Historical Background: The military government of Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo established a Constitution Drafting Committee in September, 1975. The committee began work in October of the same year. The body consisted of 49 members with Chief Rotimi Williams as chairman. In September, 1976, the CDC published a two-volume report on the new constitution. Later in 1976, a Constituent Assembly was established with 190 members indirectly elected by local government units “forming the electoral college) while 40 members were appointed by the federal military government. The constituent Assembly began its work on the report submitted by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) in December, 1976 under the chairmanship of Sir Justice Udo Udoma. The work was completed in June, 1978. However, some amendments were made by the government on the constitution before it was promulgated.
THE MAIN FEATURES OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION OF 1979
1) The president: The constitution adopted an executive presidential system, that is, the president is both Head of state and Head of government.
Functions: His powers and functions as Head of state and government were specified in the constitution. These powers include:
- Signing a bill into law.
- Representing the country at international conferences, e.g. U.N.O, O.A.U. and ECOWAS.
- Controlling the civil service and other agencies of government.
- Appointment of ministers, ambassadors etc.
Term of office: He will stay in office for four years and could only stay for two terms of eight years.
Impeachment: He could be removed from office, in case of insanity or through impeachment if found violating the provisions of the constitution. The parliament has the power of impeachment.
Office of the president: To occupy this office, as the executive president of the country, the constitution stipulated some of the following conditions:
- The person must be at least 35 years of age.
- He must be a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
2) The Vice- president: The president had the power to nominate his second in command, the vice – president, from the same party with the president.
3) National Assembly: The constitution established a bi – cameral legislature. House of Representatives had 450 members and the Senate, 95 members. These houses are jointly called, National Assembly.
Fixed term of office: The House of Representatives with an elected speaker and deputy speaker as well as the Senate and its elected president and vice – president were elected for a four year term.
Functions of the National Assembly
- It is the body responsible for law-making.
- It has the powers of investigation.
- It controls the raising and spending of money.
- It has the power of impeachment etc.
4) The state executive: The chief executive of each state is the governor.
Term of office: The duration of the first term of office is four years and could be re – elected for a second term. He is assisted in office by a deputy governor.
Impeachment: He could also be impeached or removed from office, if found guilty of violating the provisions of the constitution, e.g. Balarabe Musa of Kaduna state was impeached by the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
Powers/Functions of the Governor
- He is involved in the state and federal functions and conferences.
- Appointment of commissioners and other officials of government.
- Initiation of policies etc.
5) Separation of powers: The legislature and the executive were completely separated in both functions and personnel.
6) Legislative powers: These powers were shared between the federal and the nineteen state governments in the federation. The federal or central government through the parliament could legislate on items on the exclusive legislative list, while both the central and state governments could legislate on items under concurrent legislative list.
7) Federal character: The appointments of qualified personnel into any federal establishment or agency or as a minister of the government was to be done to reflect the federal character. In other words, appointments should not be segmented but to spread across the entire country.
8) Local governments: The constitution made provision for a democratically elected local government councils. It also listed the functions of the councils.
9) Fundamental human rights: The constitution entrenched a comprehensive provisions for fundamental human rights of the citizens. Such rights included right to life, right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty etc.
10) Federal capital territory: Provisions were made for the establishment of a new Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as the seat of the government of the federation.
11) Appointments of ministers: The president appointed his ministers (cabinet) from anywhere but subject to the approval of the National Assembly.
12) Appointment of political advisers: The constitution empowered the president to appoint his political advisers in other areas too. Also, to appoint liason officers in the 19 states of the federation.
13) Commander – in – Chief: The president was also the Commander -in- Chief of the country’s armed forces.
14) Election of the president: The president has the whole country as his constituency and was directly elected by the electorate.
15) Run – off election: This provision was made in the constitution. If no winner emerged in the first general election with an over – all majority, e.g. in a presidential election, if none of the candidates satisfied the provisions of the constitution, another election would be held. This election was known as run – off election or second ballot. However, the run – off election would not involve all the candidates again but only those that had met the regulation.
MERITS OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION
- The Executive president was popularly elected: The party, the elected president belonged, did not have control over him. The reason is because he was popularly elected and only responsible to the people.
- Separation of powers: powers are distinctly separated and this enhanced the effective performance of each of the organs. Also, the freedom and liberty of individuals were guaranteed.
- Power of judicial review: The power of the Supreme Court to check the excesses of any organ removed the tendency of any of them becoming high-handed and dictatorial.
- Fixed term of office: It removed the tendency of any leader or party perpetuating himself or herself in power.
- Activities of the ministers: The president could effectively check the activities of the ministers because they were individually responsible to him.
- Supremacy of the constitution: The constitution is supreme and as such must be obeyed and respected by all authorities and persons.
- New federal capital territory: The constitution made provision for a new federal capital territory. (ABUJA)
- Rights of Individuals: The rights of individuals were fully elaborated and guaranteed.
- Best materials were made ministers: The president had a free hand to choose his ministers even from outside his party and as such the best materials were appointed as ministers.
DEMERITS OF THE SECOND REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION
- Impeachment clause: The law-makers could use this clause indiscriminately and to victimize a political opponent. e.g. Balarabe Musa, Second Republic governor of Kaduna State was impeached.
- Costly to operate: This is because functions were highly duplicated.
- Federal character: The appointments of people into federal establishments could not reflect the federal character. This is because some sections of the country would still feel neglected.
- Delay in the execution of programmes: Separation of powers could cause delay in the execution of government programmes, e.g. the legislature could delay the approval of the budget and those nominated for ministerial posts.
- Problems: Problems could come up between the executive and the legislature, especially, when the ruling party could not control majority seat in the legislature. A good example was Kaduna State in the Second Republic, where NPN dominated the House.
- Concentration of powers: Too much powers were concentrated in the hands of the president as both Head of state and government.
- Run-off election clause: This issue was not respected.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN 1963 AND 1979 CONSTITUTIONS
First Republic Constitution
- It was a replica of the British type of parliamentary or cabinet system of government.
- The prime minister was the head of government and the president, ceremonial head of state.
- The prime minister was the leader of the party that won majority of seats in parliament.
- The prime minister was not directly elected but was chosen from the elected legislators in parliament.
- The prime minister appointed his ministers from his party members in the parliament.
- A minister was a member of the parliament as well as the executive.
- There was a fusion of power. The legislature and the executive were fused.
- There was officially a legally recognised opposition party.
- There was collective responsibility of ministers. (Principle of collective responsibility).
- The prime minister could be removed from office, if a vote of no confidence was passed on him.
- There was parliamentary supremacy.
Second Republic Constitution
- It was based on the American type of presidential system of government.
- The executive president was both the Head of state and government.
- The president might not be from the party that won the majority of seats in parliament.
- The president was elected through direct election by the electorate in a general election.
- The executive president appointed his ministers outside the parliament. He was not restricted to his party only for the appointment.
- A minister was not a member of parliament He belonged only to the executive arm of government.
- There was a clear separation of powers. Each organ exercised its functions distinctly
- There was no such recognition in the 1979 Constitution.
- There was individual responsibility of the ministers.
- The executive president could be removed from office through impeachment.
- There was the supremacy of the constitution.