Nigeria’s Military Decrees

This page includes many of the important decrees issued by Nigeria’s military regimes between 1966 and 1999. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list though I would be happy to add to it. I have included a brief summary of each decree as well as a link to it. I hope that other scholars will join me in helping to preserve important historical primary sources that are becoming more and more difficult to find in Nigeria. Special thanks to Josiah Olubowale, Adigun Agbaje, ‘Bayo Adekanye, Erin Kelly, and the Nigerian Institute on Social and Economic Research. If you use this information, please consider citing my 2015 book in your work.

Decree No. 1 of 1966 (Constitution Suspension and Modification Decree)
Abolished parliament and the regional legislature.  Established Supreme Military Council but its functions not specified.  Established an Executive Council, which operated like the cabinet.  Section 3 provided that the Federal Military Government has the power to make laws for the peace, order and government of Nigeria.  It gave the newly appointed Regional Military Governors power to only legislate on matters in the concurrent list and with the prior consent of the FMG.  If any regional law conflict with federal, the latter trumps.  Section 6 provided that nothing in the decree could be addressed in court.  Council can delegate functions but only the Head of State can sign decrees.  Note that Military Governors are referred to in this decree as “the Government.”  Schedule 1 lists the provisions of the 1963 constitution that are suspended. The Decree established an Advisory Judicial Committee which could only advise the SMC on appointments.  This replaced the Judicial Service Commission of 1960, which had powers of appointment and removal, and the 1963 Constitution, which did away with the Commission.  Major provisions on judiciary in the 1963 Constitution were suspended; Supreme Court lost jurisdiction to determine disputes among the states or between a state and the FG.  Also, neither Parliament nor the Regional Legislatures could establish courts anymore.

Decree No. 2 (May 24) and Decree No. 5 of 1966 (Constitutions Suspension and Modification)
Abolished federalism but only lasted a short time under Ironsi.  Renamed the federation the “Republic of Nigeria.”  The Federal Military Government became the “National Military Government” and the Federal Executive Council became the “Executive Council.”  Each region became a “group of provinces.”  Military governors lost their legislative powers but the Head of State retained power to delegate to them.  Federal Republic Service Commission was renamed the National Public Service Commission and each Regional Public Service Commission became a “Provincial Public Service Commission.”

Decree No. 9 of 1966 (August 8)
Reversed most of the unifying provisions of the Ironsi regime.

Decree No. 34 of 1966

Decree No. 79 of 1966

Decree #8 of 1967 (Decree No. 8 part 1 and part 2 of 2)
Supposedly enshrined results of the Aburi, Ghana meeting by reaffirming Nigeria as a federation and upholding the supremacy of the SMC.  Ojukwu rejects the decree.

Decree No. 14 of 1967   (State Creation and Transitional Provision)
Created 12 states and provided for Military Governors for each state.

Decree No. 45 of 1968 Forfeiture of Assets (Validation) Decree
Refer to Lakanmi and Kikelomo Ola v. The Attorney General, Western State. The authority of the FMG to legislate.

Decree No. 28 of 1970
This was issued a few days after the Supreme Court decision on Lakanmi.  It abrogates the 1963 constitution except for what Decree #1 of 1966 explicitly preserved (See Ojo pp. 126-134; see also “Federal Military Government Decree No. 28 of 1970” by A.G. Karibi-White in Nigerian Journal of Contemporary Law, vol. 1, no. 2, 1970).

Decree No. 4 on “Indigenisation,” February 1972
Limited the private property that a foreigner can own.

Decree #5 of 1972
Head of State can unilaterally remove the Chief Justice (p. 164).  This practice is reaffirmed in Decree #32 of 1975, Section 13 and in Decree #1 of 1984, section 14.

Decree No. 32 of 1975
This created the Supreme Military Council, the National Council of States, and the Federal Executive Council.  Also created an Advisory Judicial Council.  Military Governors, were no longer members of the SMC; they were now members of the National Council of States.  Who qualified to be a governor was strictly determined by military rank.  The Head of the Govt should consult the SMC; Gowon did this irregularly.  States could not legislate on the Concurrent list without the prior consent of the FMG (Ojo p. 183). This organization was intended to (1) distance the new government from Gowon, (2) weaken the governors who had become too powerful by serving on the SMC, and (3) limiting the participation of bureaucrats in the meetings to avoid Gowon’s super-bureaucrats from emerging. (See Osaghae 1998, 81).

Decree No. 12 of 1976 States (Creation and Transitional Provisions)
Change from 12 to 19 states.

Indigenisation Decree.  June 29, 1976
All banks must have 60%  Nigerian Equity instead of the current 40%.  Three instead of two categories of companies affected by the 1974 decrees.

Decree No. 3 of 1977 on “Indigenization”
Another indigenization decree.

Decree No. 73 of 1977, part 1 and part 2
Sets up FEDECO.  Changes to this decree are announced on December 29, 1977, including a prohibition on justiciability.

Decree No. 105 of 1979, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Amendment Decree
This decree changed the constitution after the Constitutional Drafting Committee submitted the constitution (p. 77-78).

Decree No. 1 of 1983 Constitution (Suspension and Modification) 
Very similar in substance to Decree 32 of 1975.  Gave the FMG unlimited legislative powers.  Military Governors could not legislate without prior consent.  Ojo argues in practice though the states had a large degree of latitude because they were able to make grants or loans for purposes listed on the Exclusive or Concurrent Legislative lists (pp. 30, 53).  Schedule 1 suspended numerous provisions of the 1979 Constitution.  Legislation signed by the Head of the FMG is a “degree” and legislation signed by a military governor is an “edict.”  Ojo gives a long description of how legislating on a decree supposed to happen (pp. 66-69).  A decree requires the signature of the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to become law; this authority cannot be delegated to anyone. Section 9 of this decree (like Section 8 of Decree #32) also created new requirements for the Head of State to consult the SMC.  Powers such as appointing and removing Chiefs of Staff, General Officers Commanding, and Military Governors require consultation with SMC (p. 50).  However this consultation is not justiciable. This decree bans political parties.  Section 40 gave the federal government powers to forfeit property obtained illegally.  Tribunals for the recovery of public property formed but their decisions are subject to confirmation by the SMC (pp. 271-277).  Section 32 guarantees right to a speedy trial.

Decree No. 2 State Security (Detention of Persons) of 1984
This allowed indefinite detention on security grounds.  It gave broad authority to the National Security Organization.

Decree No. 3 of 1984 
Constitution of assets investigation panels.

Decree No. 6 of 1984 Banking and Freezing of Accounts
Allowed head of state to freeze assets of those suspected of corruption.

Decree No. 14 of 1983 Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunals)
Buhari set up these tribunals to try Second Republic politicians, ministers and political advisors for corruption.  Some articles about how this worked and who was tried (convictions were around July 1984) would be very useful.  Contact Nigeria Bar Association because they were active in opposition to these.

Decree No. 13 of 1984 FMG (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers)
Bans civil proceedings in any court for anything related to decree (Ojo p. 168-69).

Decree No. 8 of 1985 Judgment and Tribunals (Enforcement) 
State that decisions by tribunals set up by previous decrees could not be appealed.

Decree No. 17 of 1985 Constitution (Suspension and Modification)
Babangida’s first act was to the SMC, the Federal Executive Council, and the National Council of States.  He then created the Armed Forces Ruling Council, a new National council of States, and a National Council of Ministers.  He calls himself “President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces,” fusing the two offices.  Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarter was abolished and Supreme HQ renamed Chief of General Staff, General Staff HQ.  IBB later clarified that the Chief of General Staff was his deputy. All FMG decrees require signature of the president.  Executive authority exercised in consultation with AFRC.  President may delegate functions to National Council of Ministers or any other authority.  Powers previously vested in the SMC are now exclusive power of the President: appointment of Chief of General Staff, Minister of Defense, Chairman JCS, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Navy Staff, Chief of Air Staff, IG of policy, and the DG of the Nigerian Security Organizations.  Thus the collective powers of appointment are fewer. AFRC is larger – 28 members – and entirely military.  Council has the power to make provisions for statutory allocations to local governments.  It also considers and approves estimates of revenues and expenditures.  The National Council of State deals with state matters but includes various AFRC members (Ojo p. 296) and is subject to control of AFRC.  National Council of Ministers meets under the President or the Chief of General Staff and implements the policies of the AFRC. Advisory Judicial Committee advises AFRC on appointments.  No decisions are justiciable.  Before the government can confiscate property, the accused is entitled to judicial process though.

Decree No. 26 of 1986 Constitution Suspension and Modification

Decree No. 25 of 1987 Participation in Politics and Election Decree of 1987
Banned former office holders guilty of corruption from running for office (See Osaghae 1998, 215).

Decree No. 9 of 1989
Expanded list of those prohibited from participating in politics in 1987.

Decree No. 26 of 1989
Amends the Transition to Civil Rule (political programme) decree of 1987, changing the date to January 1992 and then to 1993.

Decree No. 48 of 1991
Gave powers to Electoral Commission to approve candidates.  Had the effect of disqualifying governors and several state and National Assembly hopefuls (See Osaghae 1998, 216).

Another unknown decree amends Decree No. 17 and streamlines the AFRC
Possibly it is #25, 26, or 27 of 1986

Decree No. 61 of 1992
Sets up the Interim National Government

Decree No. 53 (??) Transitional Council of January 2, 1993
Armed Forces Ruling Council was dissolved and the National Defense and Security Council was created.  What was the structure of this organization?  How did it relate to the Transitional Council headed by Shonekan?

Decree No. 3 of 1994
Constitutional Conference announced April 30.

Decree No. 5 of 1994
Decree No. 8 of 1994 Banning of certain newspapers.
Decree No. 9 of 1994 Dissolved the Executive Council of Nigeria Labour Congress
Decree No. 10 of 1994 Dissolved the gas workers’ union.
This series of decrees, numbers 5 through 10, gave Sani Abacha nearly total power.  Number 12, Federal Military Government (Supremacy and Enforcement Powers), especially important for its negative effects on the judiciary.

Decree No. 11 of 1994

Decree No. 12 of 1994

Decree No. 13 of 1994

Decree No. 18 (November) 1994 on Failed Banks
Legalizes detention of executives of some banks.

Decree No. 4 of 1996
Restrictions on labour.

Decree No. 16 of 1996

Decree No. 17 of 1996

Decree No. 18 of 1996

Decree No. 24 of 1996

Decree No. 26 of 1996
Restrictions on labour.

Decree No. 29 of 1996

Decree No. 12 of 1998
Repeal of Decrees 9 and 10 of 1994 which weakened labour dramatically.