Nigeria Government and Law

Form of government, constitution and separation of powers

According to the Constitution of May 1999, Nigeria is a federal state. This has a presidential system of government modeled on the USA with a president who, as head of the executive branch, performs the functions of the head of state, the head of government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In addition, a two-part National Assembly (“National Assembly”), consisting of Senate (“Senate”) and House of Representatives (“House of Representatives”), which act as legislators. The president is elected directly by the people for four years and may remain in office for a maximum of two legislative periods.

In recent years there has been a broad constitutional reform debate due to criticism of centralist elements in the constitution. The discussion about the political power-sharing of the various ethnic groups and the fairer distribution of oil revenues between the federal and state governments played an important role. In 2006, an attempt by the constitutional reformers failed because both houses of parliament rejected the third term of office of the president contained in the reform proposals.

Formal state structure

According to computergees, Nigeria is divided into 36 states with 768 Local Government Areas (LGAs) as municipal administrative units and the federal territory of Abuja Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with six “Area Councils” as district councils, a total of 774 districts. Each administrative unit has a certain number of “Councilors”, the council members, with corresponding responsibilities. Each of the 36 states is led by a government headed by a state governor and a state house of assembly.


According to the constitution, the judiciary in Nigeria is independent. In addition to national law (State Law), which is heavily influenced by British law, Islamic law – “Sharia” – has also been in force in a total of twelve states in northern Nigeria since 1999. The highest authority of national jurisdiction “Judicature” is the Supreme Court “Supreme Court”, followed by the Federal Court of Appeal “Federal Court of Appeal” and the Federal “Federal High Court”. In rural areas, the application of the third legal system, the traditional case law “Customary Law”, is of central importance.

Results of the 2019 elections

According to the election commission, the incumbent President Buhari was confirmed in office in the 2019 elections. Buhari received 15.1 million votes and won in 19 states, especially in the north and south-west of the country. His challenger, Atiku Abubakar, received 11.3 million votes and won in 17 states in the South East, Middle Belt and the capital Abuja.

The voter turnout was 36 percent, significantly lower than in 2015. The opposition described the election result as manipulation and threatened to challenge the election results in court.

The elections were overshadowed by violent incidents with at least 53 dead. Election observers and representatives of civil society criticized the lack of organization in the conduct of the elections, the intimidation of voters and the destruction of election papers in some parts of the country.

The umbrella organization “Situation Room”, the mouthpiece for 70 Nigerian civil society groups, demonstrated in its third interim report that the elections were not carried out properly and criticized the fact that INEC had not organized the elections efficiently. The interim report also stated that holding the elections in 2015 was much more efficient. The umbrella organization called for an analysis of the reasons for the poor organization in 2019 and for measures to be taken so that future elections are better organized again. She also called for an independent investigation into the elections.

On March 18, 2019, Atiku Abubakar challenged the election result in front of the Supreme Court because of irregularities. The procedure must be completed – in accordance with legal requirements within 180 days – by mid-September at the latest. In the opinion of analysts, the chances of success for the appeal of Atiku Abubabakar but are low. For example, after the elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011, President Buhari, as an opposition candidate, also lodged comparable complaints and lost them.

Conducting the gubernatorial and regional elections

On March 9, 2019, elections for regional parliaments and governors were held in 29 states. In the remaining seven states, the gubernatorial elections had already taken place in the months before.

As with the chaotic presidential elections two weeks earlier, the gubernatorial and regional elections were also irregular and violent. According to the preliminary election results, President Buhari’s ruling party won a majority of votes in 13 states. The PDP, the strongest opposition party, won a majority of the votes in nine states. Due to the violent incidents and irregularities, the elections in seven states have been declared invalid and are to be repeated within the next 21 days, ie by the beginning of April.

Introduction of Buhari for the second term

On May 29, 2019, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term. Buhari faces a number of challenges in his second term: The unemployment rate is 36%. This means that more than a quarter of the population is unemployed. Most of the 190 million Nigerians live on less than two US dollars a day. The population demands that President Buhari concentrate more on the issues of internal security, poverty reduction, employment promotion, promotion of agriculture, expansion of energy supply and infrastructure in his second term of office.

National flag of Nigeria

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