Government StudiesHistory ClassroomIndependence HistoryPolitical History

The 1960 Independence Constitution of Nigeria – Features, Merits & Demerits

1960 Independence constitution of Nigeria
Jaja-Wachuku, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Princess Alexandar of Kent on Nigeria’s independence day, 1960


Definition of a constitution. What is a constitution?

Let us start with the definition of a constitution. A constitution is a set or body of agreed rules that guide a state or country in the administration of its affairs. In other words, a constitution is the basic principles and laws of a nation or state which determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people.

1960 Independence Constitution of Nigeria

Before Nigeria gained independence in 1960, some constitutions had been used to administer the country, they are the Clifford constitution of 1922, Richards constitution of 1946, Macpherson constitution of 1951 and Lyttleton Constitution of 1954. All these constitutions have their own features and are linked to one another in some ways.

When Nigeria gained its independence on October 1st 1960, a homemade constitution known as the 1960 Independence Constitution was adopted which replaced the colonial 1954 Lyttleton Constitution; although it retained some of its features.

Main Features of the 1960 Independence Constitution of Nigeria

  1. The 1960 independence constitution provided a democratic parliamentary system of government whereby the office of the Head of State is different from the office of the head of government.
  2. A federal system of government was retained.
  3. 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.
  4. The prime minister was the Head of government and administration (Tafawa Balewa).
  5. The constitution provided for a bi-cameral legislature at the center – the Senate (upper house) and House of Representatives ( lower house).
  6. The 1960 independence constitution of Nigeria provided a premier as the Head of the executive of each region.
  7. 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.
  8. The Constitution laid down the procedure for creating new regions.
  9. It gave the federal government the power to declare a State of emergency in any part of the country.
  10. 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).
  11. The final Court of Appeal was the Privy Council in London.
  12. The 1960 independence constitution of Nigeria provided for the establishment of the Judicial Service Commission. The appointment, discipline and promotion of judges were the responsibility of the commission.
  13. The constitution also stated the procedure for the amendment of a constitution.

Other features include:

  • The powers of Parliament to make laws;
  • Powers, practice and procedure of Federal Supreme Court;
  • Appeals to Federal Supreme Court from Sharia Court of Appeal and Court of Resolution.

Advantages or Merits of 1960 Independence Constitution

  1. The granting of residual powers to the regions strengthened the regional governments in relation to the central government.
  2. The parliamentary system adopted under the constitution was simple and easy to understand and above all, it was in conformity with our traditional political system.
  3. Elections to the various public offices at all levels were conducted by an independent electoral commission. The adoption of the single-member constituencies encouraged the emergence of large and few parties thereby bringing together various groups and interests across the country.
  4. The revenue allocation formula which was based principally on derivation enabled each region to develop at its own pace.
  5. The 1960 Constitution created the Nigerian State.
  6. The fact that each region had its own constitution was a recognition of the diverse nature of the Nigerian federation. This helped to reduce the stifling tendency towards uniformity as often seen in pseudo federations.
  7. The introduction of the federal system of government ensured respect for the feelings of the local people and the promotion of national interest.

Disadvantages or Demerits

  1. The enormous powers granted to the federal parliament during an emergency meant that any region which exercised its executive authority to obstruct the Federal Government might be sanctioned. This was what happened in the Western Region in 1962 when a state of emergency was declared in the region by the Federal Government.
  2. The constitution succeeded only in granting political independence to Nigeria but failed to address important political issues such as the minority problem and the political integration of the country.
  3. A glance at the distribution of powers between the central government and the regional governments showed that the Federal Government was more powerful than the regional governments.
  4. The Constitution failed to specify the number of ministers to be appointed and, whether or not their appointment should reflect the federal character of Nigeria.

The 1960 independence constitution was later replaced by the Republican constitution of 1963 which substituted the Governor-General (appointed by the British monarch) with a President elected directly by members of the Nigerian federal legislature.

The independence constitution of 1960 was rigid, i.e. it was difficult to amend. You can download the full 1960 independence constitution PDF below.

Thanks for reading, OldNaija.com

References:

  1. C. C. Dibie; Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools; Tonad Publishers; August 2008
  2. Law Nigeria- Constitution Hub; [Accessed- Oct. 2, 2015]
  3. The Nigerian Constitution: History and Development; Oluwole I Odumosu; London, Sweet; Maxwell, 1963

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Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (January 27, 2021). The 1960 Independence Constitution of Nigeria – Features, Merits & Demerits. OldNaija. Retrieved from https://oldnaija.com/2021/01/27/the-1960-independence-constitution-of-nigeria/

77 Comments

  1. Hey! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out
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    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects?
    Thanks a ton!

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  3. Thanks for the question Mr Hassan Khan.
    The pre-independence constitutions were faced with a lot review and adjustment for the purpose of administrative convenience. The first pre-independence constitution in Nigerian was the Clifford constitution of 1922. This constitution introduce the elective principle into Nigeria. The pre-independence constitutions of Nigeria were body of rules impose on the people by the British government. It is notable that there were agitations by Nigeria elites, opposing the different constitution and style of administration. Each of these pre-colonial constitutions had one or two things it was known for, for example, the Clifford constitution of 1922 was known for elective principle, Richards constitution of 1946 was known for regionalism, the Macpherson constitution of 1951 was known to be home made and generally drafted with people’s consent and lastly the Lyttleton constitution of 1954 was known for federalism. Each these constitutions strive to improve more than the preceeding constitution. But, of all this constitutions, none suited the want of Nigerians till they gained their independence and made theirs.
    Thanks for visiting. Kindly ask us any question, we will be glad to be of help.

  4. Thanks for posting tjisy.It has really help a lot.excellent for you guys pls help with the achievement of the independent constitution. Expecting soon, looking forward for your reply.

  5. Good morning, I just come across your site now and have read the wonderful work you people have done. bravo!! Kiddos to you all. mean while I wanna ask a question? please discuss the Establishment of Nigeria Police Force

  6. Tanks For Post,it Really help me to memorize it,pls explain reason why richard constitution was rejected by nigerian nationalists.

  7. in fact am really impressed on dis site I always create a time to read on dis site u guys are doing a well good job pls keep it up!

  8. I am first of all starting with countless thank, for the good deed you keep doing all the times may Allah enlightens your brain and gives more experience. Lastly I want to know about the following: 1) pre- colonial political system 2) colonialization and 3) decolonialization… waiting for your reply plz.

    1. Amen! Thank you for your nice words, Mr. Usman Garba.
      The pre-colonial political systems of Nigeria are the methods or ways which pre-Nigerian kingdoms or empires administer their area of jurisdiction. Below are links to our posts on the pre-colonial political system of the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and Benin empire:

      Colonization is the act or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area, Like the British did to Nigeria. And Decolonization simply means the undoing of colonialism, whereby a nation becomes independent of foreign rule. For colonization and decolonization in Nigeria, here are some of our posts that will help you:

    2. Ancient and Modern History of Nigeria
      https://oldnaija.com/2015/07/23/history-of-nigeria/

    3. Kindly let us know if all these are helpful. Thank you and please, visit often.

  9. Each of the pre-independence constitutions tried to be better than the preceding one(s) by including new features. For example, the Richards constitution of 1946 improved on that of Clifford constitution of 1922 by adjusting the elective principle to be more general and creating regions which were not provided in Clifford constitution. So it is hard to pick out the best among the constitutions. But, going by what I aforementioned, the Lyttleton constitution of 1954 can be said to be better than the rest because it improved on them all. Thank you for your visit, Caliphate Convoy. Kindly do check back.

    1. Wow, I will say sir that I am happy with the quick response, I have never been disappointed her on this platform, Thank you. Back to the topic, I would ask that how did the military destroy or disabled the Nigerian constitution?

      1. Thank you for your nice words, Caliphate Convoy.
        It is a popular custom of the military to suspend the constitution immediately it assume power because all military government administer their jurisdiction by decrees. A decree is a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law. So concerning Nigeria, immediately after the first coup staged in Nigeria on January 15, 1966 was successful, as usual, the 1963 Republican constitution which was in use was suspended and this crushed the system of government (parliamentary) Nigeria adopted. After series of following coups, the military handed power back to a democratic government (Sheu Shagari) which will make use of a constitution and not decree to run the country. So, before then, a constituent assembly was elected in 1977 to draft a new constitution, which was published September 21, 1978, when the ban on political activity, in effect since the advent of military rule, was lifted. Political parties were formed, and candidates were nominated for president and vice president, the two houses of the National Assembly, governorships, and state houses of assembly. But unlike the parliamentary system of government adopted in the constitution of the 1st Republic, this new constitution adopted a Presidential system of government.
        If I have interpreted your question right, I think I have been able to answer it. Thank you, Caliphate Convoy. Kindly do check back.

  10. u guys are super super, kudos to u. if u guys can just create app for dis it will like heaven on earth. pls u guys shld try and create app for it. I enter tru Google and I don’t no hw to save d link on ma phone pls mail me on dat [email protected] and tanks for ur explanation. d invisible teacher I love

  11. Hello.
    I really appreciate your site and thanking you for your beautiful work, may God continue to bless you with good knowledge.
    Please what are the major differences between 1951 and 1960 constitution? Thanks a lot.

    1. Amen! Thank you for your kind words, Olubusola.
      The major differences between the 1951 and 1960 constitutions are:

      • The 1951 constitution exercised a limited franchise where only male tax payers voted in the north while both males and females voted in the east and west, unlike the 1960 constitution where every eligible citizen of Nigeria can vote.
      • The 1960 constitution made provision for the office of the Prime minister while that of 1951 did not. The 1951 Macpherson constitution only created office of the governor.

      • 1960 independence constitution proclaimed Nigeria as an independent country while the 1951 constitution proclaimed it as a British colony.

      Thank you for your visit, Olubusola. Kindly do check back.

  12. Thanks 4 ur post, i have learnt alot of things,thank u 4 ur general contrubution. Pls i have one question to ask which is. What is the difference between bicameral and unicameral legislature?

    1. You are welcome, Aliyou B. Bicameral legislature has two legislative houses just as Nigeria has The Senate and house of representatives, while unicameral legislature as the name denotes, has just one legislative house. Countries that has one legislative house include, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and so on. Thank you for your visit, Aliyou B. Kindly do check back.

  13. STOP TALKING ABOUT OLD NAIJA. TALK ABOUT NEW NAIJA. THE PAST IS GONE FOREVER. NOBODY WANTS TO READ ABOUT IDIOTS WHO HAVE DIED LONGEST TIME. teslim, GET A LIFE AND STOP BEING A BASTARD IDIOT IMBECILE OR I WILL REPORT YOU TO STATE SECURITY FOR TRYING TO BREAK UP NIGERIA. IF YOU MENTION ‘BIAFRIA’ IT IS AN ACT OF TREASON!!!1

  14. We have to talk about OldNaija. We have to talk about the past of Nigeria. If you don’t care, many people do. Even foreigners! Also note that OldNaija believes in One Nigeria! Thank you Palaces199. Kindly do check back.

  15. please assist me with this – An account of the spectacular features and the amendments brought to the Nigerian Legal System by the repealed 1960 independence Constitution

  16. please from the time Nigeria gained her independence what is the difference between the 1960 constitution and others that followed suit? conditions,

  17. Excellent blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
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  18. This is beautiful, I really enjoy reading articles from this page, it’s easy to understand. Thank you

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