Rigid and Flexible Constitution | Definition, Pros & Cons

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Definition of Rigid and Flexible Constitution – Difference, Advantages & Disadvantages

Rigid and Flexible Constitution
Rigid and Flexible Constitution

The distinction between rigid and flexible constitutions is based purely on the amendment procedure and nothing else. While it is relatively easy to change a flexible constitution, it is generally difficult to amend a rigid constitution. As such, there is general tendency to associate a flexible constitution with an unwritten constitution and a rigid constitution with written constitution.

But this should not be the case. Since the society within which government and state institutions operate is dynamic, then a constitution has to be flexible if it is to satisfy the changing needs of the people.

Rigid Constitution

A rigid constitution is any constitution, which cannot be easily amended or changed. Rigidity here implies some degree of stiffness of a thing, which cannot be easily changed. but studies have shown that a number of countries with written constitution fall in line with rigid constitution in that the making or amendment of some fundamental laws is sometimes different from the making or amendment of ordinary laws. For example, to alter any part of the 1999 Constitution of federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 9 of the constitution provides that a proposal of the National Assembly for that purpose must be approved by not less than two-thirds majority of all members of each House of the National Assembly and also ratified by the resolutions of the House of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states of the Federation. it is even more difficult to amend those parts of the constitution dealing with creation of states and the fundamental human rights of the citizens. In this sense,  the Nigeria constitution may be said to be rigid.

Advantages of Rigid Constitution

Rigid constitution have the following advantages.

  • In theory, a rigid constitution prevents the emergence of dictatorship. The jale of impeachment of state governors without following constitutional provisions under the Obasanjo Administration tends to invalidate this claim.
  • A rigid constitution gives the people confidence and hope and that the political leaders cannot change it at will.
  • There are certain provisions in rigid constitutions dealing with minority issues. Such constitutional qualities help to protect minority interests.
  • It is suitable for a large heterogeneous federal-state where it is necessary to define the powers of the various levels and branches of government.
  • It promotes political ability since the rules of the game cannot be changed at will to suit particular interests.

Disadvantages Of Rigid Constitution

The disadvantages of rigid constitution include the following:

  • The rigidity of the constitution is not as real as we are made to believe, for in practice, such constitutions are often dispensed with or circumvented and this inevitably destroys the people’s confidence in it as a fundamental law of the land.
  • it is not easy to apply a rigid constitution in times of emergency.
  • The cost of amending a rigid constitution may be too high. For example, it cost the Federal Government above N10 billion to organise the national political reform conference in 2005. It was part of an attempt to amend the 1999 constitution but it ultimately amounted to a fruitless exercise.

Flexible Constitution

A flexible constitution is one which can be amended in the course of the ordinary legislative process. Ability may imply the frequency of amendment as it is very easily done. A flexible constitution may be waiting and waiting. The British constitution is said to be flexible.

Advantages Of Flexible Constitution

The main advantages of a flexible constitution are:

  • The constitution is useful when there is an urgent national need such as natural disaster.
  • It can be easily adapted to suit changing circumstances.
  • The cost of amending a flexible constitution is natively low.

Disadvantages Of Flexible Constitution

There are certain disadvantages of flexible constitutions. They are;

  • If a constitution is too easy to change, it may become highly susceptible 2 manipulation by self-seeking politicians.
  • There are no adequate safeguards for the protection of minority groups.
  • A flexible constitution which is prone to frequent changes may lead to instability of government.

Where a constitution is flexible, there may be too many amendments, which male invariably turn the constitution into a mere bundle of statutes.

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