The 1960 Constitution bore a semblance to the 1954 Constitution except that there were some basic exceptions as follows:
- The Governor-General was transformed into a Head of State and he acted only on the advice of his ministers;
- Judges of the Federal Supreme Court and the High Courts were appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and their dismissal could only be effected by a recommendation of a tribunal of judges after confirmation by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council;
- Constitutional provisions were made for citizenship; and
- A procedure for amendment was introduced into the constitution. For ease of administration, powers were divided between the federal and three regional governments. There was the Exclusive List as well as the Concurrent List. The former was placed exclusively under the jurisdiction of the federal government while the latter was under the federal and regional governments. Matters not mentioned there were referred to as Residual Matters.
Under this constitution, all other items that did not feature in both lists were regarded as being under the jurisdiction of the regional government, though where any law made by the region was inconsistent with a federal law, such law became void to the extent of its inconsistency. Under section 65(1) of this constitution, the Federal Supreme Court was given the power of judicial review.
By the provisions of section 107 of the constitution, the federal parliament could exercise legislative powers on any subject matter in an emergency with a comprehensive definition of “period of emergency” provided under section 63(3).
A renowned constitutional law teacher Professor Jadesola Akande, while describing the main features of the 1960 constitution noted that it had the following characteristics:
- Separation of the Head of State from the effective Head of Council.
- The plurality of the effective executive. i.e. the Prime Minister as head of the Executive Council.
- The parliamentary character of the executive since the Ministers was chosen from the Legislative Houses.
- The responsibility of the Ministers to the legislature.
As a matter of fact, the 1960 constitution was a giant stride in the march towards the constitutional development of Nigeria and it was through it that all other subsequent constitution sought inspiration even though in some areas, for instance, the judiciary, appeals still lied at the Privy Council. Their decisions were taken as advisory and some lands were still vested in the Queen. There was, for the first time, a Council of Ministers manned solely by Nigerians, a free Director of Public Prosecution and some aspects of government like prison, police, etc. were still controlled by the crown.
The 1960 independence constitution was the mother of all other constitutions in Nigeria up to date. Discuss.
The 1963 Republican Constitution
The significant feature in this constitution was that in contents, it was similar to the 1960 constitution. However, certain significant changes were made. For instance; the federal parliament enacted the Constitution of the Federation Act 1963. This Act had the effect of repealing the Nigeria Independence Act, 1960. By virtue of this constitution, Nigeria assumed the status of a Republic and all powers that hitherto belonged to the Monarch were transferred to the president and regional governors. Other important and significant changes were the creation of the Mid- West Region, the provision of fundamental human rights and also the creation of the Supreme Court of Nigeria as the highest appellate court drawing from each region. All these new innovations removed the imperial stigma from the Nigerian constitution. It has been observed that one of the reasons for acceptance of presidential and the change to a republic was probably the desire for the removal of the trait of imperialism from the nation’s social order.
The Military took over power in 1966 and from that period to 1979 when a democratic president was elected, there were no significant constitutional developments. The constitution was rather suspended or modified by the various constitutions (suspension and modification) Decrees.
In this unit, we have considered the constitutional development of Nigeria between 1960 and 1979. You should now be able to identify these developments.
What is the significant difference between the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions of Nigeria?