From this definition, we can deduce that a constitution must concern itself with the structures of government as well as organs and the interrelationship of such organs.
The Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines Constitution as
(a) the way in which a government, state, society is organized; (b) the system of fundamental laws and principles of government, state, society, corporation etc. written or unwritten; (c) a document or set of documents in which these laws and principles are written down. This definition emphasizes the function and nature of a constitution.
Blacks Law Dictionary defines constitution as “the organic and fundamental law of a nation or state which may be written or unwritten, establishing the character and organising the government and regulating, distributing and limiting the functions of its different departments and prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of sovereign powers”. The above is made clearer by the definition contained in the Oxford Law Companion as follows: “A Constitution is the:
a. Body of rules prescribing the major elements of the structure and organisation of any group of persons, including clubs, associations, trade unions, political parties and citizens of a state. b. The fundamental political and legal structure of government of a distinct political community, setting such matters as the Head of State, the legislature, the executive and judiciary, their constitutional powers and relations”.
NATURE, FUNCTION AND ORIGIN
The nature of the constitution has been aptly put by Hon. Justice Adolphus G. Karibi-Whyte as the “…Fons et origo of the exercise of powers, the employment of rights, and discharge of obligations…” Some of the functions of the Constitution as contained in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria are as follows:
- It states the aims and objectives of the people.
- It establishes a national government.
- It controls the relationship between the governments.
- It defines and preserves personal liberties.
- It contains provisions to enable the government to perpetuate itself…. .
Hood Phillips has suggested that the word “Constitution” could be used in two different senses; the abstract and the concrete. In the abstract sense, it refers to the system of laws, customs and conventions which define the composition and power of organs of the state and regulate the relations of the various state organs to one another and to the private citizens. In the concrete sense, it is a document in which the most important laws of the Constitution are authoritatively ordained. This brings us to the issue of the written and unwritten (flexible and rigid) constitutions.