Justice Charles Dadi Onyeama of the High Court of Lagos explained how the Nigerian government works last night before an informal gathering at the International Student Association.
In Nigeria, the judiciary serves as a barrier between the powers of the executive and the rights of the individual, he said. Individuals can go to court if ministers of state exceed their delegated authority.
Nigeria's constitution combines features of both the American federal system and the British Parliamentary system. However, the three semi-autonomous regions of the country willingly allow the central government to provide assistance in areas like education. They do not jealously guard their powers, as do states in the U.S., Onyeama said.
In each of the three regions, a House of Assembly and a House of Chiefs wield legislative authority, while a prime minister and cabinet constitute the executives. The national government at Lagos employs the same set-up.
Judges in Nigeria are appointed by the prime minister, upon the recommendation of a commission of justices. Onyeama expressed the feeling that this procedure is more likely to insure the impartiality of the judges than a system of elections.
Whether Nigeria can build successfully on its inherited British traditions, such as representative government and common law, is a question still to be answered, according to Onyeama.