Nigeria is a republic with a federal democracy and an executive president. The president is head of both state and government, and leads the Federal Executive Council (cabinet).
Legislative power is vested in the government and the bicameral legislature; the latter consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives has 360 members elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies. The Senate has 109 members elected for a four-year term in three-seat constituencies, which correspond to the country’s states, and one seat in a single-seat constituency, the capital (Abuja).
The president is elected every four years by universal adult suffrage, and is required to include at least one representative of each of the 36 states in the cabinet.
There are 19 federal ministries, covering all relevant sectors of the polity. Each has a minister and, in some cases, an additional minister of state at the centre of affairs, all of whom are appointed by the president. The permanent secretary is the accounting officer and administrative head of each ministry, while the head of Service of the Federation is the administrative head of the civil service.
The Federal Republic includes the Abuja Federal Capital Territory and 36 states, and for local government purposes there are some 770 authorities.
Nigeria has a mixed legal system consisting of English common law, Sharia law and customary law. The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary and permits the exercise of Sharia law for consenting Muslims.
The Supreme Court is presided over by the chief justice and has up to 15 justices. It is the final court of appeal; and it has jurisdiction over disputes between the states, or between the federal government and any state, particularly in relation to the allocation of funds and resources, and over disputes arising from elections. The Federal Court of Appeal is headed by a president and has at least 35 justices, with a minimum of three with expertise in Sharia Law, and three in customary law.
There is the Federal High Court and a high court in each of the 36 states. States are entitled to have a Sharia court of appeal and a customary court of appeal. Judges in the federal courts are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and approved by the Senate. Judges in the state high courts are appointed by the state governors, also on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, and approved by the state assembly.
In the north of present-day Nigeria, strong state systems have evolved, several based on divine kingship. Two powerful states arose – Hausa-Bokwoi and Kanem-Bornu – which converted to Islam. In the southwest, the Yoruba had, before AD 1000, founded Ife, still the spiritual centre of Yorubaland.
In the early nineteenth century, there was upheaval in the north. Britain annexed Lagos in 1861 and expanded its control further in 1884. By 1900 Britain had control of all Nigeria.
The 1914, six Africans were brought into the governor’s advisory council. In 1947 the council’s authority was extended to the whole country; the 1947 constitution also set up regional houses of assembly in the east, west and north, with a House of Chiefs in the north. The 1951 constitution gave the balance of power to Nigerians. In 1954 Nigeria became a federation, and in 1960 it became independent.
Nigeria’s independence government was led by the Northern People’s Congress in alliance with the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (a largely Igbo party). In 1963 the country became a republic with Dr Nnamdi Azikwe its first (non-executive) president.
In May 1967, Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared eastern Nigeria an independent state named the Republic of Biafra. This led to civil war, with hostilities continuing until 1970 when Biafra was defeated.
In 1994 one of Nigeria’s most popular writers, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others were arrested and charged with the murder of local chiefs. They were tried by a military court and executed in November 1995. In response, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth.
After more than a decade of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and there was a return to civilian government. After Olusegun Obasanjo became president in May 1999, Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth was lifted.
In 2011 Goodluck Jonathan, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), won the presidential election in the first round with 59% of the votes cast. His main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, took 32% of the votes cast.