Nigeria Presentation on Government of Nigeria.pptx
Presentation on Nigeria’s Government
Despite adopting democratic models of
government, Nigeria has not established a
legitimate government in the eyes of its people.
Frequent changes of regimes, corruption, and low
levels of social services are some reasons for
Nigerians to question the legitimacy of their
government. Legitimacy is also challenged by
Nigeria’s tendency towards “fragmentation”:
forces drawing the country apart. Past flawed
elections were yet another reason for Nigerians to
distrust their government.
Nigeria’s Political Structure
Political structure is difficult to define for Nigeria
because of many changes since its independence:
• five military coups
• three civilian constitutions (civilian rule having
existed for only about 1/3 of its post independence
• the amorphous nature of the transfer of power to
Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan.
Nigeria’s problems in achieving stable constitutional
rule seem to lie with defects in its constitutional
framework. The real problem is the nature of
Nigerian pluralism due to cumulative cleavages.
A constant threat in Nigeria is praetorianism. This
term has an ancient Roman origin: as the Roman
Empire crumbled, the emperor’s bodyguard, the
Praetorian Guard, came to play a powerful role in
politics, making and unmaking emperors.
In praetorian societies, it is not only power hungry
generals who want to seize power, but many
groups which leads to chaos and a breakdown of
society. The inevitable result is a military takeover,
as has been the case often in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s government has often been subject to the
“personalization of power”. In the absence of
strong institutions, individual leaders hold sway.
History of Nigeria’s federal government
In a country as vast and complex as Nigeria, many
decisions are not made at the national level. A
federal system was established by the British as the
country moved toward independence in 1954:
• Two regions, the Eastern and Western, gained self-
governing status in 1957. The North followed in
• The Constitution of 1960 divided responsibility
between the federal government and these three
• Federalism has thereafter been a constant in four
constitutions (1963, 1979, 1989, and 1999)
• There have been two attempts to impose a unitary
system by military coup: 1966 and 1990. In each
case public reaction to the unitary system was
Current features of federalism
• The current government has tried to ease ethnic
tensions with a Nigerian version of “affirmative
action” based on federalism: various regions (and
ethnic groups) are guaranteed a proportionate share
of federal positions.
• The 1979 and 1989 Constitutions describe a three-
level federalism: federal-state-local.
• 90% of state incomes come from the federal gov’t
and very little trickles down to the local level after
all the “Big Men” have taken their cuts.
• Since 1999 competition among states for the
distribution of federal oil revenue between states and
the federal government has been acute.
• Some suggest that a federal government with limited
resources would result in a federation that would not
be viewed as such a high-stakes zero sum game.
Parliamentary Versus Presidential Government
• Without exception, British colonies, including
Nigeria, came to independence with a parliamentary
system based on the Westminster model.
• However Nigeria’s formal structure was redesigned
in 1963 and as a presidential system (based on the
U.S. model) with the 1979 Constitution with
principal aspects retained in succeeding
• The 1995 constitution was widely cited as the basis
for electoral procedures in 1997 and 1998-yet was
only officially promulgated in 1999 when General
Abubakar handed power over to a civilian regime.
• The 1999 Constitution, still in effect, was
exceptionally long and provided for:
- an independently elected president who must obtain
25% of the vote in 2/3s of the 36 states.
- a bicameral National Assembly with 1) a House of
Representatives. (The population of states
determines the number of representatives in the 360
person House ) 2) a Senate presided over by the
President of the Senate who is in line of presidential
succession after the vice president. (Each of
Nigeria’s 36 states has three senators plus one for
the Federal Territory of Abuja).
-Senators and representatives serve four-year terms
and are elected at the same time.
-States have governors and single-house legislatures.
• The President, as in the U.S., combines the functions
of the head of state and head of government and
serves a maximum of two four-year terms.
• The Executive Branch introduces the budget and
other major pieces of legislation. How much these
can be modified by the National Assembly is a hotly
contested issue, even when the PDP dominated both
executive and legislative branches.
• Under the military, a system of patrimonialism
existed in which the president was the head of a vast
• During Babangida and Abacha eras, executive
corruption operated on an unprecedented scale.
Prebendalism deepened sectional cleavages and
eroded the resources of the state.
• President Obasanjo kept the military in the barracks
and sought to root out misconduct and inefficiency.
A major impediment to reforms was the PDP, run by
powerful politicians from prior corrupt regimes.
• President Goodluck Jonathan struggled with “Big
Men” prebendal politics with one important
exception: appointment of Attahiru Jega to head a
credible electoral commission. President Buhari
“promised” to address this issue of corruption.
The underlying problems and challenges facing
Nigeria are reflected in its bureaucracy. As two
Nigerian scholars have contended Nigeria’s
bureaucracy mirrors corruption in Nigerian society,
with the result that “corruption is a permanent
integral feature of bureaucracy”.
The bureaucracy is not a merit based system but a
spoils system. Appointments are based on local and
family connections and/or ethnic and regional ties.
Corruption pervades the bureaucracy. Anthropologist
Daniel Jordan Smith notes, “For Nigerians, the state
and corruption are synonymous.”
Nigeria came to independence with a well-established
legal system including a court system and legal
tradition from the British. The federal and state
courts are integrated into a single system of trial and
appeal courts. The 1999 Constitution provides for…
• a Supreme Court of up to 21 judges serving to age
65, appointed by the president/confirmed by the
Senate, a Court of Appeal, federal and state High
Courts with original and appellate jurisdictions.
• Ten northern states are allowed to maintain both
customary and “Sharia” (Muslim Koranic Law)
courts with original and appellate levels.
• The independence of the judiciary has varied,
ranging from its earlier independence in the
immediate post-colonial period to its all time low
under the regime of Sani Abacha who disregarded
any semblance of legality and embarked on what
some described as “judicial terrorism”.
• With the return to civilian rule, courts have begun to
restore some independence and credibility.
• Today the judiciary is charged with interpreting the
laws in accordance with the Constitution, so judicial
review does exist. This can be seen from Supreme
Court decisions in 2002 and 2003 that contravened
the wishes of the president and ruling party.
An instance of judicial review was the case to
determine the constitutionality of the defection of the
vice president to a rival party while still a serving
Vice President. The president argued that the vice
president’s loyalty belonged to him [president] and
since he had defected to another party, his seat was
declared vacant. The Court found "... the vice-
president…should have an undivided loyalty due to
the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not, I repeat, not
to Mr. President nor the People’s Democratic
Party…. The loyalty of the vice president is to the
constitution and not the president. It thus amounts to
constitutional aberration for the president to declare
his seat vacant.”
Nigeria’s Supreme Court Building and
Supreme Court Justices in Abuja
Chief Justice Dahiru Musdapher and fellow justices: currently
numbering 14 although allowed up to 21 Supreme Court Justices
Nigeria’s state institutions were well conceived in
theory but, in practice often failed to withstand the
pressures of ethnic and regional divisions and the
temptations of corruption for office holders.
Strict observance of the rule of law, and the
elimination of corruption in particular, will be
crucial in the coming years if democracy is to
succeed in Nigeria.
Similarly, a fair application of federalist principles to
the countries diverse regional, ethnic, and religious
groupings will also be essential. Institutions alone
are not enough to consolidate democracy.