Nigerian Constitution

Similarities of the 1960 and 1963 constitution

  1. Citizenship
  2. Emergency power
  3. Commonwealth membership
  4. Human right
  5. Bicameral legislature
  6. Regionalized judiciary
  7. Constitutional amendment
  8. Constitutional conference
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Citizenship – the two constitutions made an elaborate provision on how to become a Nigerian citizen.

Emergency power – the constitutions empowered the federal legislature to declare a state of emergency in any region or in the whole federation when the country was at war or part thereof.

Commonwealth membership – the two constitutions allowed Nigeria to remain a member of the commonwealth. Nigeria became a member at independence on 1st October 1960 and this stand was maintained in 1963.

Human rights – the two constitutions identified a long list of fundamental human rights. These rights were in line with the United Nation declaration on Human Rights of 1948 and the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950. The constitutions also provided limitations to these rights.

Bicameral legislature – there was the existence of bicameral legislatures at both federal and regional levels. The federal legislature consisted of the queen being represented by the Governor-General, the Senate, and the House of Representatives in the 1960 constitution. The Senate and the House of Representatives formed the federal legislation under the 1963 constitution. Again, every region had a House of Assembly and a House of Chiefs.

Regionalized judiciary – the two constitutions regionalized the judiciary. Each region was expected to recruit its own judicial staff. The same also applied to the federal government.

Constitutional amendment – the constitutions identified the various types of amendments that could be made to the constitution. These were the amendment of ordinary provisions of the federal constitution, amendment of ordinary provisions of the regional constitution, amendment of constitutional provisions, boundary adjustments, and creation of more regions.

Constitutional conference – in May 1960, under the chairmanship of the colonial secretary, Mr. Ian Macleod, a constitutional conference was held in London. It was attended by Nigerian leaders. The leaders assisted the British officials in drafting the bill for the independence of Nigeria. The bill was presented to the British parliament.

Again, before the 1963 constitution was put in place, a constitutional conference was held in July 1963 at Jos by Nigerian leaders. The conference agreed that Nigeria should become a republic and a bill was presented to the federal parliament to this effect. In summary, therefore, constitutional conferences were held before the constitutions were introduced.

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There are however several differences between the 1960 and 1963 constitutions:

  1. Type of government
  2. Removal of judges
  3. Judicial service commission
  4. Promulgation of constitution

Type of government – Nigeria was a monarchy under the 1960 constitution. The Head of State, the Queen (represented by the Governor-General), was a constitutional monarch. However, the 1963 constitution made Nigeria a republic. The Head of State was no longer the Queen but an elected Nigerian president.

Removal of judges – the pattern of removing judges differed in the two constitutions. In the 1960 constitution, when a judge was incapable of discharging his functions due to misbehavior or any other reasons, the Prime Minister would request the Governor-General to investigate that. The Governor-General would then set up a tribunal to that effect and the report of the tribunal would be forwarded to the judicial committee of the Privy Council by the Governor-General. If the judicial committee advised that such a judge be removed from office, the Governor-General would remove him.

Under the 1963 constitution, the procedure was different. In this case, the president was empowered to remove a federal judge after fulfilling these conditions. There should be an address to the two federal legislative houses requesting the removal of the judge. This has to be followed with a two-third majority vote in support of a motion to that effect.

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Judicial service commission – under the 1960 constitution, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts were appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission and confirmed by the judicial committee of the Privy Council.

In the 1963 constitution, federal judges were appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Judicial Service Commission was abolished. Also abolished was the Judicial Commission of the Privy Council as the highest Court of Appeal in Nigeria. The highest court became the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Promulgation of the constitution – the independent constitution of 1960 was the accumulation of the various constitutional conferences which the British officials initiated and presided over. The republican constitution of 1963 was initiated by Nigerians and the bill thereof was also passed in Nigeria. It was indigenously made and there were no foreign inputs.