Constitutional power, being the power fashioned out through the sovereign free will of the people, is basically meant to regulate the conduct of both the government and the governed. It is central to politics. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution vests executive powers in the President who is the Chief Executive. Similarly, the 1999 Constitution confers on the President, the power to assent to bills and modify existing laws. Even though there is provision for delegation of powers, such delegates act only for and on behalf of the President hence such acts are acts of the President. In a country like Nigeria, whose history, especially as regards executive Presidency dates back only to 1979, it is obviously difficult to attempt to imbibe the political model of the United States of America whose executive Presidency is centuries old, without obstacles. When such powers as are conferred by sections 5, 58 and 315 as well as other specifically granted powers in the Constitution are vested in one man called the President, without effective checks and balances, and without a clear frontier as in section 5(1)(b), the tendency is that such powers will be misused. Power, it is said, “tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”1. It is in the light of the foregoing that this thesis examines the gamut of the powers vested in the President, particularly as exercised since the coming into being of the 1999 Constitution.
Presidential power under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution2, is the totality of executive powers that have been vested in the President. According to Black’s Law Dictionary3, executive power is defined simply as “the power to see that the laws are duly executed and enforced”. The idea of executive Presidency is traceable to the pre-1979 era when it was thought that there was the need to have a President who could wield such powers as to be able to have a firm control of the government. This was obviously in response to the failure4 of the Parliamentary model of government which was bequeathed to the country by the colonialists, upon the attainment of independence in 1960.5 The executive powers, exercisable by the President, are admittedly enormous, hence it is more often than not, taken for granted
especially by occupants of the office of the President. This is irrespective of the fact that such powers are granted with a number of safeguards by way of checks and balances. Now, does the president’s exercise of executive powers embrace all functions that are neither legislative nor judicial, given the wording in section 5(1)(b) in particular?
The 1999 Constitution confers presidential powers but it is important to admit that in reality, there are other factors that combine to strengthen and weaken the way such powers exercised by the president, such circumstances including the poor political sophistication of the country, social and economic forces.