The Scope of a Constitution Explained
The scope of a constitution may be examined along the following lines:
Usually, the purpose of every modern constitution is outlined in its preamble which reflects the past, the hopes, fears and aspirations of the people to whom the constitution belongs.
For example, the preamble to the 1989 Nigerian Constitution states “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity world peace, international co-operation and understanding: and to provide for a constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people; do hereby make, or enact and give to ourselves the following constitution”.
Thus, it could therefore be seen that although technically, the preamble is not part of the constitution, it is a statement of ideas. It also defines and sets the spirit of the constitution. In a sense, the preamble act as a moral guide to the behaviour of public officers.
2. Structure of Government
A constitution contains the structure of government in the sense that the constitution specifies the existence of the major agencies or organs of government namely the legislature, executive and judiciary.
Also, it specifies the kind of persons to be elected or selected and disciplined. Again, the constitution stipulates in broad terms the type of government which is to be established.
3. Distribution of Powers
The constitution specifies the authority of the various organs of government as well as the government officials. Thus, a constitution specifies the powers of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
Apart from distribution powers between the organs of government, it also distribute powers among levels of government.
4. Declaration of Rights and Duties
Most constitutions contain the rights and duties of individuals within the state. In other words, the freedom of the citizens is highlighted and their duties to the government are also stipulated.
5. Amendment / Procedure
Another content of a constitution is the amendment procedure. The amendment procedure is always incorporated into a constitution which is aimed at safeguarding the following objectives namely:
i. To ensure that the changes occur in the constitution only with deliberations.
ii. The people are given an opportunity to express themselves through a referendum before any deliberation is made.
iii. To ensure that the powers of the nation and local government cannot be altered by either level of government acting alone.
To this end, the amendment procedure ensures the supreme status of a constitution.
6. Type of Party System
The constitution also contain the type of party system to operate in a country. This means that the constitution stipulates or defines the number of political parties to function in a state. It is on this basis that a country is described as being a one, two or multi-party state like Nigeria.
7. Nature of the Civil Service
The constitution also contains the type of civil service to operate in a country. That is, the constitution defines in broad terms the nature of the civil service whether it will be politically anonymous, that is politically neutral or a political civil service.
8. Types of Law to Operate in a Country
The constitution shows whether special laws should be applied to special people or the same kind of laws for everybody.
Source: Citizenship Education for Tertiary Institutions
By Olatunji Sule