any local Law is, it must submit to the Law made by this body.
Judicial arm of government: They are the interpreters and judges of the Law. Chapter seven of the 1999 constitution, sections 230-269 deals with the power of the judiciary. Chapter One of the Constitution, section 6 of the subsection 1(section 6.1) writes "the judiciary powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation".
Federalism: Nigeria is Federal Republic under the Constitution. It is made up of Federal Capital Territory which is Abuja, 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas. It also has six area municipal councils in the Federal Capital Territory.
The rule of Law: This is the equality of all before the Law. Laws are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. Rule of Law implies that a country is governed by civil Law or regular Law. That means Laws which are justifiable in a democratic society. It is rule of right and not rule of might. There is exclusion of arbitrary Laws and arbitrary actions in rule of Law. The opposite of rule of Law is rule of force or rule of arbitrariness, despotism. The term "rule of Law" means the existence of several important principles. Any who goes contrary to the rule irrespective of the class of offence must face the punishment that is attributed to it. If the breaking of the Law is due to corruption, the offender faces the related punishment.
Supremacy of the constitution: This implies that the Constitution is supreme above any other rule or Law. If other Laws are inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution, the Constitutional Law shall prevail and the other Laws void. Whether the Law of a Local community in Nigeria says that women are not supposed to come out on a specific festival day and the constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria does not approve that, what it implies is that if a woman is injured by the village men because she disobeyed their local rule, then the women stands the chance of winning the case in the Law court if she sue those that injured her. This shows the supremacy of the constitution.
The Development of Constitutional Law
The idea of Constitution can be said to originate from a man called Aristotle in his classification of government as: Monarchies, tyrannies, Aristocracies, Oligarchies, democracies and so forth. The modern constitution starts after the reinforcement in Europe. The persons that contributed to this are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and James Jacques Rousseau. They were the people that developed the theory of Constitution as a social contract.
Today, the idea of a Constitution is widespread all over the world. A Constitution and democratic government has been defined by Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American president, as the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The features of Nigerian Constitutional Law has been made clear through this article. These features as quoted in this text are: presidential form of government, separation of powers, judicial arm of government, rule of Law, federalism and supremacy of the constitution. These were separately discussed under individual headings to enhance understanding of the topic to the core. Also, this piece explained the development of the Constitutional Law. The characteristics or features of Nigerian Constitution as explained can be used for academic purpose. It is a self explanatory write-up.
But the truth remains that irrespective of the fact that Nigeria has these constitutional Laws which stand to guide every citizen of the country, people go contrary to the constitution and yet do not receive the punishment they deserve. These are the people that claim that they are the ones that holds the country, specifically top politicians. This is one of the reason why many things are falling apart in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
General Principles of Law in Nigerian by Nick A. Obodo Eso; and
1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.