Features of 1960 Independence Constitution of Nigeria

The resolution of the 1957 and 1958 conference gave birth to the 1960 constitution. The 1960 constitution bestowed full independence on Nigeria. The full independence meant that Nigeria was no longer under the control and dictates of the British Government.

Though, it was more of a paper work than in reality, because despite being given independence in 1960, the head of state in Nigeria was a representative of Queen of England. This resulted in Nigeria seeking Full independence in 1963.

The 1960 independence constitution provided for a head of state who was a representative of the Queen of England. His status was like that of a constitutional representative of the Monarch. It was through the Governor General that the Queen of England conducted her activities in Nigeria.

The 1960 constitution established a two chamber legislature which consisted of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate was made up of forty four members, twelve members from each region and four members from Southern Cameroon and Lagos. The House of Representatives was made up of three hundred and twelve elected members.

The executive authority of the federal government was vested on the Queen’s representative who exercised it through the ministers. The Council of Ministers was made up ten members. A Prime Minister was appointed from among the members of the House of Representatives.

A member who commanded majority support of the members of House of Representatives was appointed Prime Minister. The Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister appointed other ministers. The functions of the council of ministers were the execution of government policies and the gathering of information.

Each regional legislature was made up of a House of Assembly and the House of Chiefs. The Northern House of Assembly was made up of a hundred and seventy elected members while the House of Chiefs of the region consisted of all first class chiefs, ninety five other chiefs and an adviser on Islamic law.

In the Western House of Assembly, there were a hundred and twenty four elected members. The house of chiefs of the region was made up of a hundred and fifteen members and four chiefs selected by the governor.

The Eastern region had a hundred and forty six elected members in the House of Assembly. The house of chiefs comprised of all the traditional rulers, first class chiefs representing the provinces, fifty-five other chiefs and five special representatives as members.

The executive of each region consisted of the premier and some other ministers appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier. The executive council was collectively responsible to the House of Assembly of the regions. The functions of the regional executive council remained the execution of government policy and observation of strict compliance with the constitution.

The 1960 independence constitution spelt out areas of legislative authority between the federal government and the regions. The exclusive legislative list contained forty four items in which the federal government had exclusive right to legislate. The concurrent list had twenty-eight items in which both the regions and the federal government have powers to legislate on.

However, the constitution provided that in any conflict between the federal and regional law, the federal law would prevail over the regional law. The Federal Supreme Court in accordance with the constitution was empowered to review all legislation.

The fundamental human rights of Nigerians were detailed in 1960 constitution. The constitution also specified the right of Nigerians under the constitution. The constitution protected Nigerians against intimidation, oppression, neglect and denial of human rights.

Methods foreigners can use to acquire citizenship were also spelt out in the 1960 constitution. Foreigner that wishes to become Nigerian has to follow the lay down methods. It is important to note that in the 1960 independence constitution, both the federal government and the regions had their own constitution.

Under the 1960 independence constitution judges of the Supreme Court and High Court were appointed on the advice of the judicial service commission. The judicial committee of the Privy Council received appeal from the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The federal legislature was empowered by the 1960 independence constitution to make laws during emergency in respect of matters outside exclusive or concurrent list. Emergency powers according to the constitution could be exercised when the federation is at war, when the parliament declares a state of public emergency.

In 1962 the federal government under Abubakar Tafawa Belewa declared s state of emergency in Western region and appointed M.A Majekoduunnmi as the administrator on the 29 of May 1962. The procedures for constitutional amendments were provided in the constitution.

The 1962 independence constitution also provided the methods to be followed in creation of more regions and for boundary adjustment. Though the 1960 constitution gave Nigeria independence, the federation of Nigeria remained under the dictates of the Queen of England through her representative in Nigeria.

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