LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT SSS 2
FIRST REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION – 1963
A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a ‘public matter’, not the private concern or property of the ruler (Latin: res publica). In contrast to monarchy government, the head of state in a republic is non-hereditary but elected for a fixed period of time.
A conference of all party held in July 1963 at the instance of the PM, the Premiers of the regions and other stakeholders where it was agreed that Nigeria should become a republic. This means that the president of the republic would have the same power and function as the Governor-General.
FEATURES OF THE FIRST REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION
- Parliamentary system was retained.
- The Queen of England was no longer the Head of State but an elected president who also replaced the Governor-General.
- The change to republican form of government was constitutionalized.
- The president was to be indirectly elected for a period of 5 years.
- The head of government was the PM while the head of state was the president who performs ceremonial functions.
- The central legislature was composed of 44 Senators and 312 members of the House of reps.
- Judges were to be appointed by the President as advised by the PM.
- The Supreme Court of Nigeria became partially functional.
- Removal of a federal judge was to be by two-third majority of the parliament.
- The PM can only be removed if a vote of no confidence is passed against him by the parliament, consequent upon which he shall resign. But if he refuses to resign, the parliament will be dissolved.
LIMITATIONS OF THE RPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION OF 1963
- The parliament rather than the constitution was supreme.
- The unchecked power of the legislature led to abuse of privilege and power.
- Election of the president was not the choice of the populace.
- The fusion of the executive and legislative functions in the parliament did not give room for effective checks and balances.
- Bribery and corruption tainted the election of the president.
NATURE OF THE CEREMONIAL FUNCTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT UNDER THE FIRST REPUBLIC CONSTITUTION
Republican government can be parliamentary, presidential or a mix of both. Nigeria under the 1963 constitution was a semi-presidential republic. This implied that the president performed ceremonial functions and other high level functions as authorized by the constitution. Moreover, ceremonial powers should not be thought of as absolute powerlessness. Some of the functions performed by the president under the 1963 constitution are as follows:
- He controlled the armed force as the Commander-in-Chief.
- He had the power to declare war on any force staging aggression against the state.
- He had the power to declare state of emergency during emergencies.
- He approved all the political appointments of the PM into office.
- He performed ceremonial functions.
- He could remove judges on the advice of the PM.
- He assented/signed all bills passed by the parliament into law.
- He appointed the PM following the fulfilment of all requirements.
- The president’s address opened and closed a legislative year.
- He had prerogative of mercy to pardon any offender as he wished.
- He could dissolve the House of Reps based on a vote of no confidence and the advice of the PM.
- (a) Distinguish between the 1st republic and the 2nd republic constitution.
- (b) Describe a republic and highlight the republican constitutions in Nigeria.
- (c) Compare and contrast the constitutions of 1960 and that of 1963.
Constitutional Development in Nigeria
Clifford Constitution – 1922
Richard Constitution – 1946
Macpherson Constitution – 1951
Lyttleton Constitution – 1954
Independence Constitution – 1960
2nd Republic Constitution – 1979