Sources of Nigerian Law II: Nigerian legislation
Nigerian legislation can be said to be the whole body of laws made or otherwise enacted in the country. Nigerian legislation is the most important instrument of legal development in the country. It has a tremendous effect on all other sources of law because it can readily alter their contents. It also provides a framework and a useful tool for the political, technological and socioeconomic development of the country.
Nigerian legislation consists of statutes and subsidiary legislations enacted in Nigeria. Statutes are laws enacted by the legislature of the country. And subsidiary legislation, otherwise subsidiary instrument or delegated legislation is simply a law or regulation made by any one authorized to do so by an Act of the Legislature.
It consists of rules, Orders, Regulations, Bye-laws and other instruments made under the authority of statutes. Thus, delegated or subsidiary legislations are made under the authority and with reference to the conditions laid down in the parent Act.
The act of legislature which is the exclusive preserve of the legislature does therefore not abate with the enactment of statutes, that is to say, the main or principal statute, but flow through to enhance subsidiary legislations made by persons or authorities not part of the legislature. The observation of Bairamain F.J. in Williams V. Majekodunmi (1962) WRNLR, 174 at 178; is quiet illustrative on this, when he stated, thus;
“The fact is that laws of Nigeria begin with the primary laws passed by the legislature itself, and then to the subsidiary legislation made by persons or bodies authorized by the legislature to supplement its enactment”.
Delegated legislations are made under the authority of a statute. By this authority, power is given to persons or bodies in the executive or judicial arms of government to make laws which help in the effectuation of the intentions of the legislature as expediencies and or exigencies of future circumstances may demand.
The Constitution – Sources of Nigerian Law II
The constitution of a country is a body of fundamental doctrines and rules of that nation from which stem the powers and duties of the government (its respective parts thereof) and the rights and duties of the people. So Bolingbroke defined the constitution of a community as “The assemblage of laws, institutions and customs…according to which the community hath agreed to be governed” also constitution has been defined as “the fundamental and organic law of a nation or state, establishing the conception, character, and organization of its government, as well as prescribing the extent of its sovereign power and the manner of its exercise.
The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is importantly and fundamentally a pledge, resolution and indeed a collective agreement of the people of Nigeria to live together as one indivisible, indissoluble, sovereign nation, and to provide for themselves good government and welfare of all persons in the country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice and collective agreement. About the fundamental and collective agreement nature of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ikongbeh, J.C.A. in the case of Abaribe V. The Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly & Anor (2002) 14 NWLR, (pt. 788) 466 at 501-502, stated thus:
“This point can be better appreciated if it is realized that a constitution, is at least in theory, the product of the planned and collective agreement of the people on how to govern themselves. When therefore they agreed at the outset that a particular matter shall be within the competence of one organ and not of the other…
The constitution is not just a statute, nor a mere legal document. It is the source or otherwise basis of the regulation of the affairs of all organs of government and persons in the country. It provides for the realms and scope of rights, responsibility and obligations not only of the organs of government and the citizens but between the components of a nation state and more. Thus, the Court of Appeal appropriately held in the case of Abaribe V. The Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly & Anor inter alia, that:
“A constitution is not a mere common legal document. It is essentially a document relating to and regulating the affairs of the nation state and stating the function and powers of the different components of the Government as well as regulating the relationship between the citizens and the state. It equally makes provisions for the rights of the citizens within the compass of the state.
The supremacy of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has consistently been upheld by the courts of the country, see the decisions of the courts in a plethora of decided cases which include Turkur V. Government of Gongola State (1989) NWLR, pt 117, 517; Oloba V. Akereja (1988) 3 NWLR, pt. 82 484, 504.
Its provisions have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the latter must prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void. See the decision of the Court of appeal in Danbaba V. State (2000) 14 NWLR, pt 678, 296 at 410.
Rights conferred or vested by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, cannot be taken away by any other legislation. Thus, the Supreme Court in Adisa V. Oyinwola (2000) 10 NWLR, (pt.674) 116 at 191, held inter alia, that:
“A right conferred or vested by the Constitution cannot be taken away or interfered with by any other legislation or statutory provision except the Constitution itself and any such other Law purportedly made abrogating a right conferred by the Constitution will be void to the extent of its inconsistency.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court per Achike J.S.C in the case of Abacha & 3 Ors V. Fawehinmi (2000) 6 NWLR, (pt 660) 228 at 315 held, inter alia, that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the Supreme law of the land, it is the grundnorm. Its supremacy has never been called to question in ordinary circumstances.
The courts as the institutions vested with the unique responsibility of interpreting the laws of the country are bound by the provisions of the Constitution above any other, and every other consideration. This position was very clearly stated by the Court of appeal in Maidawa V. Husaini (2000) 6 NWLR, (pt 662) 698 at 704 when it held that:
“The courts are bound to obey and bow to the dictates of the provisions of the Constitution”. Sources of Nigerian Law II.