So firstly, let’s clear one thing – not all the laws in Nigeria are contained in the Nigerian constitution. The Nigerian constitution is not an aggregation of all Nigerian laws, in fact it is the opposite, it does not have many laws contained in it. Most of the provisions in the constitution are all ‘administrative’ stuff.
Why is the Constitution important?
The Constitution serves five important functions in our opinion –
1. All roads come from the Constitution
It is the legal document from which every institution in the country gets its validity from. Everything is somehow linked to the constitution. For example, if you have a company, it is linked to the constitution. How you ask?
Well, for the company to be valid, you must have applied for a certificate of incorporation from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) right? The CAC as a body was created via the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The CAMA was a law created by the National Assembly, the National Assembly was given the power to create laws on companies by Item 62 of the Exclusive Legislative List the 1999 Constitution…
You see, linked! So, the Constitution is important because everything is linked to it.
And because everything is linked to it, it means it is supreme – this means that any law or any action which is inconsistent or incompatible with any of the provisions contained in the Constitution is null, void and of no effect.
2. Fundamental Rights
It contains all the fundamental rights of every Nigerian citizen. You can read more about this here
- right to life
- right to dignity
- right to personal liberty
- right to fair hearing
- right to privacy
- right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- right to freedom of expression
- right to freedom of assembly
- right to freedom of movement within Nigeria
- right to freedom from discrimination
- right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria
3. How the Government works
The Constitution sets out the powers of the 3 arms of Government – the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary.
It also sets the the procedure that must be followed for the creation of a new State or for the boundary adjustment of an existing State (and Local Governments as well).
It also provides the criteria for eligibility to be elected as President, Governor, Senator etc (and the process for impeachment/removal)
4. Nigerian Citizenship
The Constitution states that the procedure through which an individual can become a Nigerian citizen.
It also states the procedure through which a Nigerian Citizen can renounce his/her citizenship. (Yes, you can decide that you do not want to be a Nigerian citizen anymore– but the Government has to confirm this)
5. Important Laws
There are certain laws that are enshrined in the constitution and they are in the constitution because they are deemed to be extremely important and so any changes that need to be made to the laws will be dealt with as seriously as if it was a change to the constitution itself. The laws are the National Youth Service legislation, the Land Use Act, the Public Complaints Commission Act, and the National Securities Agencies Act, so the only way these 4 laws can be amended is to follow the procedure to amend the Constitution itself, therefore it puts these laws on the same level as the Constitution.
And there you have it, we have tried to distill the Constitution into 5 points which you can read and understand in 300 second.
Obviously there are many more provisions contained in the Constitution, for example it deals with the creation of many state agencies like the Armed Forces, the Police Force etc. However, we can’t discuss all that in 300 seconds, and so we will stick with giving you the overview you never knew you needed 😊
Legal Term of the week – Laches
Laches is an equitable defense, or doctrine. A defendant who invokes the doctrine is asserting that the claimant has delayed in asserting its rights, and, because of this delay, is no longer entitled to bring an equitable claim. Failure to assert one’s rights in a timely manner can result in claims being barred by laches: it is a maxim of equity that, “Equity aids the vigilant, not the negligent.”