A Century of Law Making in Nigeria: 1914-2014

Year : 2014

This book is a rare publication that represents the first attempt to document, in a systematic manner, the legislative history of Nigeria, and, in so doing, expose the reader to historical legislative milestones that shaped the making of modern Nigeria. It is a rich, comprehensive and academic volume that critically examines important legislative landmarks that shaped the nation building process in Nigeria. The most immediate value of this book resides in, apart from filling an obvious need for a systematic account of law making in Nigeria in the last 100 years, the connection builds between historical antecedents and the political issues facing modern Nigeria. The chapter contributors, renowned scholars in their fields, converted the idea for this project into a graphic re-live of Nigeria’s constitutional, legislative and political development over a century.


Keywords: Treaties, constitutional development, amendments, regional constitutions, charters

Subject Area: Law Making

The enactment of law has, by and large, sought to keep pace with the changing ethics and mores of the society while at the same time anchoring itself on core principles founded and enshrined in the constitution. Nevertheless, in less developed and mature democratic systems such as found in sub Saharan- Africa, law making is often subverted by an overly strong executive and party (godfather based) system. A clear outcome of this study is that a reactive legislature is inimical to the growth and proper development of democracy and economic development. This is more so when we consider that the law makers may, in fact, be induced to subvert the mandate which they have been elected on. This is because corruption is the bane of development in Nigeria. Political instability and corruption induce socially sub-optimal governmental policies, with potentially large adverse effects on social welfare. Empirical evidence on the effects of political instability and corruption on investment and growth also suggest that this is the case.

One of the fundamental objectives of the Nigerian Constitution is to foster national unity to facilitate the process of national development and to guarantee popular participation in the political process. This Chapter undertakes a review of the constitutional changes in Nigeria. Some of the key issues raised include: sovereignty which questions the desire and practicability of Nigeria continuing as a unified legal and political entity consistent with section 2 (1) of the constitution which provides that Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and governance such as revenue allocation, State and Local Government creation, corruption, election and electoral system, devolution of power, access to national institutions, Fundamental rights, Fundamental Objectives and the Directive Principles of State Policy, the Economy, Population, Revenue generation, the Judiciary, Law and Order, National Security and Defence, Press freedom, etc.

The practice of parliamentary system of government in Nigeria, from 1960 to 1966, bequeathed to it by its British colonizers, represented an interesting and distinct phase of the nation’s political history. There has been a particular focus on two inter-related issues; the structural constraints within the Nigerian polity and an acute crisis of national values and orientation. This chapter, therefore, examines the role of the House of Representatives, from 1960 to 1964, in some of the processes that contributed to building the political character of the First Republic and the extent to which its interface with other governance structures helped in shaping the political landscape of the Nigerian State.

This chapter is concerned with the emergence of regional governance and regional parliaments and their role in the politics and development of the various regions during the First Republic. Nigeria, as a colonial state, came into being following the amalgamation of independently administered groups of provinces and its political evolution was decidedly pursued along regional lines by the British colonial establishment. The evaluation of these regional dynamics, especially as they pertain to regional legislature and governance, could provide some insights into Nigeria’s political architecture as well as the elements of commonality and diversity in its socio-political development.

This chapter focuses on law making in Nigeria’s presidential democracies traversing the Second Republic, the Third Republic and the Fourth Republic which began in 1999. The chapter primarily seeks to document and analyse the performance of the National Assembly during these periods of Nigeria’s efforts to routinize electoral democracy within the legal and constitutional framework of a presidential system of government. The chapter attempts to contextualise the performance of the National Assembly during these democratic experiments, bringing into clear relief, the changing environment within which the National Assembly performed its key functions of law/policy making, representation, and oversight as constitutional responsibilities in promoting transparent, accountable and responsive governance at the national level.

This chapter examines the subject of law making in Nigeria by the military. The first part of the Chapter examines, with reference to Nigerian judicial authorities, the legality of military rule in Nigeria. The utility of this segment lies in the fact that the legality of military rule obviously has concomitant implications for the validity of the laws made by the military in Nigeria. Second, the Chapter identifies and discusses the structure, framework and procedure for law making under the military. It draws attention to the frequent changes in nomenclature of the law making organs under the various military juntas and to the respective compositions thereof. Of particular interest, in this segment, is the procedure for law making which is radically different from the procedure that obtains in a constitutional democracy. Third, an inquiry is made into some of the landmark laws or body of legislations that were promulgated by the military during the period under review. The Chapter invariably captures only certain vital aspects of the country’s national life and situates them within the context of the laws that were promulgated to take care of them. The last part of the Chapter recommends ways through which professionalism of the military in its primary task of defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria can be enhanced. This, amongst other measures recommended therein, will hopefully, help in warding off military intervention in Nigeria.

In view of the significance of constitutions in modern states, it is most desirable that its contents are kept dynamic. This chapter argues that constitutional alteration is, therefore, a necessary process in responding to the complexities of a nation and the changing political dynamics of a particular country. The chapter recounts from the perspective of the Senate, previous attempts at constitutional alteration prior to the milestone achievement of the sixth National Assembly (2007-2011) in successfully altering the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

The House of Representatives is the chamber of National Assembly where population is the yardstick of representation. Under a federal system such as Nigeria, it is often important to have a bi-cameral legislature at the centre. The reason is not far-fetched given the fact that federal systems are made up of conglomerate units that are not of equal size and number. This chapter reviews the developments recorded over the 16 years of the House of Representatives in relation to the amendment of the constitution as it relates to the deepening of democracy in Nigeria

Democracy is based on the notion that a people should be self-governing via a system of electing representatives who then actually perform the role assigned the state. In this sense then, our Legislature in Nigeria is the body that legislates on all or any law, whether initiated from the executive or the Legislature itself. This Chapter considers the Nigerian Legislature’s response to democratic rights and socio-economic rights.

This chapter examines the role of the National Assembly in resolving the crisis of political succession which has threatened Nigeria’s stability and democratic survival since 1999. The paper situates the crisis of political succession within the general dynamics of Nigeria’s political economy, including the framing of competition for power and party politics by the political mobilization of ethno-regional and religious identities.

This work attempts to provide an overview/analysis of the relationship between role of legislature/law-making and gender in Nigeria and also tried to bring out ways in which law restricts as well as facilitates political and social reform. The constitutional endorsement of equality and fairness empowers women to seek legal reform and, indeed, clamour for new laws with stiffer penalties if need be. However, in exploring the theoretical basis for law as a tool of social reform, women activists have found that the processes of legal reform are self-restricting, permitting reform only to a point and even reinforcing the basis of gender hierarchy that feminists seek to question. Comprehending these limitations may reveal why legal change has accomplished less for women than women activists approaches. One such limitation is the law’s consideration of precedent. Law may be modified, but because law professes to sustain institutional confidence and constancy, change must be constructed on former judicial precedents and principles.

  • Ladi Hamalai