The merits of the 1989 Constitution may be summarized as follows:
1. The provision of the Constitution that any fraction arising out of an electoral count should be rounded up to the next whole number, showed the sensitivity of the framers of the constitution to the political problems created by the interpretation of two-thirds of 19 states in the 1979 presidential elections and their readiness to avert similar problems 1n future.
2. The cost of government was drastically reduced by this constitution. For example, the number of Senators representing each state was reduced from five to three under this constitution. Second, legislators were paid only a sitting allowance, a payment made for those days they attended sittings of the house.
This was a tacit application of the principle of “no work, no pay“. Finally, the President could only appoint a maximum of three Special Advisers unlike the limitless number he could employ under the 1979 Constitution. Thus, prudence was the watchword of this constitution.
3. The Constitution also put the legislators on their toes by providing for a system of recall. By giving the electorate the power to recall their unproductive elected representatives who no longer enjoyed their confidence, the constitution was only establishing the principle of voter sovereignty.
4. It was a good thing that the constitution stipulated that aspirants to public offices should possess certain minimum educational qualifications. Lawmakers and policy makers need to understand the complexity of government business.
5. The introduction of the two party system seemed to be a good reading of Nigeria‘s political landscape which had always been gravitating towards a two party system.
Towards the end of the First Republic, for example, all the major political parties had merged to form the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) and the United Progressives Grand-Alliance (UPGA). And in the Second Republic, although there were five (increased later to six) registered parties, the, same pattern was discernible as it was the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) versus the others.
6. The decision not to grant Abuja the status of a state further enhanced its position as the symbol of Nigerian unity.
Demerits Of The 1989 Constitution In Nigeria
The demerits of the 1989 Constitution included the following:
1. The constitution itself was still-born as it failed to usher in the Third Republic due to the annulment of the presidential elections held on 12th June, 1993 and the political crisis which it triggered.
2. The cost-saving measures introduced by the constitution were half-hearted as they appeared to be directed mainly at the legislative branch of government. It was business as usual in the executive branch.
3. Although the constitution was said to be federal, it gave more powers to the central government than the state governments. There were no residual powers for the state governments whereas the federal government alone could make laws on subjects in the exclusive list, and also had the upper hand in respect of subjects in the concurrent listwhere federal law prevailed over state law where there was conflict between the two laws.
4. The constitution did not provide an institutional machinery for the enforcement of the federal character principle.
5. The imposition of two government sponsored political parties was undemocratic. The people should be allowed freedom of association.