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Unwritten and Written Constitution

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Unwritten and Written Constitution

A written Constitution, unlike an unwritten Constitution cannot be changed, amended or repealed like an ordinary enactment: (Sokefun J.A.) It is rigid. A rigid constitution is one under which certain laws generally known as fundamental Laws cannot be changed in the same manner as ordinary laws (A. V. Dicey).
Some written Constitutions are not rigid. For example the constitution of Zealand is written and alterable by a simple majority.

 
What is of essence is not whether a constitution is written, unwritten, rigid or flexible as such by the people. The Swiss Constitution was adopted by a constituent assembly and ratified in a plebiscite. The United States Constitution was drafted, subjected to venomous discussion on popular platform, then to a referendum, ratification in various states and formal promulgation by pre-existing state authority. In these states, the constitution is law ordained and established by the people and their force and efficacy to this fact that they can be said to be established by the people to be governed by it. A Constitution Drafting Committee drafted the Constitution of Nigeria and the supreme Military Council promulgated it into law. They acted as organs of existing political society declaring in its preamble:

“WE THE PEOPLE OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA DO HEREBY MAKE, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THE FOLLOWING CONSTITUTION.”

A Constitution may be written or unwritten.

Unwritten Constitution

The Great Britain has an unwritten Constitution. However there are certain statutes which though are not different from others are held with peculiar veneration. Examples are:

  1. The Margna Carta 1215 
  2. Petition of Rights 1628 
  3.  Acts of Settlement 1701 
  4. The Act of Union with Scotland 1706 
  5. The Parliament Act, 1911 -49 
  6.  The Supreme Court of Judicature Acts 1873-1925 
  7. The Statute of Westminister 1931 
  8. The Ministers of Crown Act. 1946 – 75 
  9. The Nigerian Independence Act. 1960. 

Written Constitution

Among countries with written constitution are Nigeria, United States of America, the Common Wealth of Australia, and Canada etc. A written constitution was adopted for African in order to launch them into their new independent existence and impose checks against majority power in the interest of ethnic, racial or religious minorities. To this end, their constitution is an act of conscious creation in a written form, a purely political (not legal) act, not having been enacted through its regular procedure for law making. The drafters may be regarded (or at least regard themselves) as organs of existing political society.

SELF-ASSESSMENT EXERCISE

What do you understand by the term Constitution?

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