The People’s Republic: How they rule

IMMEDIATELY after World War II, and understandably so, more Nigerians were moved to these lower rungs. But the top echelons of the administrative structure remained in the exclusive control of British nationals.

After the advent of the Macpherson Constitution, however, a revolution began in the appointment of Nigerians to the Bench and to the top posts in the public service, including the armed forces, police, and prisons.

From the time of Lugard to the second World War, trade, commerce, and other economic enterprises, together with education and health services, were left alone in the care of private entrepreneurs and missionary agencies. Towards the close of the second World War, and under the stimulus of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, a Ten-year development programme was launched.

But it is worthy of note that by 1916, the public debt of Nigeria already stood at £8,470,593. This money had been borrowed in 1905, 1908, 1911, and 1916 for the construction and equipment of the Western Railway, Lagos Harbour Works, Lagos Waterworks, and what were officially described as ‘remunerative public works’.


Under Macpherson:

The author, in every sense of the word, of the 1946 Constitution was Sir Arthur Richards (now Lord Milverton), then Governor of Nigeria. He handed the Constitution down to the people of Nigeria without any consultation whatsoever, and he got away with it; the scathing criticisms of the ‘agitators’ notwithstanding. For short, this Constitution is popularly known as the Richards’ Constitution.

The next Constitution, which abrogated and took the place of the Richards Constitution, was introduced in 1951 during the governorship of Sir John Macpherson. This was christened the Macpherson Constitution. It was, in every respect, radically different from the Richards Constitution.

Before the introduction of the Macpherson Constitution, there was consultation with the people at four levels. These were: (1) the Native Authority meeting-consisting of the members of the Native Authority; (2) the Provincial Conference-consisting of representatives of the Native Authorities in the Province, chosen on a population basis; (3) the Regional Conference-consisting of representatives chosen from the Provincial Conferences within the Region, on the basis of population; and (4) the General Conference-consisting of representatives chosen by the Regional Conferences and by the Lagos/Colony Conference, in accordance with the relative population of each Region and the Lagos/Colony area.

In order to assist the people in their deliberations, a number of questions were drawn up by the Government, to which specific answers were invited. In addition, a Drafting Committee was interposed between the Regional conferences and the General conference. The duty of this Committee was to prepare draft proposals for the General conference, based on the recommendations of the Regional conferences and the Lagos/Colony conference.

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The resulting Constitution adopted the existing administrative division of the country, with three important differences. Firstly, each group of Provinces was renamed Region with its own legislature. Secondly, the Colony of Lagos became part of the Western Region. Thirdly, the title of the Chief Commissioner was changed to Lieutenant-Governor.

The Northern and Western regions had each a bi-cameral legislature: a House of Chiefs and a House of Assembly. The two Houses had equal powers on all Bills or measures, save that A Bill shall not be introduced in the House of Chiefs if the Lieutenant-Governor, acting in his discretion, certifies in writing that it is a money Bill.’ The Eastern Region had only a House of Assembly.

Each of these three legislatures had power to make laws for the Region under its authority in respect of certain matters specifically mentioned in the Third Schedule to the Constitution, as well as in respect of other matters delegated to it by the Central Legislature.

All subjects not mentioned in the Third Schedule were vested in the country’s Central Legislature whose constitutional nomenclature was the House of Representatives. That is to say, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the House of Representatives had power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Nigeria.



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