A critical analysis of the Missing Gaps in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria

A critical analysis of the Missing Gaps in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria


This paper explores the missing gaps in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to demonstrate evidence of adverse implications of the identified gaps on democracy transformation in Nigeria. The paper deploys a desk review methodology which draws from various relevant case examples and sections of the constitution and provides insights on some of the salient gaps in the constitution. The paper draws from the elite conspiracy theoretical framework and suggests that the constitution has been fundamentally contradictory and poorly directed at both the social and political realities of the country, which rarely constitute a marker of democratization since Nigeria’s nascent democracy in 1999. The paper proposes a constitution review to urgently redress the identified lacuna and broaden the scope of the constitution in tandem with democratic ideals.


Constitutional development is a dynamic process and as such susceptible to a number of short comings (Ezra 1964; Ikime 1980; Akande 1982; Udoma 1994; Odondiri, 2004). In the pre independence period Nigeria had many constitutions introduced by the colonial government. First was the Clifford Constitution of 1922, then, the Richards Constitution which came into force in 1946 and was suspended in 1950 while the McPherson and Littleton Constitutions were opened between 1951 and 1954 respectively. In 1960, Nigeria adopted the Independence Constitution this was followed by some other post – independence constitutions such as the 1963 republican constitution, the1979 constitution and the 1999 constitution respectively (FGN 1963; 1979; 1999). Much of the post “Independence Nigeria was characterized by military interregnum, giving little or no room for constitutional practice. Since the fall of the first republic as a result of the first military coup in 1966, Nigeria experienced series of coups and counter coups giving rise to a thirty month civil war between1968 to 1970. In 1979 Nigerian adopted a presidential constitution following the Second republic which also came to an end with another coup in 1983. The Third Republic was aborted as a result of the annulment of the June 12thPresidentialelection which created tension in the polity. In 1999 Nigeria returned to civilian rule, with democracy as a system of government it retained the existing federal structure which implies the constitutional share of power between the centre and the federating component units. The 1999 constitution was adopted and used as the supreme law of the state .A number of case scenarios and constitutional matters suggest that the 1999 constitution has a number of gaps which have been at issue in effective governance and politics in Nigeria. These constitutional loopholes which have not been given adequate scholarly attention remain the source of several controversies that continue to threaten political stability and democracy transformation in Nigeria. Salient among them include but not limited to; Questions of citizenship/indigenship, power transition, power sharing, inter party conflict etc. These remain recurring issues which the Nigerian constitution is still grappling with. These gaps point to the areas of weaknesses or flaws that contradict the desire and spirit of the constitution. The loopholes reveal what is termed a lacuna in legal parlance. These lacuna often reoccur in political practices and governance when they are rarely envisaged hence the need for a brief review. The paper argues that these gaps have adverse implications on the quality of Nigeria’s democracy and its deepening. It shows how these gaps reflect poor governance and political participation which contradicts the ideals of democracy. Relevant case examples were explored to provide fuller insights and broader elucidation of some of the salient gaps identified in the constitution. The rest of the paper is structured as follows; materials and methods, brief overview of the 1999 constitution, evidence of some constitutional gaps and case examples, finally conclusion

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