The constitution refers to a set of basic laws of a country, the constitution also is the source of other laws. Other new laws made in the country come from those basic laws in the constitution.
In Nigeria, the constitution is supreme; everyone (irrespective of their status) is subject to the constitution.
Functions of the Nigerian constitution
- It helps the citizens to know the laws of the land
- It helps the citizens to clearly identify the organs of government and the functions of those in power.
- It state how the rules should govern the country.
- It explains the rights and duties of the citizens.
- It helps the citizens to know who Nigerian citizens are and how a foreigner can become a Nigerian citizen, if he or she chooses to.
Sources of the Nigeria constitution
The Nigerian constitutions we earlier studies are from different sources.
These include the following:
- The historical document (the amalgamation act of 1914) which created Nigeria as a colony and protectorate under British Colonial rule is a source of Nigerian constitutions from 1922-2960.
- Laws made by the law-making organ (the legislative organ also known as parliament) are sources of all pre-independence constitutions of Nigeria. The British parliament made all Nigerian constitutions from 1922-1960, while the Nigerian parliament made the 1963 constitution.
- Previous constitutions: the 1963 constitution had its major sources in the independence constitution of 1960. Similarly, the 1999 constitution has the 1979 and 1989 constitutions as part of its major sources.
- Decrees or laws made by military government: the 1979, 1989 and 1999 constitutions were made by the military governments in power during that period.
- Constitutional conferences: All Nigerian constitutions from 1951 to 1999 are products of constitutional conference. Also, the 1979, 1989 and 1999 constitutions are products of constitutional conferences organized by military governments to ensure the handing over of government from the military to civilian and democratically elected governments.
- The constitution is also derived from acceptable customs and traditions of the people.
- International agreements or documents produced by international inter-governmental organizations (IGO), such as the United Nations Organization (UNO): for example, most elements of human rights in the Nigerian constitution are from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UNUDHR).
Features of the Nigerian constitution
The constitution of Nigeria is characterized by the following features, which are generally applicable to the constitutions of other countries:
- It has an introductory statement of where, by whom and for what purpose the constitution was made. For example, the 1999 constitution states that “we the people of the federal republic of Nigeria.. do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following constitution”.
- It states that the constitution is supreme. This means that the constitution is the fundamental law of the nation and that any act or law contrary to it will be of no effect.
- The constitution states the major organs of government of Nigeria and their functions and powers.
- The constitution identifies the procedures and requirements for occupying major positions in government, such as that of the president, governors and members of the national assembly.
- It states how to form and run political parties.
- The constitution states the system of government being operated in Nigeria and the processes to be followed in operating it.
- It states the objectives of the Nigerian nation both within Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
- The constitution explains how foreigners can become Nigerian citizens.
- It explains the rights of Nigerians.
- It explains the duties and responsibilities of Nigerians.
- What is a constitution?
- How important is the Nigerian constitution?
- Identify five sources of the Nigerian constitution.
- Mention four functions of the Nigerian constitution.
- Identify six features of the Nigerian constitution