Tuesday, March 08, 2016


The concept of Supremacy of the Constitution means that, the constitution is the supreme law of the land and every authority or person created by the constitution is bound by its provisions.
Not only are government officials bound by the provisions of the constitution but also the people whether majority/minority.

Supremacy of the Constitution arises from different considerations:
1.  The constitution is considered supreme if it has been enacted by a legislature with supreme authority. e.g. the constitutions of Australia and Canada.
2.   A constitution may also be considered supreme if it has been enacted by the people. e.g. the Irish Constitution that was enacted by the people through a referendum and without consultation/approval of the British parliament, but passed their constitution in the name of the people.

Many constitutions of countries of the world derive their authority from the people. The preamble of such constitutions provides: “We the people of _________ hereby enact and adopt this constitution.” From the preamble, it means that the people have inherent powers to enact a constitution of their choice.
And every authority in exercise its powers must be conscious of the fact that the Supremacy of the Constitution is derived from the people.
The inherent powers of the people to enact a constitution unto themselves is not just a legal theory but has received judicial notice in the case of McCulloch V. Maryland.
The 1999 Constitution like its predecessor claims to derive its validity from the people. All the pre-colonial as well as the Independence Constitution were enacted by the British parliament. It can be said that they derived their validity/supremacy from the fact that they were enacted by the British parliament. The 1999 Constitution was enacted by the Provincial Ruling Council under the military regime. Such a constitution can be said to derive its supremacy from the Provincial Ruling Council.

The Supremacy of the Constitution could also arise from the logic of the situation. The constitution creates authorities and such authorities that are created and established by the government are to exercise their powers as well as be bound by such limitations placed in the constitution.
For the constitution will be useless if its provisions are not respected. In Marbury V. Madison, the court held to the effect; any law that is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution shall be declared invalid. This preposition has also been recognized by Nigerian courts. In the Nigerian case of Attorney General of Abia State and Ors V. Attorney General of the Federation, the court held the electoral act of 2004 to be inconsistent with S. 7 of the Constitution that vested powers in the State Houses of Assembly to make laws in respect to local government structure, function and finance.
The supremacy principle has been provided in the following sections of the constitution:
S. 1(1) –  this constitution shall be the supreme law of the land and shall have binding effects on persons throughout the federation.
S. 1(2) – no body or body of persons shall take over any part of Nigeria or the whole country except in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
S. 1(3) – any law inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution shall to the level of its inconsistency be declared null and void, and the provision of the constitution shall prevail.

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