HISTORY OF NIGERIAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The importance of a constitution in any given society cannot be overemphasized. The constitution, in Nigeria’s situation, is the supreme law of the land which all acts of individuals and of parliament must not contravene. It is the fundamental and organic law of a nation or state that establishes the institutions and apparatus of government, defines the scope of governmental sovereign powers, and guarantees individual civil rights and civil liberties.
It is trite that one of the sources of a constitution is other constitutions. This is the major concern of this present work. The aim of this work is to trace the history of Nigeria’s constitution from the 1922 constitution to the 1979 constitution. This will help us to understand better, how previous constitutions have been fashioned for Nigeria and will go a great length in making us understand the source of our present constitution from the looking glass of constitutional history.
After the annexation of Lagos by the British in 1861, a legislative and executive council was constituted for it. In 1862, Lagos and other British territories in the Gold coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia were by a commission dated 19 February 1866, placed under a Governor General based in Sierra Leone. However, they each had separate legislative councils. In 1874, the Gold coast and Lagos were formed into a separate colony with a governor and legislative council based in the Gold coast. In 1886, Lagos became a separate political entity with its own Governor, executive and legislative councils. In 1906, the protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the colony of Lagos were amalgamated and called the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria. By Article 4 of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate Order in Council 1906, the Legislative Council of Lagos was empowered to make laws for the protectorate of Southern Nigeria by ordinance.
In 1914, the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was merged with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria and they were referred to as the Colony and protectorate of Nigeria. The legislative council was this time allowed to make law for only the colony. The governor made laws for the protectorates. Lord Lugard said the reason for this was “until communications by railway are greatly extended,the proposition is physically impossible”. This was due to the large size of the country.
In place of a legislative council for the country, there was established an advisory body called the Nigerian council. It had 30 members of whom 17 were officials and 13 non-officials. Of the non-officials, four were nominated by the governor to represent commercial, shipping, mining and banking interests. while the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Calabar chamber of commerce of chamber of mines appointed one member each. The remaining members were Nigerians appointed by the governor.
THE 1922 CONSTITUTION
On assuming office in 1919, Sir Hugh Clifford, the governor, was pressured by the then West African congress, led by Caseley Hayford, to provide constitutions in West African subject states. This led to the making of the Clifford constitution of 1922. It introduced the first electoral system in Nigeria. The first election was conducted into the legislative council with four slots:3 for Lagos while 1 for Calabar. However, the election was based on limited franchise which restricted the election to those that earned a minimum of 100 pounds annually, which was very expensive for most Nigerians.
It also introduced a legislative council which replaced the Nigerian council. It consisted of 46 members with the governor as the head. Out of the 46, 23 were official members and 19 were unofficial members. The remaining four were elected as previously stated. However, the council could only legislate for the South. The governor legislated for the North via proclamation.
There was also an executive council, however, it had no Nigerians. It consisted of the governor, chief secretary, lieutenant governors, an administrator for Lagos, attorney – general, commandant of the Nigerian regiment,director of medical service, Comptroller general and Secretary for native affairs.
After Hugh Clifford, there were two other governors, Cameroon and Bernard Boudillion. They didn’t do much in terms of constitutional development. However, Boudilion divided Nigeria into East, West and North for administrative purposes. This was the bedrock for future regionalism.
THE RICHARDS CONSTITUTION
Before, the end of 1944, the then governor, Sir Arthur Richards provided a new proposal for constitutional amendment. This was as a result of pressure being mounted on him by the educated elites. They felt that the Clifford Constitution did not represent the indigenous population. Therefore, the governor introduced the constitution which had the following aims:
• To promote Nigeria’s unity
• To provide adequately within that desire for the diverse elements that make up the country
• To provide greater participation of Africans in the determination of their own affairs.
The constitution provided for a new legislative council, it had: The governor, 16 official members, and 28 unofficial members. Of the 28, two were nominated by the governor while 4 were elected. The North had 11 members, the West had 8 members while the East had 6 members. The elected 4 were from Lagos and Calabar. Also, the constitution made the council legislate for the whole country.
The constitution also provided for regional houses of assembly. The members of the regional assembly were nominated by the native authority. However, they weren’t legislative bodies. They were just grounds for discussing national issues. Also, it was from the house of assembly that members were nominated to the legislative council. The East and West had unicameral legislature while the North, in addition to a house of assembly, had a house of chiefs.
Also, the constitution reduced the amount of the limited franchise from 100 pounds to 50 pounds. This is considered as a plus because more people could vote and be voted for. However, it was still too expensive for most Nigerians.
The executive council in Lagos also had for the first time,Nigerians. they were Sir Adeyemo Alakija and Bankole Rhodes.
Despite all these improvements compared to the Clifford constitution, the constitution still had some defects. First, it limited franchise to only Lagos and Calabar. Also, the money required for the right to vote was still too expensive for most Nigerians. Also,the regional houses of assemblies could not make laws, they were merely grounds for public discussion. The constitution also did not include the elites. This is because those nominated into the regional houses of assembly and the legislative council were nominated by the native authority.
Due to the above criticism of the Richard constitution, it was felt that a new constitution was needed. The governor, Sir John Macpherson, not wanting to make the mistake his predecessor made, decided to include Nigerian in the constitutional making process. There was wide consultation of Nigerians even to the village levels. Also, there was the Ibadan conference of 1950. The result of all these was that it led to the creation of the Macpherson constitution.
The constitution provided for a federal legislature called the house of representatives. It had 136 elected representatives, 6 ex-officio members and 6 nominated by the governor. 68 members were from the North, 34 from the West and 34 from the East.
It also provided for regional legislatures that could make laws for their regions.The legislatures in the West and North were bi-cameral, each having a house of chiefs alongside the regional legislature. In the East, it was a unicameral legislature. It was also from the regional legislatures that members were nominated to the legislative council.
Despite, the improvements in the Macpherson constitution, it could not keep Nigerians united. It collapsed soon due to problems from the legislature. In 1953,Anthony Enahoro of the A.G proposed on the floor of the house that Nigeria should be given independence in 1956. The Northerners, who felt they were not ready for independence, opposed this. They proposed that independence should be given ‘as soon as practicable’. This led to been booed in Lagos. This led to a riot in Kano in reaction to what happened in Lagos. Also, the North threatened to secede.
In order to calm things down, the then colonial secretary, Oliver Lyttleton called the leaders for a conference in London. Some issues were discussed during the conference and committees were set up.Their reports were to be considered in the Lagos conference of 1954. It was the conference that led to the Lyttleton constitution.
The constitutional conferences of 1953 and 1954 held in London and Lagos respectively gave birth to the Lyttleton constitution. The constitution fully introduced a federal system,with North, East, West and Southern Cameroons. While the Federal capital territory was in Lagos.
Judicially, the West African court of appeal was abolished. There was a supreme court for Nigeria and individual high courts for the regions. However, the highest court of appeal was the judicial committee of the privy council. The Eastern and Western regions became self-governing in 1957 while the North became self-governing in 1959. Southern Cameroon through a referendum opted out of Nigeria.
THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION
On 1st October 1960, Nigeria became independent. This meant that Nigeria was a sovereign state independent of colonial influences. However, this was not fully the case. The Queen was still the head of state,although she was represented by a Nigerian in the person of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who was the Governor-General while Tafawa Balewa was the Prime minister.
The constitution was like the 1954 constitution but with some changes. There was the inclusion of provisions for acquiring citizenship of the country. There was also included in the constitution provisions for the procedure for amendment of the constitution. Judicially, Judges of the courts were appointed through nomination by the judicial service commission upon the assent of the privy council. The privy council was also the highest court of appeal in the country.
The constitution divided legislative powers between the center and the regional legislature. It made provisions for an exclusive legislative list. It also made provisions for a concurrent list. Items in the exclusive list were to be legislated by only the central legislature. Items in the concurrent list were to be legislated upon by the central legislature and the regional legislatures. Items not included in any of the lists were regarded as residual lists which were within the sole purview of the regional legislature.
It also provided for a dual executive. This meant that we had the Head of State and the Head of Government in two different people. The head of government was Nnamdi Azikiwe while the head of state was Tafawa Balewa. The head of state had only ceremonial functions while the head of government had executive powers. He was responsible for the day to day running of the activities of government.
The constitution also provided for its supremacy. This was in contrast to the convention in a parliamentary system. In a parliamentary system what we have is parliamentary supremacy, not constitutional supremacy.However, due to the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria, the constitution had to be supreme in order to dissuade fears of domination of minority groups.
Although Nigeria was purported to have gained independence from the British, there were still some vestiges of imperialism in the independence constitution. One of them is that the queen was still the head of state,who was represented by a Nigerian. Also, the highest court of appeal was the Judicial committee of the privy council in the house of Lords instead of the Nigerian Supreme court.It was due to these that a new constitution had to be made. This was the 1963 republican constitution.
THE 1963 REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION
The republican constitution was passed into law by the federal house of representatives on September 19, 1963, and came into force on 1st October 1963. This was after the constitutional conference held in Lagos on July 25 and 26 1963 where issues bordering on the real independence of Nigeria were resolved.
One of the main features was that the queen of England ceased to be the head of state. The head of state was the president who was to be chosen by secret ballot of a joint session of both houses of the national assembly. the president who was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The Supreme court rather than the privy council became the highest court of appeal in the country. Also, the judicial Service commission was abolished. The appointment of judges and their promotion was vested in the prime minister. The power of judicial review was vested in the Supreme court. It had the power to declare actions which were contrary to constitutional provisions null and void.
The seats in the senate and house of representatives were increased. The senate was increased from 44 to 56while the house of representatives was increased fro 305 to 312. The reason for this increase was the creation of the mid-western state. Hence, new seats had to be created to accommodate for this.
Despite all these changes in the constitution,there still some criticisms leveled against it. First was that the president was elected by the national assembly instead of the electorates. The national assembly consisted of just a few people in comparison with the whole electorates. This might end up making the president loyal to the legislature instead of the people.
Also, the abolition of the judicial service commission could be said to be a bad move. This is because leaving the regulation of the judiciary which ought to be independent in the hand of the executive compromised the judiciary. Judges would not want to offend the prime minister in order for them to get promoted,thereby circumventing justice.
Due to political crises in the country, the republican constitution did not last. On January 15 1966,there was a coup d’etat which removed the politicians. This brought about military rule until 1979.
THE PRESIDENTIAL CONSTITUTION OF 1979
In 1975, General Murtala Muhammed came into power. On coming to power, he promised to bring back civilian rule to Nigeria. Sadly, he could not see this through as he was assassinated. His successor, Obasanjo carried on his vision of ushering in democracy. A 49 member constitutional drafting committee headed by F.R.A Williams was appointed to make a draft constitution. After they were done, a constituent assembly headed by Justice Udo Udoma made final adjustments to the constitution. The constitution was promulgated and it came into force on 1st, October 1979.
The constitution jettisoned the parliamentary system of government and replaced it with a presidential system. The president was both head of state and head of government, commander in chief of the armed forces. The president was chosen by the electorates in a general election. He did not appoint his ministers from the parliament unlike the previous constitution. There was also an executive governor for each state who was the chief executive of the state.
The legislature was bicameral which consisted of senate and house of representatives. The senate had 95 members while the house of representatives had 450 members. The states, on the other hand had a unicameral legislature. The legislature had the power to impeach the president. So also, did the house of assembly have power to impeach the governor.
The judicial service commission was reintroduced. It had the powers to recommend judges for appointment subject to assent by the president and screening by the legislature. The judiciary was also given the power to interpret the constitution and any declare acts that are contrary null and void.
This work has gone to a great extent of tracing the constitutional development of the country from 1922 to the introduction of presidential system of government in 1979. The Clifford constitution was highlighted. It did not ensure effective representation so it was opposed by the elites. It was followed by the Richard’s constitution of 1946 which although was better that the Clifford constitution, did not not still ensure adequate representation. the Macpherson constitution succeeded the Richard’s constitution in 1951 but did not last long due to political crises. The Lyttleton constitution replaced Macpherson in 1954. It was replaced by the independence constitution of 1960. This was replaced by the 1963 constitution because it was imperialistic. The 1963 constitution later truncated by a military coup. In 1979, a presidential constitution was then introduced. It is worthy of note that most of the constitutions collapsed due to the activities of politicians.
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155 thoughts on “HISTORY OF NIGERIAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT”
You stopped at 1979 constitution wat abt 1999
Thanks for pointing that out. Would work on it.
Enter your comment here…do you know anything about scope constitution in nigeria
I don’t really get you. Do you mean scope of constitution in Nigeria?
No I don’t
What about the 1999 Constitution
Great Job Sir
I need the constitutional level of nigeria in 1922 and 1945
1999 constitution is missing
It’s a good work and of benefit.
I will like to help me with some note on the legislative Supremacy in Nigeria Since independence as obtained in the UK. My email : [email protected]
What are the features of clifford constitution
They are provided for under the heading “The 1922 Constitution”.
How can we improve the 1999 constitution?
No constitution is perfect. over time, it evolves to meet the demands of its society. So, there are no specific set things that can be done to improve the constitution. Rather, as issues present themselves, the constitution is amended to cover exigencies.
Hi! …can we say the constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended is autochthonous
As a Citizen of this great country, juxtapose the difference between 1979 and 1999 constitutions respectively.
What about the 1999 constitution
1999 constitution is absent
1999 constitution is absent
Yes. I am sorry for any inconvenience. I am working on adding it.
doing a very good job keep it up
EXCELENCE JOB KEEP IT UP
Thank You. You’re welcome
but there is no clifford constitution of 1922. Good job
Bauchi state bogoro l g a dirbi
F c e gombe
discuss on Nigeria constitution development Frm 1900 to 1999 ?
how important is constitution to the development of the society
The constitution is as important as the laws of the society. The constitution also creates uniformity since it is supreme and no other law can go against its provision.
Nice one bro God bless…
Thanks. You’re welcome
Why Do The 3 Constitution Base On Lagos And Calabar
For most of the Constitutions, the colonialists nominated traditional rulers into the legislative houses. In my opinion, the election of people from Lagos and Calabar was to carry along the urban elite who were based in this areas.
Wow!!! You’re amazing can I have your contact pls to chat you up on whatsapp
Hello. Are you subscribed to my mailing list? If you are, you can send me an email.
I heard it was late Gen. Sani Abacha that drafted the 1989 constitution. my question is, why and how did he made the constitution to make him a perpetual president, when was the constitution made and what made the constitution not recognized or put in practice?
The 1989 Constitution was the one in which M.K.O Abiola was purported to have won the presidential election. It obviously didn’t come into force because Abacha’s coup annulled it.
TRACE THE DEVELOPMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF BUSINESS LAW IN NIGERIA BETWEEN 1960 AND 2016 ( FOR 56 YEARS).
what is the difference between 1979 and 1999 constitution
There isn’t much difference in the substance. In fact, the 1999 constitution was essentially a rehash of the 1979 constitution. The little differences between the constitution would stem from the recent amendments to the 1999 constitution.
Plz also explain the procedure for the amendment of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria
You can check section 7, 8 and 9 of the constitution
Thanks bro for this wonderful work
Sir, expantiate on written constitution and the issues that arose this era
I don’t really understand you
Please watch are the issues in Nigeria constitutional development.
Pls Sir,can you expanciate more on the difference between 1979 constitution and 1999 constitution.
Please who wrote the 1999 Constitution?
Not just one person wrote it. a group of people, the Constitutional Drafting Committee. But it is essentially a repeating of the 1979 constitution.
Dear Lanre, please can I get the list of names of committee members for 1979 and 1999
Thanks for the update. Keep up the good works.
Thanks for the informations and keep up the good works sir.
Hello! Recently, there has been clamour to return to the1963 Republic Constitution. Why is it important in this present dispensation/era? I know for a fact that one of the features of the Constitution was the structure of regionalism, as well as it was based on parliamentary system of government.
One possible reason for the clamour for a return to the old constitution was because it had true federalism.
Pls did the President had any real power in the 1963 constitution? if yes, explain.if no, who had d real power?
The president in the first republic (1960 to 1966) was ceremonial. He was head of state while the prime minister was the head of government. This meant that while the President did ceremonial things like the declaration of war, receiving foreign dignitaries and appointing the prime minister, the Prime minister was responsible for running the government. Just like what obtains in Britain.
nothing on the 1999 constitution yet and am working on something relating to the 1999 constitution
what about 2014 constitution ?
There isn’t a 2014 constitution. What you are probably referring to is the 2014 amendment to the 1999 constitution.
Comment thank you sir may almighty Allah bless you
pls sir how many members constitute each regional house of assembly in the Macpherson constitution
THIS IS AN INCOMPLETE INFORMATION PLEASE UPDATE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Thanks for your suggestion. I won’t mind if you can send me the incomplete part of the information at [email protected]. It would be pleasant to hear from you.
pls what is the simiolarites between 1963 constitution and 1979 consti tution
I need the reference of trace the evolution of constitution development to independence in Nigeria
I need the reference of trace evolution of constitution in Nigeria
pls who can discuss me about the pre colonial ahams
what about third republican constitution 1989
fourth republican constitution 1999
what about third republican constitution of 1989
fourth republican constitution of 1999
I don’t currently have those. WOuld work on getting them though.
nyc one bro
Point of correction: The head of state was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe while head of government was Sir Abubakar Tafrawa Balewa. Please verify and rectify. Thanks
please you can discuss me the concept of constitutional development in Nigeria form 1914 to 1979 please
Please am i student, I have an presentation on the topic; clearly enumerate the resources of the constitution with empirical example.
Please cant you help me with anything to work on?
You have to focus on fixing your frequent grammatical error before the presentation
What an excellent piece. Thank you so much for linking up the Constitutions and making it easier. Keep it up
thanks so much for this wonderful job, please keep updating the internet for us once again Thanks
You’re very welcome. I’ll sure keep doing that.
The constitutional development in nigeria during the pre-colonia era is it the same as those ones you have already dropped down?
Nope. This is during the colonial period. There was no Nigeria before colonialism.
please I need constitutional development in Nigeria since 1999 still date
Can we also get the history of constitution from inception till 1999
What about 1999 constitution
which of this Constitution can we say is the most Essential, and what are it features?
you did not add 1989 constitution
It was a botched constitution. So, it wasn’t really a constitution. Another botched constitution was the 1995 Abacha constitution.
What about the “Census crisis of 1963/General election crisis of 1964”?
That’s not directly within the purview of the constitutional development.
Differences between 1922 Clifford constitution and 1954 Lyttleton constitution
Good job. Please try to complete other Constitutions…. Including the 1989 till date.. more energy to ur elbow
Keep it up
this is fantastic work.
I really appreciate what I have discovered concerning Nigeria Constitutional development. which gave me an experience about Nigeria Constitution
but I want to know differences between Native administration and native authority in Nigeria colonial administration.
pls when was this article published. I would like to cite this work.
Oh. OKay. It was published on 17th March 2016.
Please do you have any idea of the differences between then 1963 and the 1999 constitution based on separation of powers
what of the reference sir we need it sir
Which among all this constitution is the first and the most accptable by Nigerians . Pls repy me on my mail thank u.
OL Olamide, you’re really doing a good job. Thank you for making things easier for law student. I’m sending you a mail, kindly reply.
Pls the difference between the 1979 and 1999 constitution
i still don’t get you like the date you mention was a bit confusing The Clifford constitution is in 1922
The Richard constitution was in 1946
The MacPherson was in 1954
Lyttleton constitution was in 1956
post independence constitution was in 1960
The 1999 constitution was fashioned from the 1979 constitution with some amendment which came to existence in May 29 1999
Discuss the historical development of Nigeria constitution from 1922 till date.
Please examine the history of constitutional law making in Nigeria
Thank for creative work
you are doing a good work sir..i really find it very interesting and educative..thanks a lot
Pls draft any constitution for any association or union
What about the constitution from 1979 till date that’s 2021
My question goes like this,why Lord lugard was the first constitution in Nigeria, because some of my mate are saying Clifford is the first constitution of Nigeria, I truly need clarification on it, because I am studies political science and international relations, taraba state university jalingo
MUCH LOVE ? AMD GOD BLESS??
Which one at of the constitutions is most acceptable
Which constitution that have improvement effect In the country.
What about the botched constitution of 1989? What are the features of the constitution?
Great job sir but my question is that how can we distinguish between the 1963 constitution and 1979 constitution of Nigeria
What are the similarities between the pre and post independent constitution in Nigeria
Thank you so much, your work has been of great importance to me here in Law school.
Thank for making this constitution easier to the learners
Give details of the Nigerian council as the genesis of Nigeria constitutional development.
please can you talk on this!
Please sir, Differentiate between the Clifford constitution and the Richard constitution of 1922 and 1946 respectively.
Comment out line the different between 1946 and 1951 construction
Nice job. please can you explain the procedures for law making?
What about the difference
To what extent is it correct to say that the Richard constitution of 1946 sowed the seed of ethics discord in Nigeria
A good work please keep this up
Great work bro thanks
This was a very good explanation of constitutional development in Nigeria sir thanks for that
A nice work 🥰🥰
Please keep it up 👏👏
Kudos you tried
nice work sir
Please sir I need the history of Nigeria from 1861 to 1999
Please I’m working on this topic the constitutional development in Nigeria am done with my written outline and I’m in search for a conclusion on the topic can you please help me it really urgent I do appreciate thank you.
I need the features of 1960 to 1999 constitution
Are we still using the 1999 Constitution?
What about 1999 constitution
Keep it up
A very good job,looking forward to more publications on diverse topics.
thank you so much sir for this great job .
my first question is:
the Richard constitution provided legislative council of which 16 where official 28 non-official, of the 28 non- official 2 were nominated by the governor 4 were elected.
The North had 11 members
The west had 8 members while
east had 6 members
my question now is how many legislative members are they in total? because I was told they 44 and what am seeing here in total is 47 members am confused please I need more explanation
secondly is about 1999 constitution
thank you sir.
Thanks you so much
Thanks sir ..it’s really helpful
tidSorry. But this is confusing was there a 1999 constitution?
And is the 1979 constitution the one referred to as the 1999 constitution?
Please sir how will I get the history development constitution from 1922 till date sir
October 6 2022. Messages Mennen Says Nice work but
Inconclusive work sir 1999 constitution is missing.
Thanks for the points
Is it possible to download this as a pdf, it’s too much to screenshot
Sir the 1999 constitution is missing
Am a student of jpts
My name is Salaudeen sikirat olayinka
We are giving a topic to discuss the Nigerian constitutional and development
The history of Nigeria as a colonial entity and as a sovereign state is characterised by constitutional reform yet the country is characterised by economy and socioeconomic and sociopolitical challenges
Please I need the differences between the four pre-colonial constitutions