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Nigeria Index
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Constitutional Background

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country (about 108 mio.), is religiously divided between Muslim north and Christian south.  It is ethnically divided between its three biggest ethnicities Hausa-Fulani north, Ibo east, and Yoruba west (each greater than 20 million), and many other smaller ethnic groups, each with its own language and culture. Some of the larger ones include the Ijaw, Kanuri, Tiv, Edo, Efik, Ibibio, Igala, Igbirra, and Itsekiri.

Under Abacha, Nigeria violated human rights of the Ogoni, Andoni, Okrika, and others of the 20 ethnic minority groups in the oil-rich Niger delta. The delta has been closed for foreigners for some time and is now (1999) still experiencing inter-tribal conflicts.  The area is highly polluted by oil industry -- Shell, Elf Aquitaine, and Agip being the most important ones.  In 1995, Shell set up a $3.6 billion liquified natural gas project; the company has pledged to despoil the Niger delta, but past attempts to turn back pervasive pollution have failed.  At least some of the damage is due to pipeline vandalism conducted to incite compensation payments for pollution.

Ken Saro-Wiwa -- popular teacher, artist, writer, civil rights leader, businessman, and bearer of the alternative nobel price -- declared Ogoniland autonomous, Shell 'persona non grata', and demanded several billion dollars in compensation from the resident oil companies. Under pressure of the central government, some Ogoni built a compromising alliance whose four chiefs got murdered. The government declared Saro-Wiwa, who was not present at the crime site, "responsible" in a secret special tribunal, sentenced him to death, confirmed the sentence in a special session of the Military Council, and hanged him together with eight companions on 10 Nov 1995.

12 June 1993: Moshood Abiola clearly wins the first democratic elections of Nigeria after almost a decade of military rule. Babangida annuls elections and resigns in favor of Ernest Shonekan who assumes office as head of an interim government.

History and News

  • May 1999: New Constitution adopted.  It is based on the 1979 Constituion.  Former president Obasanjo wins presidential elections and assumes office.
  • Oct 1998: Date promised by Abacha for handing over power.
  • 10 Nov 1995: Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa is hanged. Among worldwide protest, Nigeria is suspended from Commonwealth membership.
  • 1 Oct 1995: Independence day; set date for the Provisional Ruling Council's proofreading of the Draft Constitution.
  • Sep 1995: Abacha gives way to international pressure by reprieving alleged coup plotters who have been sentenced to death.
  • July 1995: Former President Obasanjo is sentenced to 25 years in prison by a sectret military tribunal for alleged participation in an attempt to overthrow the government.
  • 27 June 1995: To celebrate the completion of a Draft Constitution by the Constitutional Conference, General Abacha re-allows political parties and political activity whithout "ruthless or provocative expressions". He does not, however, announce release of political prisoners or a date for elections.
  • Mai 1994: Abacha organizes the election of a Constitutional Conference.
  • Nov 1993: Sani Abacha seizes power, installs military rule, and later imprisons Abiola and former President Obasanjo.
  • 3 June 1991: Signing of the treaty establishing the AEC.
  • 1985: General Ibrahim Babangida overthrows Buhari government.
  • 1983: Army coup in which General Muhammadu Buhari overthrows Shagari government.
  • 1979: Shehu Shagari wins elections.  Military ruler General Obasanjo hands over power to the new civilian administration of Shehu Shagari. General Obasanjo acquires the distinction of being the first African military ruler to hand over power voluntarily to a civilian administration. The "Second Republic" commences.
  • 1979: A new "presidential" style Federal Constitution is adopted.
  • 1976: Murtala Muhammed is murdered in Col. Bukar Dimka's failed coup attempt. General Olusegun Obasanjo, the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, survives the coup attempt and succeeds Murtala Muhammed. Coup plotter Col. Dimka and those implicated by him are executed in public.
  • 1975: Brigadier-General Muratala Muhammed overthrows Gowon.
  • 1970: Biafra conflict ends when the Biafran army surrenders, and Ojukwu flees into exile. The fighting and famine have resulted in about 1 million dead.  The former Eastern Region is reintegrated into the Federation.
  • 1967: Biafra civil war starts when Col. Ojukwu, the Governor of the Eastern Region (after riots in the North involving the massacres of Ibos) unilaterally declares secession from the Federation, and announces the formation of the Republic of Biafra.
  • 1966: (July): second army coup which ends in the deaths of military ruler Gen. Ironsi and Western Governor Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon  takes over power, and reinstates federal system of government.
  • 1966: (January): Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, Northern Region Governor Sarduana Ahmadu Bello, and Western Region Governor Samuel Ladoke Akintola killed in army coup. Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi takes over power, and converts Nigeria into a unitary state.
  • 1963: Federal Republic proclaimed under Nnamdi Azikiwe who becomes its first President. Appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cease and the Supreme Court becomes Nigeria's highest court.
  • 1960: Independence; Nnamdi Azikiwe ("Zik") becomes Governor General.
  • 1914: Formation of Nigeria under governor Frederick Lugard.

For methodology see: Comparing Constitutions and International Constitutional Law.
© 1994 - December 18th, 2010 / For corrections please contact A. Tschentscher.