Meaning, Types, Qualities and Importance of Constitution

Olawunmi Omosanya - Tue, 16th April, 2019 @ 12:49: PM

Meaning of Constitution:

No one is above the constitution, even the president. The government can only act in accordance to the powers granted them by the constitution. All the citizens of a country are to live by the rules in the constitution which can be written or unwritten. It determines how powers should be distributed and exercised between the various organs of government and those over whom such powers will be exercised. It also contains the fundamental human rights of the citizens within a country. It is the supreme and fundamental law of a country or state.

To simply put it, we can say:

The constitution is the supreme law in a country, nation or state

The constitution specifies how the nation or state should be governed

The constitution gives power to the different organs of the government, for example, the executive, judiciary and legislature.

The constitution consists of all the fundamental human rights of the people. Read our article on fundamental human rights HERE

Juxtaposing the above points, we can therefore define a constitution as a supreme law that specifies the government of a nation, the distribution of powers to the different organs of government within that nation and the fundamental rights of all her citizens.


Types of Constitution

A constitution can be written or unwritten.

A written constitution will contain a document or series of document merged in the form of a book. It is always enacted by a constituent assembly and can be amended based on how the amendment process had been defined in the constitution itself. Written constitutions are codified, meaning that the constitutional document is the supreme law of the country and can only be amended or judged by a constitutional court. Countries like Nigeria, United States of America and France all utilizes a written constitution.

An unwritten constitution is uncodified, meaning that its foundation and evolution is based on historical laws and concepts on the countries in which they govern. It is not written into a book nor enacted by a constituent assembly. Generally, the people of the country know their constitution and have come to embrace it. The United Kingdom makes use of an unwritten constitution.

Note: Some parts of an unwritten constitution are actually written in a book but such books may not be considered to be a legal document.

A constitution can also be flexible or inflexible (Inflexible constitution is sometimes referred to as a Rigid constitution).

The flexibility of a constitution determines the level of ease at which such constitution can be amended. For example, the constitution of Nigeria and United States of America is inflexible or rigid because it very difficult to make changes on it. For its amendment to be made, the legislature will first need to pass the amendment bill usually with the approval of 2/3rd majority of its component members. The people of the nation may influence the passing of the amendment bill, thus a rigid constitution is often considered to reflect the will of the people.

Advantages of a Rigid Constitution

  1. It is stable for an administration’s continuity.
  2. It is perfect for a federation.
  3. It prevents dictatorship by any of the arms of government.
  4. The political party in power cannot easily manipulate the constitution for their political gains.

Disadvantages of a Rigid Constitution

  1. It cannot keep up with a constant changing environment.
  2. Its difficulty in amendment can cause a revolt by the people
  3. It may hinder developmental progress because of its difficulty in amendment.


A flexible constitution can be easily amended because it does not require complex procedures. The British constitution is a typical example of a flexible constitution. With a simple majority, the British parliament can make or amend the laws of the constitution.

Advantages of a Flexible Constitution

  1. It can easily be modified with regards to the present political and social environment of a nation.
  2. It is constantly developed and always up to date.
  3. It decreases the chances of revolt by the people.

Disadvantages of a Flexible Constitution:

  1. It is unstable.
  2. The frequent amendment of a constitution is not good for a federation.


The presidential, parliamentary, federal and unitary constitutions are also considered to be types of constitution.

In a presidential constitution, the president is the head of the execute arm of government and is also Head of State. The president is not a member of the judiciary, senate or house of representative.

In a parliamentary constitution, the prime minister is the head of the executive arm of government. A member of the legislative arm of government is accountable to it.

The federal constitution is seen in countries like Nigeria and USA. There is a central government and a state government. The president heads the central government while the governor heads the states within the country. This type of constitution provides for the legislative competence under the central and state government.

The unitary constitution is practiced by the United Kingdom. The nations involved are centrally governed. At present, it appears to be shifting into the federal type of constitution because power is now in the hands of the other constituents’ nations of the United Kingdom, which includes Wales, Northern Island and Scotland.

Other types of constitution are the evolved and enacted constitutions


Qualities of a Constitution

  1. It is neither too rigid nor too flexible.
  2. It accounts for the rule of law, de-centralization of power, an independent Judiciary system and processes of election transparency.
  3. It accounts for the fundament human rights of the people.
  4. It allocates power to the different arms of government.
  5. It must uphold the people’s sovereignty.
  6. It is written systematically.


Importance of Constitution

  1. It upholds the people’s sovereignty.
  2. It protects the citizen’s fundamental human rights.
  3. It governs the citizens of a nation and no one is above the constitution.
  4. It provides a means of separation of powers.
  5. It projects the goals of a nation.

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