The 1963 Republican Constitution came into effect on 1st October, 1963. This constitution and other subsequent post-independenceconstitutions are distinguishable from the previous ones by the fact that they are drafted by Nigerians for Nigerians.
It was however, the imperfections of the 1960 Independence Constitution and the desire by Nigerians to take full control of the running of their own affairs, in particular, that led to the preparation and eventual promulgation of the 1963 Constitution.
The factors that shaped the formation of the constitution are now explained in turn.
Demand for Reform in Nigeria
At an address he gave at Nsukka in November 1961, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Governor-General called for a review of the Independence Constitution to provide for a President that would be elected by the Senate and the House of Representatives as a replacement for the monarchical system in which the Queen of England was represented in Nigeria by the Governor General as the ceremonial Head of State.
The position of Dr. Azikiwe was clear – Nigeria should be a Republic.
The address stirred a major political controversy among Nigerian politicians, and especially in the coalition government formed by the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and Dr.Azikiwe’s party, the NCNC.
The NPC which was the senior partner in the first post-independence government suspected the motive for the address, especially, since the Governor-General was supposed to be above partisan politics. In any case, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe had made known his views and his position on any political issue could not be dismissed with a wave of hand.
The 1963 Constitutional Conference (Lagos, Nigeria)
The 1963 Constitutional Conference was held in Lagos on 26th July, 1953. The main objective of the conference was to discuss a proposal submitted by the Federal Government for the transformation of the country into a Federal Republic.
The Conference agreed that:
Nigeria should become a Federal Republic within the Commonwealth.
The Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be established but the position should be similar to that of the Governor General under the Independence Constitution.
Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Governor-General should be the first holder of the office but subsequently, the President should be elected for a five year term by members of the Senate and House of Representatives sitting together.
The Supreme Court should become the highest court of appeal in Nigeria and appeals should no longer go to the PrivyCouncil London.
The Judicial Service Commission should be abolished and Judges should henceforth be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The proposal to give the federal parliament power to enact a PreventlveDetention Act restraining personal liberty in certain circumstances should be withdrawn.
The recommendations of the Constitutional Conference were accepted and enacted into law by the Senate and the House of Representatives and this became the Republican Constitution which came into effect on 1st October, 1963.