The Nigerian Independence Constitution of 1960


Nigeria Independence Constitution

Let us begin with the definition of a constitution- A constitution is a set or body of agreed rules that guides a state or country in its administration. Before Nigeria became independent in 1960, series of constitutions had been used in administering the country, e.g. the Clifford constitution of 1922, the Richards constitution of 1946, the Macpherson constitution of 1951 and the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. Each of these constitutions has its own features though they are related or linked to each other in one way or the other.

However, when Nigeria gained her independence on October 1st 1960, a home made constitution was adopted thus disposing its predecessor (1954 Lyttleton Constitution), although it still retained some of its features.


Here are the main features of the 1960 Independence Constitution

* The independence constitution provided for a democratic parliamentary system of government whereby the office of the head of State is different from the office of the head of government.

* A federal system of government was retained.

* Queen Elizabeth was still the Head of state, Nnamdi Azikwe, the Governor – General, was a ceremonial Head of State representing the Queen until October 1st 1963 when Nigeria became a republican State.

* The prime minister was the Head of government and administration {Tafawa Balewa}.

* The constitution provided for a bi-cameral legislature at the center, the Senate (upper house) and House of Representatives ( lower house).

*The constitution provided a premier as the Head of the executive of each region.

* The fundamental human rights of the citizens were entrenched in the constitution, and also did the constitution defined who a citizen is and how to acquire citizenship.

* The Constitution laid down the procedure for creating new regions.

* It gave the federal government the power to declare a State of emergency in any part of the country.

* The constitution divided the legislative powers of governments into three – exclusive list (Central government), concurrent list (both central and regional government) and residual list (local government).

* The final Court of Appeal was the Privy Council in London.

* The constitution also stated the procedure for the amendment of a constitution.

The 1960 Independence constitution also has other features which included:

* The powers of Parliament to make laws;

* Powers of Public Service Commission in relation to grant of pensions;

* Powers, practice and procedure of Federal Supreme Court;

* Appeals to Federal Supreme Court from Sharia Court of Appeal and Court of Resolution.

This constitution was later replaced by the Republican constitution of 1963 which replaced the Governor-General appointed by the British monarch with a President elected directly by members of the Nigerian federal legislature.

Note:- The independence constitution was rigid, i.e. it was difficult to amend.




* C. C. Dibie; Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools; Tonad Publishers; August 2008

* Law Nigeria- Constitution Hub; ; [Accessed- Oct., 2, 2015]

* The Nigerian Constitution: History and Development; Oluwole I Odumosu; London, Sweet; Maxwell, 1963


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