The weaknesses of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution include its cumbersome amendment procedure, unequal representation of all segments of the Nigerian population, problems with resource allocation and an over-centralized federal government.
Even though the 1999 Constitution is regarded as the longest-surviving constitution of post-independence Nigeria, it still has its critics who have persisted with their demands for constitutional amendments and reforms.
So what are the high points of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria? And what are the demerits of the Constitution?
Well, these are the questions that we shall soon address in this post on the merits and demerits of the fourth Nigerian constitution of 1999.
So if you are searching for concise study notes on the strengths and weaknesses of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria then you are in the right place.
Without any further ado, let’s have the key advantages and disadvantages of the 1999 constitution. We shall begin with the strengths of the Constitution.
Next, I will give you the key weaknesses of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
1999 Constitution of Nigeria: Strengths
Here now come the strengths or merits of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
1. Democratic Framework
Defenders of the 1999 Nigeria constitution point to the democratic framework it has provided for the country as one of its key merits.
The Constitution provides a democratic framework for governance in Nigeria. It defines the separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
This structure has helped maintain checks and balances and minimizes the abuse of power.
2. Bill of Rights
The Constitution of 1999 in Nigeria includes a comprehensive bill of rights that protects the fundamental human rights of citizens.
Examples are the right to life, dignity, and freedom of expression. These provisions are essential for safeguarding individual liberties and ensuring the rule of law.
3. Federal System: Protection of Regional Interests
The Constitution’s recognition of federalism allows for the sharing of powers between the central government and semi-autonomous states.
This allows the regions to have a certain level of control over their affairs. Thus, the constitution can address local needs while, at the same time, maintaining a unified national identity.
4. Independent Electoral Commission
The establishment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is one of the major strengths of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
Its primary aim is to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections. This will help avoid conflicts over election results.
5. Directive Principles of State Policy
The inclusion of Directive Principles of State Policy provides guidelines for the government to work towards achieving social justice, economic development, and the welfare of the people.
Although not legally enforceable, such principles are a moral force that helps shape policy decisions and governance in general.
6. Judicial Independence
The Constitution establishes the judiciary as an independent arm of government, protecting it from undue influence from the executive and the legislature.
The attempt at protecting the independence of the judiciary remains one of the merits of the 1999 constitution because it is a way of ensuring a fair judicial system that protects the rights of all regardless of their economic, social and political status.
7. Amendment Procedure
The Constitution’s amendment process allows for changes to be made when necessary. Therefore, the 1999 constitution is positioned to always reflect the changing needs and aspirations of the Nigerian
We have identified some key merits of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Next, we shall look at the weaknesses of the Constitution.
Weaknesses of the 1999 Constitution
Critics of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria have raised serious concerns over certain shortcomings of the document. Here are the major demerits of the Constitution that continue to attract a lot of criticism.
1. Inadequate Representation
Critics argue that the 1999 Constitution does not adequately represent the diverse population of Nigeria, especially in terms of gender and ethnic diversity.
This has led to feelings of marginalization in certain segments of the Nigerian society.
2. Resource Control and Distribution
One of the most stated demerits of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is that it has failed to adequately address the issue of the control of the nation’s natural resources.
The constitution’s provisions regarding the sharing of revenue derived from natural resources between the federal government and states have been a source of tension, particularly in oil-producing regions.
3. Too Much Centralization of Power
While the Constitution appears to have established a federal form of government, some argue that power remains heavily centralized at the federal level.
The unfortunate result is limited autonomy and decision-making capacity for states and local governments.
4. A Powerful Executive President
People also express their concern over the extensive powers of the president. To them, this is one of the weaknesses of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria that must be rectified quickly lest the country degenerates into a constitutional dictatorship.
5. Protection for Military Dictatorships
Some argue that since the constitution was drafted under the direction of the military governments of Gen Sani Abacha and his successor Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, portions of the document serve the interests of powerful military figures rather than those of the Nigerian masses.
6. A Rigid Constitution
The amendment process is slow and cumbersome. It requires a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and the approval of at least two-thirds of states’ Houses of Assembly.
This rigidity can make it difficult to address pressing issues promptly.
This brings us to the next weakness of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
7. Outdated Provisions
Prominent among the demerits of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is that it contains provisions that no longer reflect the realities of the day.
Again, the constitution, which was written back in the late 1990s, may not fully address contemporary challenges facing Nigeria and its citizens.
For example, current and urgent issues such as cybersecurity, climate change, and new forms of digital technology are not given their rightful place in the document.
Moreover, it was hurriedly prepared and, for that matter, it contains many errors and provisions that no longer serve the current interest of the nation.
8. Electoral Challenges
Despite the establishment of an Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria has continued to grapple with electoral disputes election after election.
Notable among the malpractices that undermine electoral integrity in Nigeria are vote buying, voter intimidation, fraud, and other forms of electoral irregularities.
9. Religious and Ethnic Tensions
Critics blame the persistent religious and social conflicts that have bedevilled Nigerian society over the years on the inadequacies of the 1999 Constitution.
The Constitution’s recognition of Sharia law in some states and its secular nature at the federal level have contributed to religious and ethnic tensions.
An example is the constant tensions inside and between Muslim-majority states in the north and Christian-majority areas in the south.
10. Conflict with Customary Law
Finally, some observers argue that the 1999 constitution has not dealt adequately with the relationship that must exist between the nation’s constitutional law and the customary laws of the various ethnic and religious groups.
This apparent ambiguity has brought about clashes between constitutional law and customary law and the resulting legal challenges.
Now you know the strengths and weaknesses of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. Here are a few takeaways from this tutorial.
The constitution’s strong points include providing a framework for democratic governance, respect for human rights, and the promotion of judicial independence.
However, it has also faced criticism for certain provisions, social inequalities, and limitations in addressing current social and political issues.
Thus, as with any constitution, it remains subject to ongoing debate, review, and potential amendments.
Many argue that constitutional reforms are urgently needed to address its obvious weaknesses so as to adapt the document to better serve Nigerian society’s diverse and changing needs.
Overall, despite its weaknesses, the 1999 Constitution continues to represent a significant milestone in Nigeria’s political history.