The Constitution: Forms | Types of Constitution (Explained)

What does the Constitution really mean? Are there classification or types of of the Constitution and how many are there? Lastly, of what importance is the Constitution?

All these questions we shall answer in this article. Simply relax and go through it and see the answers.

Definition and brief Introduction to the Constitution

The Constitution is a body of rules and regulations by which a state is governed. In other words, it is a set of principles which guides the conducts of a state or country.

The Constitution establishes and defines the relationship between the three arms of government. The three arms of government are the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. It is only the Constitution that states the powers of each of the arms of government. This simply means that all the branches of government are under the Constitution and none is above it. As long as the Constitution exists, it will always harmonize these three organs of government.

The Constitution is the grundnorm, upon which all other laws made in a country are built. Any law of the Legislature, an organization, company or any corporate body which is inconsistent to the Constitution is to the extent of it’s inconsistency void.

Furthermore, in the absence of the Constitution, one of the arms of government may act beyond it’s powers and conflict of the organs of government is bound to exist.

The Constitution does not only define the relationship between the organs of government. It also defines the relationship between ordinary citizens and that of government and citizens.

Let me also add that the Constitution defines the form of government which a country adopts. In same way, the form of constitution determines the form of government. For instance, during Independence, Nigeria first used the parliamentary constitution which caused Nigeria to adopt the parliamentary system of government.

Currently, Nigeria operates a presidential government culminating from a presidential type of Constitution.

Let’s now see the difference forms of the Constitution which we have.

Classification of the Constitution

We shall examine each of the classification of the Constitution under this sub-topic.

Important: Classification of the Constitution is the same as the types. Scroll down to see the types one after the other.

Written and Unwritten Constitutional

Written Constitution is a class of constitution which is contained in a single document. In other words, a single book could be upheld and called the Constitution. It is the opposite of the Unwritten Constitution. Examples of countries that use the written Constitution are Nigeria, USA, etc.

The Unwritten Constitution is the opposite of Written Constitution.

Unwritten constitution is a class of Constitution which is not contained in a single document. This simply means that it could be written somewhere. It consists of various customs, principles or traditions of a country.

Sometimes, we misunderstand the concept of Unwritten Constitution to mean a type of constitution not written anywhere. Well, you could he right. But that’s not the exact meaning of it.

It is called Unwritten Constitution because it is contained in different documents. In other words, it is not in a single book like that of Nigeria and America.

Rigid and flexible Constitutional

A rigid Constitution is in of the types of Constitution which does not have a simple law making process. It is a constitution which is not easy to amend. While the flexible Constitution is a class of constitution which is easy to make, amend or repeal. Nigeria and USA makes use of rigid constitution.

The main difference between rigid and flexible Constitution is how easy or hard the amendment processes are.

See Also: Judicial Independence And the Essential Requirements for the Independence of the Judiciary

Presidential and parliamentary Constitution

These two types of constitution talk about forms government. The presidential constitution is a type of constitution which creates the presidential system of government. This class of constitution places powers on the hands of the Chief Executive – the President. An example of country that uses the presidential constitution is Nigeria.

The parliamentary Constitution is a type which creates a parliamentary system of government. Furthermore, the parliamentary constitution dictates that the head of the state can be a prime minister. He/she can also be a part of a political party. Countries that use the parliamentary constitution are Great Britain, the Netherlands, etc.

Federal and Unitary Constitution

This is a type of Constitution possessed by a federal state. A federal constitution is one which shares powers between the federal government, State and local government. It defines the powers and functions of the government at the center and the subordinating units.

On the other hand, the unitary constitution is one which is possessed in a Unitary State. A unitary constitution vests all the powers on the federal government. In other words, it establishes a single level of government and vests all the powers on it. However, the central government can delegate powers to the subordinating units. To perform a particular function.

The above list contains the classification of the Constitution.

Types of Constitution

  • Written Constitution
  • Unwritten Constitution
  • Rigid Constitution
  • Flexible Constitution
  • Presidential Constitution
  • Parliamentary Constitution
  • Federal Unitary

Can a country have more that one type of constitution?

The answer is, yes. A country may be directly or indirectly making use of more than one type of constitution. Let’s now take an instance using Nigeria.

Nigeria uses Presidential, Written, rigid and federal Constitution. Though they have only one constitution but it has the qualities of these four kinds of constitution. Why is it so? It’s because Nigeria is a country where the president is the Chief Executive which is a characteristic of the presidential constitution.

It has a single document which it can lay hands on and call it a constitution. All its rules and regulations for ruling the country are in one document. This is a quality of a written Constitution.

Moreso, its constitution is very hard to amend as it has several processes to undergo. Before the legislature amends its constitution, it has to go through the two houses. It would also have to get majority votes from the state Houses of Assemblies. That is a quality of a rigid Constitution.

Finally, Nigeria runs a form of government that shares powers between the federal level, state and local government levels. That is a quality of a federal Constitution.

From the above argument, it is clear that a country can operate more than one form of constitution. However, it all depends of the structure of the government of the country.

See Also: WAEC Syllabus for English (2021) to Read if You Must Pass (Download PDF)

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