Nigeria’s current constitution, the fourth since independence, went into effect on May 29, 1999. Modeled after the U.S Constitution, it provides for separation of powers among a strong executive, an elected legislature, and an independent judiciary. Critics of the constitution complain that the federal government retains too much power at the expense of the states. Although the constitution proclaims personal freedom and a secular state, it also permits Muslims to follow sharia, or Islamic law.
Branches of Government
Executive power is vested in the president, who is simultaneously chief of state and head of government. The president is eligible for two four-year terms. Three senators represent each of Nigeria’s 36 states, and one additional senator represents the capital city of Abuja. Seats in the House of Representatives are allocated according to population. Therefore, the number of House members from each state differs. Members of the National Assembly are elected every four years. The judicial branch comprises the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, and, on the state level, high courts, sharia courts, and customary courts. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Nigeria is divided administratively into the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and 36 states, which are organized into the following six geo-political zones:
South-West Zone—Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo
South-South Zone—Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, and Rivers
South-East Zone—Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo
North-West Zone—Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara
North-Central Zone—Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, and Plateau
North-East Zone—Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe
Provincial and Local Government
Each of Nigeria’s 36 states has an elected governor and a House of Assembly. The governor is elected to a maximum of two four-year terms. The number of delegates to the House of Assembly is based on population (three to four times the number of delegates each state sends to the Federal House of Representatives) and therefore varies from state to state within the range of 24 to 40. Nigeria’s states are subdivided into 774 local government areas, each of which is governed by a council that is responsible for supplying basic needs. The local government councils, which are regarded as the third tier of government below the federal and state levels, receive monthly subsidies from a national "federation account." Critics contend that the division of the country into so many districts is a vestige of military rule that is arbitrary, wasteful, and inefficient.
Judicial and Legal System
Nigeria’s legal system is based on a combination of statutory (legislative) law, English common law, customary law, and, in the north, Islamic law (sharia). Nigeria’s federal and state courts apply statutory and English common law, whereas local courts recognize the legitimacy of customary and Islamic law. The deficiencies in existing legal and Criminal Justice System partially explain the popularity of Islamic law in the 12 northern states. Sharia is criticized for the imposition of draconian penalties, although no death penalties have so far been carried out on the basis of Sharia law.
The president and members of the bicameral National Assembly, consisting of a 109-member Senate and a 360-member House of Representatives, are elected every four years. At 18 years of age, citizens are allowed to vote in all elections. Winning candidates are determined according to the British first-past-the-post system, whereby a plurality of the votes ensures victory. Also under this system, members of the National Assembly represent distinct geographic constituencies. The Independent National Electoral Commission, is responsible for administering all elections within the country.
Major International Treaties
Nigeria is a party to the following nonproliferation agreements: Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and Partial Test Ban Treaty. Regarding the environment, Nigeria is a party to the following agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands. Shortly after September 11, 2001, Nigeria ratified a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States. The treaty, whose ratification had been held up for 12 years, includes provisions for cooperation on anticrime, antidrug, and counter-terrorism initiatives.
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