The Independence Constitution Of 1960: Features, Merits And Criticism

Table Of Contents

1. Features Of The 1960 Independent Constitution
2. Merits Of The 1960 Constitution
3. Major Criticism Of The 1960 Constitution

The Independence constitution which took place in May 1960 ushered in Independence on October 1, 1960. The 1960 Constitution is also known as the “Transitional Constitution” because it marked the formal transfer of power from the British colonial government to Nigerians.

By the Nigerian Independence Act of 1960, the British parliament conceded Independence to Nigeria with full responsible status within the commonwealth as from October 1 of that year. The name of the country was changed from the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria to Nigeria, and the British government ceased from that date to have any responsibility for the government of the country or any part thereof.

Features Of The 1960 Independent Constitution

1. The constitution established a dual exercise arm made up of the Governor General and Prime Minister. The Queen of England was still the Head of State as she was represented by the Governor-General who became the Ceremonial Head of State.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first indigenous Governor General of Nigeria. The Prime Minister on the other hand, was the Head of Government. He was to be appointed by the Governor General, from the legislature. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Northern Peoples Congress was appointed the first Prime Minister.

2. The British authorities no longer amended the constitution for the country, but the procedure for amendment were contained in the constitution itself.

3. For the first time Nigeria had a Bicameral legislature at the Centre i.e. the House of Representatives and Senate.

4. Nigeria remained a federation of 3 Regions.

5. The privy council of London was the highest Court of Appeal in Nigeria.

6. Fundamental Human Rights were entrenched in the constitution as a way of protecting the interests of the minorities.

7. The constitution provided for independent judiciary in Nigeria.

8. Where regional laws conflicted with that of the federal, the latter prevailed and rendered the former null and void, to the extent ot the inconsistency.

Merits Of The 1960 Constitution

1. Nigerians contributed immensely towards the production of the constitution, through the 1957 and 1958 conferences.

2. The constitution of Nigeria was no longer amended by the British authorities. But by the Nigerians.

3. The procedure of future amendment was clearly spelt out.

4. The constitution provided for the Fundamental Human Rights of Nigerian citizens

5. For the first time a Nigerian became a Governor-General and Prime Minister.

6. For the first time, Nigeria had a Bicameral legislature.

Major Criticism Of The 1960 Constitution

1. The Queen of England was still the Head of State of Nigeria which implied that the British government still had reasonable influence over what happened in Nigeria.

2. The nomination of members of the senate did not make for equality.

3. The privy council of London was still the highest Court of Appeal and not the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

4. Judges were appointed by the Queen of England on the advice of the Governor General.

5. Non-Nigerians were still Senators.

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