The 1979 Constitution is the second republic in Nigeria, the first republic is the 1963 Constitution, while the third and fourth republic is the 1989 and 1999 Constitution respectively. In this article, we will discuss the main features of the second republic constitution. Coupled with that, we will clearly explain the differences between the 1963 and 1979 constitution of Nigeria.
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Development of The 1979 Constitution (Second Republic)
As part of the regime of the Murtala/Obasanjo’s plans to hand power back to the civilian government in 1979, a constitutional drafting committee comprising of 49 members was established. This committee was anbly head by Chief Rotimi Williams. The committee submitted it’s report to the Constituent Assembly comprising 230 members which was headed by Justice Udo Udoma which srutinised the draft Constitution and subsequently submitted it to the Supreme military Council for approval. By virtue of these developments, the ban on politics was lifted in 1978, as it is the habit of any military government to place a ban on politics.
The federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) was therefore established in preparation for instituting a democratic led government. The commission registered parties which includes National Party of Nigeria NPN with Adisa Akilonye as the Chairman, Unity Part of Nigeria UPN with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Chairman, Nigeria’s People Party NPP with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as the Chairman, Great Nigeria’s People Party GNPP led by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim and People’s Congress of Nigeria under Malam Aminu Kano.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN won the Presidential Election in 1979 with a win in seven states, UPN won in five states, NPP won in three States, GNPP won in two states likewise PRP.
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Some Features of The 1979 Constitution
1) There was a presidential democracy and a federal structure.
2) There was bicameralism at the center with Senate of 95 members, five from each of nineteen states. The House of Representatives had 450 members headed by Chief Edwin Umezeoke as the Speaker. Each state had a State Governor with a unicameral structure.
3) There was provision for fundamental Human Right as entrenched in the first republican constitution.
4) The Constitution for the first time recognized the federal principle to ensure equity and probity in representation of all sections of the federal institutions.
5) There was the adoption of the fundamental objectives and directive principle of state policy.
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Differences Between The 1963 and 1979 constitution of Nigeria (First And Third Republic)
Below are the notable differences between the 1979 and 1963 constitution of Nigeria:
1) In 1963 there was a parliamentary system and a federal structure, but in 1979 there was a presidential democracy and a federal structure
2) In 1963 there was bicameralism with Senate of 56 members 12 from each region, but in 1979 there was an existence of bicameralism with Senate members of 95, five from each of the nineteen states.
3) Under the 1963 Constitution, the Constitution made provision for the modality for acquiring the Nigerian citizenship, that is through birth, marriage and naturalization, but in 1979, the Constitution adopted the fundamental objectives and derivative principle of state policy.
4) Another difference is that between the 1963 and 1979 Constitution is that the 1963 Constitution was based on the British form of parliamentary system of government while the 1979 constitution was fashioned after the American form of Presidential system of government.
5) In addition, in the 1963 constitution, the leader of the party that won the majourity seat in the parliament automatically becomes the prime minister who is the head of government. But in the case of the 1979, the president might not come from the party that won the majourity seats.
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6) While the 1979 Constitution provided that the president shall be elected directly by the electorates in a separate election, the 1963 constitution did not provide any special election to the office of the Prime minister.
7) The 1979 Constitution provided for a clear separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, while the 1963 Constitution fused the two organs together.
8) While the 1963 Constitution did not allow the prime minister to select his ministers outside the parliament, the 1979 Constitution empowers to select his ministers from anywhere, even outside the parliament.
9) In the 1979 Constitution, if a parliamentarian is appointed a minister, he automatically cease to be a member of the parliament, but in the 1963 Constitution, the person will not loose his seat in the parliament if he is appointed a minister, he can combine the two together.
10) The 1963 made it possible for the prime minister and his ministers to be members of the parliament while the 1979 Constitution it that the president and his ministers were not members of the parliament.
11) While the 1963 Constitution provided for the official opposition, the 1979 Constitution did not recognize official opposition.
12) The 1979 did not allow the system of collective responsibility as provided in the 1963 Constitution.
13) The 1963 Constitution provided that the parliament and the executive should be controlled by one party, while in the 1979 Constitution, the legislature and the executive can be controlled by different political parties.
Finally, The 1979 Constitution provided that the tenure of the office of the president is limited to a fixed term while the 1963 Constitution allowed the prime minister to stay in office for as long as his party controls the majourity seats in the parliament.