Know Your Constitution: Part 1

The 1999 Constitution Breakdown

SECTION 4(1):

The legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for
the Federation, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.

(The National Assembly which is made up of the Senate and a House of Representatives have the power to legislate i.e. make laws for Nigeria.)

SECTION 4(2):

The National Assembly shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of
the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set
out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.

(There is an Exclusive Legislative list which is contained in Part I of the Second Schedule of the Constitution. The National Assembly have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria as long as it relates to what is set out in the Exclusive Legislative list.)

Exclusive Legislative List – This means, the National Assembly has the exclusive power to make laws concerning the items listed under that schedule.

SECTION 4(3):

The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the
Federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise
provided in this Constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States.

(The power of the National Assembly to do everything set out in Sub section (2) of Section 4 is exclusive to it. The House of Assembly of States is excluded.)

SECTION 4(4a):

In addition and without prejudice to the powers conferred by subsection (2) of this section, the National Assembly shall have power to make laws with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) any matter in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and

(In addition to the powers mentioned in Sub section (2) of this section, the National Assembly also has the power to make laws which relates to items contained in the Concurrent Legislative List.)

Concurrent Legislative List – This means, the items contained in it, both the National Assembly and the House of Assembly of States have the power to make laws concerning them. 

This list can be found in Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.

SECTION 4(4b):

any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(The National Assembly also has the power to make laws in any other matter which the Constitution gives it the power to make.)

SECTION 4(5):

If any Law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by
the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other Law shall, to
the extent of the inconsistency, be void.

(If any law made by the House of Assembly of a State contradicts any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law of the National Assembly wins and that part of the law made by the House of Assembly of a State that contradicts it becomes void.)

SECTION 4(6):

The legislative powers of a State of the Federation shall be vested in the House of Assembly of the State.

(The power to make laws for a state is in the House of Assembly of the State.)

SECTION 4(7a):

The House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say:-
(a) any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of
the Second Schedule to this Constitution.

(The powers of the House of Assembly of the State are:

(a) Any matter that is not included in the Exclusive Legislative List contained in Part I of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.) 

SECTION 4(7b):

any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and

(Any matter that is listed in the Concurrent Legislative List contained in Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution.)

SECTION 4(7c):

any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

(Any matter that the Constitution has granted the House of Assemble of the State the power to make laws on.)

SECTION 4(8):

Save as otherwise provided by this Constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National
Assembly or by a House of Assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and of judicial
tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not
enact any law, that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or of a judicial tribunal
established by law.

(Unless the Constitution says otherwise, the powers of both the National Assembly and the House of Assembly are subject to the Courts and Judicial Tribunals created by law. The National Assembly and the House of Assembly cannot make laws that cancels or attempts to cancel the power of the Courts or Judicial Tribunals.)

SECTION 4(9):

Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, the National Assembly or a House of Assembly shall not, in relation to any criminal offence whatsoever, have power to make any law which shall have retrospective effect.

(Neither the National Assembly nor the House of Assembly has the power to make retroactive laws that concerns criminal offences.)

Retrospective Laws: These are laws that affect offences committed before that law was created. 

Example: If Tunde committed adultery with Ada in 2019 and at that time, Adultery wasn’t an offence. If a retroactive law is created in 2020 making Adultery an offence punishable by law, then Amina, Tunde’s wife can sue Tunde for the offence of Adultery.

Footnote: The Second Schedule is contained in Page 93 of the link to the 1999 Constitution included in this article.

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