The 1960 Independence Constitution: Objective And Features

Before The 1960 Independence Constitution, There the london conference of 1957 (May 23 – June 26) and the lagos conference of 1958 where important decisions were taken.

The conference agreed october 1st 1960 as the date for Nigerian’s Independence. The decisions of these conferences formed the basis for the modification and addition to the lyttleton constitution. The 1960 constitution put Nigeria in charge of their own government.

The 1960 Independence Constitution Features

The 1960 Independence constitution has the following features:

1. It established a parliamentary Democracy.

2. The executive authority was vested in the Queen, represented by the governor- general at the center and governors in the regions who were to act on the advice of the ministers. The head of government (the Prime Minister) was the leader of the party that commands the highest number in the house of representatives.

3. A full cabinet government was established.

4. The judicial service commission was established to advice on the appointment of high court and Supreme Court judges.

5. The independence of the judiciary was ensured and judges were to be paid from the consolidated Revenue fund.

6. The Judicial committee of the Privy Council in London was the last judicial appeal body for the country.

7. The legislature was bicameral with both th house of Representative and a nominated house of senate. The representation in the House of representative was based on population while the senate was based on equity of the region. All the regions had 12 members in the senate each.

8. All the regional legislatures were bicameral.

9. The constitution was federal and had lists of subjects; Exclusive list for the federal Governments. The legislative lists for the regions covered subjects called residual which were neither listed for the federal Government nor denied the regional governments.

10. Special powers of the federal Government provided for:

a. Federal authority was authorized to supercede any regional authority in case of conflict between federal and regional laws.

Emergency powers of the federal government:

If a regional government exercises its authority in contravention of the provisions of the constitution (Section 60 and 80) which provided that regional government shall not prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the federal government or endanger its continuance, the federal government is empowered to legislate for any part of the country (Irrespective of whether the matters is exclusive and concurrent subjects) during a period of emergency. Emergency is defined as during a period of a war in the federation or when parliament declared that a state of public emergency exists or when the majority of each federal House parliament declares that democratic institution in the country are threatened by subversion. (This power was evoked in 1962 during the Western region crisis and Dr. Moses Majakodunmi was appointed by the federal government as sole administrator of the region in place of the elected government, which was suspended).

b. The constitutional document had within it separate constitutions for the federation, the Northern region, the Western and the Eastern region.

c. The procedure for ordinary constitutional amendment was rigid. The rigidity of the constitution was more when new regions were to be created, and boundary adjustments. The rigid amendment procedure was followed during the creation of the Mid-Western region in 1963.

d. Enshrined in the constitution were fundamental human right provisions to allay the fears of minorities and individual Liberty.