The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign country located in West Africa. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 29 May, 1999.
Abdulsalam Abubakar – Head of state of Nigeria, a General in Nigerian Army was in office between June 1998 and 29th May, 1999. It was during his leadership that Nigeria adopted this new constitution. However, the 1999 constitution is largely a re-creation of the Second Republic Constitution of 1979 with the features of an American Presidential System.
MAIN FEATURES OF THE 1999 FOURTH REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION
1) The Executive President: Presidential System of government was adopted. Executive President is both Head of State and government.
Term of Office: He stays in office for four years and can only stay for two terms of eight years.
The Office of the President: To occupy this office, will require the following conditions:
- The individual must be at least 35 years of age.
- Birth: He must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
2) Vice President: The office of the Vice President as second in command was created.
3) Sovereign immunity: Section 308 of the constitution provides immunity from Court proceedings i.e. namely the President and his Vice.
4) Nigerian Armed Forces: This is the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Executive President of Nigeria is the commander- in Chief of the Armed Forces.
5) National Assembly (NASS): A bicameral legislature was established. House of Senate and House of Representatives. Composition: Senate 109, Representatives 360.
- Senate: It has elected President and Deputy President.
- Representatives: It also has elected speaker and deputy speaker.
Terms of Office: Four years and could be re-elected as members of Senate and House of Representatives.
6) Executive Governors: Each State has an elected Executive Governor. He stays in office for four years and could be reelected for another term of four years. In all, he stays for only eight years (two terms) in office. There is a Deputy Governor to assist him.
7) Impeachment: Elected political leaders e.g. President, Governors, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker, can be impeached or removed from office, if found to have violated the provisions of the constitution.
8) Supreme Court: This is the highest Court in Nigeria and is located in chapter VII of the 1999 constitution.
9) Council of State: It is an organ of the Nigerian Government.
10) Freedom of Religion: The constitution allows freedom of religion – Christianity and Islam are the two major religion in Nigeria.
11) Appointment of Ministers: Appointment of ministers (cabinet) are made by the President with approval from the National Assembly.
12) Fundamental Human Rights: These rights are entrenched in the constitution for e.g. right to life, right to personal liberty and right to vote and be voted for.
13) Separation of powers: The Constitution make the provision for strict separation of powers among the three organs of government- Executive, Legislative and the judiciary.
14) Federal Character: Appointments of political officers in government should not be restricted or segmented but should spread across the whole country. For example, the appointment of chairmen into federal agency or establishment has to be done to reflect federal character, so also the appointment of ministers.
15) Legislative Powers: Powers were shared between the federal and other tiers of government – State and local governments.
16) Renunciation of Citizenship: The right to renounce Nigerian Citizenship is established.
17) Democratizarion: This constitution restore democratic rule in Nigeria.
MERITS OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
- Popularly Elected: The Executive President, Governors of States are popularly elected by the people.
- Fundamental Human Rights: These rights were respected and guaranteed in the constitution.
- Separation of Powers: Separation of power was also recognized by this constitution, thereby making for non-interference in the activities of each organ.
- Supreme Court: Still retained the power of judicial review. That is, the power to check the excesses or the unconstitutional activities of other arms of government.
- Fixed Term of Office: This will help to remove the tendency of any ruling party in government perpetuating itself in power.
- Supremacy of the Constitution: The constitution remain supreme and the provisions must be respected by all and sundry.
- Federal Character: This appointments respects the rights of both the majority and minority groups in the country. It brings in representatives from almost different interest groups in the country.
DEMERITS OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
- Costly to run: The constitution operates a Presidential System of Government with comprehensive duplication of political functions, thereby, making it too expensive and costly to run.
- Impeachment: The impeachment clause as stipulated in the constitution could be abused by the law-makers. They can use it to victimize a political opponent.
- Execution of Programme: Separation of powers could result to delay in the implementation or carrying out of government programmes. For example, the National Assembly can delay the approval of budget, ministerial and other appointments to be made by the President.
- Refusal of the Executive to honour the judgement of the Supreme Court: The Executive can refuse to honour the judgement of the Supreme Court because of the Sovereign immunity it has. For example, the case between the Federal Government over non-release of funds for the local governments in Lagos State. The judgement was in favour of Lagos State, yet the Federal Government refused to oblige.
- Activities in Government: This could be brought to a stand-still because there is a problem between the Executive and the Legislature, especially when the ruling party does not have majority seat in parliament. The party forming the majority in the House would do everything possible to strangulate the programme of the ruling party because they are not in harmony and not ready to work together.
- Concentration of Powers: Some Critics have both argued that the Executive President as both heads of state and government has too much powers concentrated in him, creating the room for abuse of powers.