The People’s Republic: How they rule

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

IN practice, however, the appointment was usually made in two stages. In the first stage, a whole town, district, village, or quarter, was asked to recommend the name of one person for appointment to the Native Authority. The subordinate chiefs and elders of the area concerned would then assemble at a meeting to agree on a name for submission to the Resident. The second stage was that when the latter had received the name, he would then decide, in his discretion, whether to accept or reject it. In the one case, he would appoint the person named as a member of the Native Authority; in the other, the chiefs and elders concerned would have to meet again and consider another candidate.

In the North, however, it was the Natural Ruler who, in practice and in his sole discretion, nominated, for appointment by the Resident, those persons other than subordinate traditional chiefs who would sit as advisers in the Native Authority. Invariably, the persons nominated were employees of the Native Authority.

In the Eastern Provinces, the office of Warrant Chief having been abolished in 1933, the first stage in the appointment of a member of Native Authority, was conducted by an assemblage of Clan Heads and taxpayers in a village, quarter, or ward. The second stage consisted, as in the West and North, in the Resident giving his confirmation to the choice of the village, quarter, or ward meeting.

Thus, in effect, a Native Authority in 1946 consisted (in the North and West) of the Natural Ruler, his subordinate traditional chiefs, and a small minority of selected members; and (in the East) of persons wholly selected.

It must be pointed out that, in practice, the Resident almost invariably appointed the nominees (in the case of the West) of the subordinate chiefs and elders, and (in the case of the North) of the Traditional Ruler. But this was because the Natural Ruler, both in the West and in the North, always saw to it that only a person who was likely to be acceptable to the Resident was nominated in the first instance. The Paramount Chiefs and the British officials always kept up-to-date lists of Nigerian ‘agitators’ and ‘self-styled leaders’; and the Paramount Chiefs, as the Residents’ loyal agents, were always vigilant to ensure that only ‘good’ Nigerians were recommended to the Residents. There were, however, a few urban areas in the Western Provinces where the taxpayers, under the leadership of some ‘agitators;’ forced their way into the nomination meetings, voted for some candidates from among themselves, and, by sheer weight of public opinion, compelled the Residents to appoint those candidates. In the case of the East, the Resident had to accept the choice of the village, quarter, or ward meeting.

The system of judicature, which was introduced by Lugard, continued with institutional modifications to the close of Macpherson’s regime, which is the theme of the next section.

In 1914, there were three types of court operating side by side. They were the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Provincial Courts, and the Native Courts. In the first two, the common law, doctrines of equity, and the statutes of general application, which were in force in England on 1 January, 1900; together with local enactments, were in force; whilst, in all the three, native law and custom were observed and enforced among natives, so long as such law and custom were not incompatible with the natural principles of justice and equity, or contrary to local enactments.

The Supreme Court consisted of a Chief Justice and Puisne Judges. It had unlimited jurisdiction in all matters, and served as a Court of Appeal to the Provincial Courts in civil causes. But its territorial jurisdiction was limited to the Colony and certain important trading centres in the Protectorate. Appeals from the Supreme Court lay to the Full Court, which also consisted of the Chief Justice and the other Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court. Three of them usually sat at a time, but no Judge, whose judgment was the subject-matter of an appeal, was allowed to sit with the panel hearing the appeal.

Police and Station Magistrates, as well as a District Officer in charge of a district within which lay any area included in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, were ex officio Commissioners of the Supreme Court, with powers in civil cases where the amount in dispute did not exceed £50, and in criminal cases where the punishment did not exceed a fine of £50, or six months’ imprisonment. An appeal from the decision of a Commissioner lay to the Supreme Court. Besides, all cases tried by the Commissioners were subject to review by the Chief Justice, who had power to reverse any judgment.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

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