A Century of Lawmaking in Nigeria

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Volume: Single volume | Pages: 381 | Year Published: 2014

Publisher: National Institute for Legislative Studies (National Assembly)

Author: Prof. Ladi Hamalai |

Subject Matter
This is a book of essays which seeks to provide "an in-depth and critical assessment of the Nigeria legislature and legislative processes from colonial years" through independence and post-independence Nigeria

The book's main purpose/objective is to accomplish one of the mandates of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS, the predecessor of NILDS) which is to act as a centre of excellence for research and publication on democratic governance, and legislative practice and procedure. The book therefore seeks to accomplish this by setting out the history, politics and processes of legislative governance in Nigeria from colonial period to the present. In this regard, the book is divided into six (6) sections of eleven (11) chapters

Gaps Identified
This is a book of essays published in 2014 as part of the centenary celebration (100 years) of Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. The content of most of the chapters are still fresh, although there have been some significant developments since then including subsequent constitutional review process conducted by the 8th National Assembly culminating in a number of Constitutional Alteration Acts, 2018. The 5th Chapter could have been better enriched by evidence-based research explaining what motivated the adoption of presidential system in Nigeria. The conclusion reached on alleged tussle for power between the Head of State and Prime Minister as the cause of the coup of January 15 1966 seems to be unsupportable. In any event, the Report of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) headed by Chief Rotimi Williams and deliberations of the Constituent Assembly (CA) which examined the report seem to be more reliable avenues to discover reasons for adoption of presidentialism in place of parliamentary government in 1979 by the military. The chapter made only passing reference to the CDC report and the deliberation of the CA without specifically identifying any conclusion on motivation for rejection of parliamentary government and adoption of presidential government in its place. Despite this obvious gap, the book is complete in itself as it was published to mark a particular episode in Nigeria's political and constitutional history which is the 100th year of the making of the country. No recommendation for further action is necessary and same is not made in this review.


Reviewer: Professor Edoba B. Omoregie

Rank: Head, Legal Research Division

Department: Department of Legislative Support Services

Date Of Commencement: June 20, 2018

Date Of Completion: June 28, 2018

Chapter One
This chapter addresses the role of lawmaking in a democracy. It's a theoretical evaluation of conceptual aspects of the processes of lawmaking. It offers a historical discourse of law making tracing it to the beginning of human existence, and civilization. The chapter identifies the systematic approach to lawmaking pioneered by Athenians and narrows down to the traditional forms in Nigeria. The chapter appraises the modern form of law making from the time of commencement of representative government in England as well as the unique approach introduced by the American Revolution. In summary, according to the author, the idea of lawmaking is a celebration of the will of the people to be governed by the government of their choice. The American Revolution marks a watershed in that popular resolve without which lawmaking will be a meaningless, detached process. Lawmaking is therefore an expression of the will of the people through their freely elected representatives in parliament. The starting point of law making in Nigeria is traced to the concession granted to the Royal Niger Company by the British government for the company to exploit the territory now known as Nigeria. The concession was later withdrawn pursuant to a Bill passed by the British pursuant to the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 1890, a statute of general application in England. The chapter extensively discusses the various mechanisms of law making and their net implications for the economic, social and political wellbeing of the Nigerian people. It concludes on the note that lawmaking is the "pen that crystallizes the inalienable rights of humanity, without which there would be inconsistency in the protection of men's proprietary rights". Thus, it's important that lawmaking must be undertaken in such a way as not to infringe on the inalienable rights of citizens, but rather to further and enhance them.

Chapter Two
The chapter discusses the constitutional development of Nigeria through pre-colonial era, then to the colonial period and post-colonial times till the present. It identifies the first constitution of Nigeria as the Clifford Constitution of 1922 followed by the Richards Constitution of 1946, Macpherson Constitution of 1951 and the Littleton Constitution of 1954 all of which were promulgated by British Colonial administration with minimal input of Nigerians, except for the last two in which consultations were held between local political leaders and British colonial administration. The chapter also identifies post-colonial constitutions such as the Independence Constitution of 1960, Republican Constitution of 1963, the 1979 and the current 1999 Constitutions. The chapter identifies some important features of each of these constitutions including the introduction of elective principle (1922), introduction of national representative council (1946), grant of self-rule and introduction of quasi-federal system (1951), introduction of full-fledged federal system (1954) grant of independence and constitutional guarantee of human rights (1960), adoption of republicanism (1963), introduction of presidentialism and centralist federal system with consociational mechanism to manage diversity (1979), continuance of presidentialism and centralism, with consociational mechanism (1999). The chapter concludes that the current constitutional framework is un-autochthonous to the extent that military junta superintended the process of its making and largely dictated its terms

Chapter Three
This chapter addresses parliamentary democracy and law-making in the context of the role of federal parliament in the politics and governance of the first republic. The relevant period covers 1960-1964. The chapter deals with how the House of Representatives in conjunction with political stakeholders handled three significant national issues namely: creation of regions, federal-regional relations with reference to declaration of State of Public Emergency in Western Region by the federal government, and the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact and the reaction of the general public to them with concomitant impact on the survival of the Balewa government.

Chapter Four
Chapter Four discusses regional parliaments and governance in Nigeria during the First Republic. It provides a historical outline of regional legislatures from 1946 when they were introduced in the Eastern, Northern and Western provinces. The chapter discusses the crisis in the Western Region and its impact on legislative business in the region shortly after independence. It also examines specific aspects of regional policy governance in areas of educational and particularly university education and establishment of universities by regional governments in Ife, Nsukka and Zaria; "regional" police and native authority administration. The chapter concludes that in the final analysis regional assemblies exhibited qualities consistent with most multi-party democracies underscored by "debates, bitter opposition and sometimes crisis". The author expresses the view that despite this, key issues were successfully deliberated in all regional assemblies which yielded progress in the area of local administration, education and community development

Chapter Five
The chapter discusses presidential democracy and lawmaking in Nigeria. It provides a background to adoption of presidentialism in the country. The author suggests that the adoption of the "system in 1979 was a deliberate political choice made by the Nigerian political elite informed by the experience of premature collapse of the first democratic experiment in 1966", and believes that the "tussle for exclusive power between a ceremonial President (Head of State) and an executive Prime Minister (Head of Government) was at the centre of a festering political crisis which dovetailed into the collapse of the Republic". These conclusions are contentious since the republic was too young for constitutional provisions creating these two positions to be fully tested for informed conclusive evaluation. The conclusion also seems to ignore the impact the wave of coup-making across Africa and South America had in the minds young officers who toppled the democratic government, or whether the alleged tussle for power weighed on the minds of the coup-makers in truncating democratic government. The officers largely complained of corruption and related matters, which charge appears to remain the most populist reason to justify such unconstitutional takeover, and seems to be a powerful rallying point even in the hand of long-standing political opposition. The chapter gives the verdict that the legislature of the second republic under-performed in discharging its law-making power, except for the effort to robustly address the challenges of federalism and its concomitant impact on intergovernmental fiscal relation. The chapter skips the third republic to address the fourth republic law-making experience. Still founded on the presidential system, the Fourth republic parliament is assessed as having cultivated a high level of public confidence despite its initial travails. The chapter concludes on the note that strengthening law-making process and conduct of routine elections as constitutionally prescribed are critical elements for institutionalizing democracy in Nigeria

Chapter Six
The chapter reviews lawmaking in Nigeria by the military. It commences by citing the coup day speech of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu by which he pronounced the toppling of constitutional government and imposition of martial law over the "Northern Provinces of Nigeria". The chapter avoids a discussion of the justification for the coup of 15 January 1966. Instead it notes that that coup set the stage for subsequent military intervention at various times thereafter until restoration of democratic rule in 1999. During the period, the military ruled by decrees. The chapter examines the legality of military rule in the country reasoning that military coups are criminally and constitutionally outlawed. Despite this, the critical determinant of whether effect can be given to this prohibition is if the coup succeeds or not. The chapter notes that the jurisprudence in Nigeria appears to endorse the legality of a successful coup; meaning that a forceful take over which gains popular support to the point that the coup-makers are able to assert authority, is made legitimate by these chain of events despite extant constitutional and statutory censor of coup. The chapter discusses framework for law-making during military rule, procedure for lawmaking during the era and identifies seven sectors or items in which the regimes were most active in lawmaking. They include federalism and state creation, education, agriculture and land development, trade and investment, and constitution-making, among others. The chapter concludes with the author proposing a revision of some of the laws made during military era in order to bring them up to conformity with democratic standards

Chapter Seven
The chapter addresses the issue of creating a durable constitution. It is discussed from the perspective of Senate Constitution Review Committee. The chapter sets the tone by offering a brief review of constitution making in Nigeria. It then addresses the specific questing of how to evolve a durable constitution in the country. Seven parametres are set to achieve this namely: inclusivity, participation, diversity, autonomy, transparency, accountability and legitimacy. The chapter identifies a number of issues focused on, in the effort by the Seventh National Assembly constitution review exercise. They include nature of federal structure, local government, security/policing and fiscal federalism. The chapter also identifies a number of challenges which make constitutional alteration process difficult. They include high but apparently unrealistic public expectations, lack of procedural template to accomplish the task, ethnic bias, apathy and a lack of political will. The author concludes that in order to mobilize robust support for constitutional review endeavor, the general public has to gain good enlightenment on the necessity of the exercise in addition to their active participation to secure legitimacy for the review process

Chapter Eight
The chapter explores ways by which democracy can be deepened through constitution review, using the House of Representatives as the paradigm. It offers an appraisal of constitution review in the country with specific reference to the exercise conducted by the 4th National Assembly (1999-2003), 5th National Assembly (2003-2007), as well as the 6th Assembly (2007-2010) and the 7th Assembly (2011-2015). The chapter identifies some unique innovation introduced in the review process including Technical Committee of Experts and the Peoples Public Session adopted during the exercise conducted by the 6th and 7th Assemblies respectively. The chapter concludes that despite their best efforts, the House of Representatives has been unable to fully see through a number of its constitutional review proposals due to the intrinsic rigidity of constitutional alteration process.

Chapter Nine
The chapter discusses the legislature and democratic rights. The chapters attempts to draw a nexus between the legislature as the platform for the people to be represented in government and the need for such representation to guarantee some basic rights to citizens including the right to secure their social and economic well-being, without which the entire democratic system would appear to be meaningless to the populace

Chapter Ten
The chapter discusses the legislature and the politics of succession in the fourth republic. The author admits that strictly speaking, the legislature (the National Assembly) has no direct powers to deal with challenges of orderly political succession. Nonetheless, due to a number of factors bordering on the political structure of the country, the National Assembly inevitably gets drawn into the vortex of such issue. The chapter examines the role played by the Assembly in resolving crisis of succession which has threatened the country's democratic stability since 1999 and situates the crisis within the general dynamics of Nigeria's political economy, including the framing of competition for power through the party system and projection of ethno-regional and religious identities. The author concludes that the National Assembly has effectively used its strategic position as the venue for manifestation of Nigeria's diversity to blunt succession politics, especially during President Olusegun Obasanjo regime and in the peaceful resolution of the crisis of succession precipitated by the ill-health of President Umar Musa Yar'Adua

Chapter Eleven
The eleventh and final chapter addresses legislative lawmaking and gender in Nigeria. It raises the question "why gender"? While answering the question, the chapter connects it with Nigeria's legal system and the role of the legislature in promoting gender balance and gender equality. It also appraises the number of seats held by women in the legislature showing a low statistical outlook against their male counterpart. The author concludes by underscoring the need for increased political participation by women for the overall development of the country