LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT – SSS 2
CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
INTRODUCTION: The evolution of Nigeria’s constitution since inception in 1914 till date is to be studied under three themes. They are: pre-independence, independence and post-independence constitutions.
Most of the constitutions in the pre-independence era are addressed by the name of the colonial governor-general and the year in which the constitution was enforced. For instance, we have the Clifford constitution – 1922, the Richard constitution – 1946, the Macpherson constitution – 1951, and the Lyttleton constitution – 1954.
The whole pre-independence era was under the British colonial system known as the Crown Colony System.
THE CROWN COLONY SYSTEM
The Crown Colony System was a form of direct rule over the territories annexed by the British where the political institutions such as executive council, legislative council and governor were used in ruling their subjects.
STRUCTURE OF THE CROWN COLONY SYSTEM
- The Monarch: At the top of the structure was the king or queen. He or she was the head of British colonies and Head of State of the United Kingdom.
- Secretary of State for the Colony: below the monarch was the Secretary of State for the Colony. He was the head of the colonial office in London. As a Cabinet minister, he was based in London. The governors of the various colonies were under his supervision.
- The Governor: He was responsible for the day to day administration of the colony. He was appointed by the British government based on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for the Colony who he also report to. The governor is the head of the colonial administration.
- The Executive Council: The Executive Council was made up of official departmental heads such as governor, colonial secretary, attorney-general, financial secretary, lieutenant governors and so on. They were responsible to the crown colony. They advised the governor on policy formulation and general administration of the colony.
- The Legislative Council: This is made up of senior British officials heading various departments and other special interests such as mines, banking, commerce & industries. There were official members heading the various units and unofficial members who did not head any in the Council.
- Regional Commissioner: Each colony was sub-divided into regions with each region headed by a regional commissioner.
- Provincial Commissioner: The regions were further sub-divided into provinces each headed by a provincial commissioner.
- District Commissioner: The provinces were again sub-divided into districts, and headed by DCs. They implement official policies at the local levels with the help of the local chiefs.
- Chiefs At the lowest level were the African chiefs who were constituted into Native Authority. They dealt with local issues such as administration of justice and dispute settlement.
LUGARD’S CONSTITUTION AND THE NIGERIA COUNCIL OF LORD LUGARD – 1914
The Lugard’s constitution which was an unwritten constitution had the following as its objectives:
I. Amalgamation of the colony of Lagos and the Southern protectorate with the Northern protectorate.
II. Establishment of the Nigerian Council.
III. Making laws for the country by proclamation.
THE NIGERIAN COUNCIL
The council was formed in 1924, furtherance to the amalgamation. The members of the council were thirty-six (36) including 24 official and 12 unofficial members. The unofficial members were 6 Europeans representing commerce, shipping, banking, mining, and chamber of commerce. The rest were six Africans including the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Alaafin of Oyo, Chief Dogho Numa and others from lagos and Calabar.
The Nigerian Council was purely advisory. Neither the traditional rulers nor the few educated Nigerian in the council had the capacity to play any vital role other than being instruments for keeping the people in subjection.
INFLUENCE OF THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF BRITISH WEST AFRICA (NCBWA)
NCBWA was formed in Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1920 by Joseph Casely Hayford and Dr Akinwande Savage. The Congress sent a delegation to London to press home their demand for granting elective principle. This implies that they want Nigerians to be able elect representatives to the council rather than having the whole membership selected solely by the governor. However, their demand was thrown out by the then Secretary of State, Lord Milner. Members of NCBWA were accused of self-centeredness, and that it was too early for West Africans to have a representative institution.
Moreover, their petition was well registered and it was instrumental in the design of the next constitution (Clifford constitution) under the purview of a new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill. Nigeria then became the first British colony to adopt the elective principle.
- (a) Describe the Crown Colony System and its structure.
- (b) List the pre-independence constitution and there features.
- (d) What are the features of the Nigerian Council of Lugard?
Clifford Constitution – 1922
Richards Constitution – 1946
Macpherson Constitution – 1951
Lyttleton Constitution – 1954
Independence Constitution – 1960
Post Independence Constitutions – 1963, 1979, 1989, 1999