Nigeria independence Constitution of 1960 and the first republican constitution of 1963

Constitutional development in Nigeria

The Nigeria Independence constitution of 1960 and the first republican constitution of 1963.


1. Parliamentary system: The Nigeria independence constitution provided for a democratic parliamentary system of government.

2. Federal system: A federal system of
the government was retained.

3. Head of state: The Governor-General was the ceremonial Head of state, representing the Queen.

4. Head of government: The Head
of government and administration was the prime minister.

5. National parliament: The constitution provided for a bi-cameral legislature at the center, namely, the Senate and House of Representatives.

6. Regional legislature: Each of the three regions had a House of Assembly and a
House of chiefs.

7. Regional head of government: The 1960 constitution provided for the premier as the Head of the executive for each of the regions. Also, provision was made for a ceremonial governor for each of the regions.

8. Fundamental human rights: The fundamental human rights of the citizens
were entrenched in the constitution.

9. The privy council: The final court of Appeal was the Privy Council in London.

10. Citizenship: The Nigeria independence constitution defined who a citizen was and how to acquire citizenship.

11. Procedure for amendment: The constitution contained the procedure for amendment. The 1960 Constitution was

12. Creation of regions: It laid down the procedure for creating new regions, e.g.
The mid-Western region was created in 1963.

13. State of emergency: The federal government was given the power to declare a state of emergency in any part of the country if there were crises or war. However, a resolution would be passed by the House of Representatives with a two-thirds majority supporting it.

14. Division of powers: The constitution divided the legislative powers of government into three exclusive, concurrent, and residual lists. For example, only the central government could make laws (through the parliament)on issues listed under the exclusive legislative list: (currency, power, defense, external affairs, etc).

15. Appointment of judges: Judges of the
Supreme and High courts were appointed on the advice of a Judicial Service Commission consisting of judges.


1. Independence for the country: To some extent, colonial rule gave way to a government of Nigerians. The constitution ushered in independence for the country.

2. Bi-cameral legislature: The regional and central governments had bi-cameral legislatures, e.g. the Senate and House of Representatives(parliament) for the central government and Houses of Assembly and Chiefs for the regions.

3. Human rights: The Nigeria independence constitution made provision for the fundamental human rights of citizens.


1. Partial independence: The independence of 1960 was a partial one because it didn’t bring total sovereignty to the country. The Queen was still the Head of state.

2. Final court of appeal: Even though there was a Supreme court in the country, yet, it had no power over appellate cases.
Nigerians could only appeal to the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council in London.

3. Some elements of interference: There was the possibility of Britain still interfering in the internal affairs of the country as long as the Queen remained the Head of state.


The prime minister and regional premiers met in May 1963 to discuss and settle constitutional issues. So, the conference of heads of government of Nigeria agreed to summon an all-party constitutional conference in Lagos to suggest to it, important changes in the constitution.

The all-party conference met in July 1963 and agreed that Nigeria should become a republic and the president of the republic should have the same powers and functions as the Governor-General had under the Independence Constitution.


1. Republican form of government: A
change to a republican form of government-backed up with anew constitution.

2. Type of system: The constitution retained the parliamentary system of government.

3. Head of state: The president as a
ceremonial Head of state replaced the
Governor-General of 1960. The Queen was no longer the Head of state.

4. Election of the president: The president of Nigeria was to be indirectly elected through the secret ballot for five years by the Senate and House of Representatives sitting together.

5. Powers of the president: He was a ceremonial head; he had no real powers.

6. Head of government: The Head of government was the prime minister.

7. National parliament: The National
Parliament was made up of 44 members of
the Senate and 312 members of the House of Representatives.

8. Judicial Service Commission was abolished: Appointment of judges was to be made by the president on the advice of the prime minister.

9. Director of public prosecutions: This was brought under the political control of the executive.

10. Appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: These were abolished and the Supreme Court of Nigeria became the highest and final court in the federation.


1. Republican form of government: The constitution gave Nigeria a republican form of government, based on elections to political positions in government.

2. An elected president: The Queen of England ceased to be Nigeria’s Head of state. An elected president became the Head of state.

3. Home-made Constitution: First Republican Constitution was fully a homemade Constitution.

4. Final court of appeal: The Supreme Court became the final court of appeal.

5. Fundamental human rights: The rights of citizens were fully entrenched and guaranteed.

6. Power of judicial review: The Supreme Court was given the power to check the excesses or unconstitutional actions of the executive and the legislature.

7. Political participation: Nigerians were now fully involved in the decision-making process of the country.

8. Free from external interference: British undue external influence on the country ceased.


1. No supremacy of the constitution: There was no supremacy of the constitution but of the parliament.

2. Accountable to the parliament: The prime minister was accountable to the parliament and not to the people.

3. Abuse of power: The supremacy of the
parliament resulted in abuse of power or
arbitrary use of power by the legislature.

4. The election of the president: This was not based on the decision of the majority but the minority.

5. Lobbying or bribery and corruption: These characterized the election of the president by the two Houses of parliament.

6. Fusion of power: The executive and the legislature were both fused. It did not make for effective performance.

7. Carpet-crossing: It was a common feature of the First Republic. Politicians were shifting party allegiance for some rewards.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE NIGERIA CONSTITUTION OF 1960(independence Constitution) AND 1963(republican constitution).

1) IN 1960 CONSTITUTION: The head of government is the prime minister.
IN 1963 CONSTITUTION: The head of government was still the prime minister.

2) IN 1960 CONSTITUTION: There is the existence of a bicameral legislature at the center named; the house of senate and representatives.
IN 1963 CONSTITUTION: Bi-cameral legislature was still in use.

3) IN 1960 CONSTITUTION: The fundamental human rights were fully entrenched in the constitution.
IN 1963 CONSTITUTION: The fundamental human rights were not suspended, it was still guaranteed.

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