The 1979 constitution, promulgated by the outgoing military government, established a federal system resembling that of the United States, with a directly elected president and vice president (whose names appear on the same ballot) and separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The military government that took command after the December 1983 coup suspended the 1979 constitution. The president held executive and legislative authority, in consultation with the 28-member Armed Forces Ruling Council, and appointed the cabinet.
After the Abacha seizure of power on 17 November 1993, the 1979 constitution remained suspended. A military-dominated Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) ruled by decree. A 32-member Federal Executive Council managed government departments, and the PRC dissolved the elected national and state legislatures and the local councils, replacing elected civilian governors with military administrators. The PRC also announced that it would hold a constitutional conference to plan for the future and to establish a timetable for a return to democracy. On 21 November 1993, Abacha signed a decree restoring the 1979 constitution (Second Republic). Nonetheless, legal experts disagreed which documents should form the basis for Nigerian government and law.
The new constitution, which became law in May 1999, restored constitutional rule under the Fourth Republic. Nigeria became a federal republic comprising 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory at Abuja. The national legislature is bicameral with 109 Senate seats and 360 House seats. Members of both houses are elected by universal suffrage (age 18) to a 4-year term. The president is elected to no more than two 4-year terms. The president chairs a Federal Executive Council, which he appointed on 30 June 1999. The last presidential and National Assembly elections were held in February 1999. Legislative and presidential elections are due in April 2003.