LESSON NOTE ON GOVERNMENT SSS 2
CONFERENCES PRIOR TO INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION
Two major constitutional conferences evolved into the independence constitution of 1960. There were also a number of commission of enquiries that investigated and made recommendations on certain issues.
THE LONDON CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE – 1957
This conference was mainly to review the Lyttleton constitution of 1954. A number of development were agreed on which were instrumental in drafting the next constitution. Some of them are as follows:
- Leaders of the regional majority parties should be appointed as the Premiers of the regions.
- Eastern region to also have bicameral legislature.
- The central legislature to have 320 members. Election was to be by universal suffrage in the East, West and Southern Cameroon regions but by adult male suffrage in the North.
- The office of the Prime Minister was created as the Head of government.
- The police force should continue to be under the federal government.
- The governor to appoint ministers on the advice of the federal government.
The year 1957 also witnessed the Willinks Commission of inquiry on the issues with the minorities in the country. The commission made a number of useful recommendations.
THE CONFERENCE OF 1958
The conference commenced on the 29th of September and ended on 27th of October 1958. The major aim was to decide on the recommendations of the commissions of inquiry. All delegates agreed to entrench the Fundamental Human Rights in the constitution. They also agreed that 1st October 1960 should be Nigeria’s Independence Day. Consequently, there had to be elections into the House of Representatives in 1959.
RESULTS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTION OF 1959
- Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) – 142 seats.
- National Congress of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) in alliance with Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU) – 89 seats
- Action Congress (AG) – 73 seats
The number of seats won by NPC was not enough to meet the absolute majority requirement for producing the head of government. Consequently, NPC and NCNC formed a coalition government. Therefore Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa emerged as the Prime Minister, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe as the Governor-General. On the other hand, Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the leader of the opposition party in the parliament.
THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION – 1960
The main features of the independence constitution enacted in 1960 are as follows.
- It provided for a democratic parliamentary system.
- The federal system was retained.
- Bicameral legislature at the centre – the Senate and the House of Reps.
- The regions were all bicameral – Houses of Assembly and Houses of Chiefs.
- The Head of government and administration was the Prime Minister.
- Each of the regions to be headed by a Premier and a ceremonial governor.
- The constitution included a procedure for amendment. It was a rigid constitution.
- The fundamental Human Rights (FHR) was entrenched.
- Citizenship status was defined.
- The final appellate court was the Privy Council in London.
- Judges were appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.
To a large extent, the 1960 constitution ushered in independence for the country. As a result, Nigeria became the 99th member of the United Nations Organization (UNO) and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations at independence on October 1st 1960. Nevertheless, the constitution was not without some inadequacies.
WEAKNESSES OF THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION
- The independence of 1960 was partial since the Queen of England was still the Head of State.
- The Supreme Court of Nigeria which was supposed to be the final appellate court was not functional.
- The regime experience interference from the British.
Constitutional Development in Nigeria
Clifford Constitution – 1922
Richard Constitution – 1946
Macpherson Constitution – 1951
Lyttleton Constitution – 1954
Post Independence Constitutions – 1963, 1979, 1989, 1999