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Nigeria's Political System

Nigeria is a federal republic, divided into 36 states, as well as the Abuja metropolitan area. After many years of military rule, in 1999 Nigeria got a new constitution and a peaceful transition to civilian rule. The same year, presidential and parliamentary elections were held.

Political System of Nigeria

President and National Assembly

The president is head of state, head of government and military commander-in-chief and is elected for four years at a time. The Constitution restricts a person's ability to hold the presidential office for two consecutive periods.

Parliament, or the legislative assembly, has two chambers: the Senate consists of 109 members; three from each of the 36 states plus one from the capital Abuja. The House of Representatives has 346 members. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how NI can stand for Nigeria.

Choice

Parallel presidential and parliamentary elections are held every four years. All elections since 1999 have to some extent been characterized by violence, corruption and cheating, according to international election observers. The 2007 election was particularly bad, and referred to as "shameless" by Human Rights Watch. Both internal and external pressure led to strong improvements in the 2011 elections, and the 2015 election is probably the freest and fairest in the country's history. The 2019 elections had several logistical challenges, and we saw some more violence than in 2015.

Throughout history, political parties have been closely linked to one or more of the dominant ethnic groups. Since 1999, PDP has been dominant. Internal elections of candidates for PDP leadership and party lists have been more crucial to political power than national elections. In the 2015 and 2019 elections, the outcome between PDP and APC was so steady that it could go against a two-party system.

Administrative division

Nigeria is a federal republic, divided into 36 states, as well as the Abuja metropolitan area. They are again divided into 774 municipalities.

The 36 states have their own elected assemblies and are governed by elected governors. Governor elections are basically held the same year as presidential and parliamentary elections. However, several of the state elections are out of step with the national elections after the 2007 election results were challenged in court. Several of the opposition party challengers won in court over the PDP candidates, who after the election were announced by the electoral commission as winners.

Judiciary

The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the federal supreme court at the federal level. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in disputes between the states. In each state there is a supreme court as the supreme court of appeal. Islamic Sharia law and courts have been introduced in the twelve northern states, which especially judge family matters and other personal matters. The legislation is also largely based on English examples.

Corruption

The Nigerian political system is considered highly corrupt. Transparency International's index which ranks the country's corruption level has Nigeria ranked 139 out of 176 (2012).

Presidents of Nigeria

Overview of Presidents in Nigeria.

Period President
1963-1966 Nnamdi Azikiwe (s)
1966 Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (m)
1966-1975 Yakubu Gowon (m)
1975-1976 Murtala Ramat Muhammad (m)
1976-1979 Olusegun Obasanjo (m)
1979-1983 Shehu Shagari (s)
1983-1985 Muhammadu Buhari (m)
1985-1993 Ibrahim Babangida (m)
1993 Ernest Shonekan (s, transitional government)
1993-1998 Sani Abacha (m)
1998-1999 Abdulsalami Abubakar (m)
1999-2007 Olusegun Obasanjo (s)
2007-2010 Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (s)
2010-2015 Goodluck Jonathan (s)
2015- Muhammadu Buhari (s)
  • s = civil
  • m = military

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