CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE OF SEPERATION OF POWER
In the present 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, separation of powers is a fundamental constitutional principle. Relevant sections of the Constitution place each of the basic powers of government in a separate branch. while sections 4 and 5 deal with the legislative and executive powers respectively, section 6 is concerned with the judicial powers. These provisions are in pari materia with those of sections 4, 5 and 6 of 1979 presidential constitution. In the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, there is also a vertical separation of powers between the Federal Government and the state governments especially. While the federal legislative power is vested by section 4 (2), (3) & (4), the state legislative power is conferred by section 4 (6) & (7). The adumbration of the contents of respective powers is contained in the second schedule of the Constitution. In the same manner, while the federal executive power is enshrined in section 5 (1), that of the state is contained in section 5 (2).
Again, the local governments described as the third tier of government at the instance of Decree 17 of 1985, also have powers that can be attested to by the provisions of section 7 (establishment) of the 4th schedule (functions) of the 1999 Constitution. There is clearly a constitutional separation of power in Nigeria both vertically and horizontally.
On yet another development, even as we have not been aware of the outcome, the so-called local government reform moves initiated by the executive recently is not unconnected with the failure to observe the principle of separation of powers. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not in any section make provisions for the procedure for any reform in the local government structure. The implication of this is that any move to engage in such a reform must proceed in form of a bill that must be passed by the National Assembly insofar as the reform pertains to the whole local government areas in the nation. What we witnessed however was that everything hereunder was enshrouded in mystery and the National legislature was carefully schemed out. Right now we hear nothing about the reform or its result.
On the vertical separation plain, the matter is not different. The recent death blow by the federal government on the creation of new local governments by some state Houses of Assembly is quite illustrative. With due respect, I wish to submit that everything about the creation of new local governments constitutionally belongs to the state House of Assembly (section 8 (3)). The role of the National Assembly thereafter is clearly stated in the constitution. Hence section 7 (6) (a) urges the National Assembly to "make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local councils of the federation"
The above considerations constitute only a tip of an iceberg of what can be discussed about the doctrine of separation of powers vis-à-vis governance in Nigeria. States like Delta and Anambra should uphold the constitution of the federal republic and conduct Local govt elections, Their state assemblies should live up to the expectation of the electorate by upholding the doctrine of separation of power. Or our democracy and separation of power would be one in which the functionaries are separated but the functions remain unseparated as obtainable in centuria centuriata and comitia tributa of the Roman Empire.