THE MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION OF 1951

THE MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION OF 1951

Sir John Macpherson, became the new Governor of Nigeria after Richards and he made adequate arrangement not to repeat the mistake that led to the opposition and criticism that greeted Richards Constitution. So, in March, 1949, a select committee of the legislative council was set up to examine problems that may likely face the introduction of a new constitution.

The committee agreed that a wide measure of consultation with the people right from the village level, should be followed. Also, this was to be followed by a general conference, membership of which would involve all unofficial members of the legislative council and representatives of each regional council. Macpherson Constitution was assumed to be home made.

 

THE IBADAN ALL-NIGERIAN CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE OF 1950

As part of Macpherson’s effort to come up with a durable and an acceptable constitution, an all-Nigerian constitutional conference was held in 1950 in Ibadan. The conference met in January 1950 and was chaired by sir Gerald Howe, the Attorney-General.

 

Recommendations of the Conference

  1. A federal system: This was to be composed of the three existing regions.
  2. Granting of autonomy: Lagos should be made an independent municipality.
  3. Political regions: They should be referred to as political regions and with powers to pass legislation, and such should not be subject to approval of the central law making body. However, in some cases, such legislation might be laid before the House of Representatives for debate.
  4. Conflict or Disagreement: In case of conflict or disagreement between laws made by the regional houses and the central legislature, it was suggested by a majority of the House of Representatives that any regional legislation in dispute should not hold or take effect.
  5. Allocation of seats in parliament: Apart from the recommendations made by the conference, the northern delegation demanded that half of the seats in parliament be allocated to their region. This was objected by delegates from the West and East which they claimed would amount to their absolute control of the centre.
  6. Revenue allocation: Similarly, northern delegates recommended that revenue from taxation should be allocated to the regions based on per capita.
  7. Committee: This was constituted to look into the problems of regional representation at the centre. It recommended that House of Representatives should have 148 elected members and that half should be from the north. Six others to represent other interests not proportionally represented in the parliament. The Legislative Council accepted and approved the recommendations.

 

MAIN FEATURES OF MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION

  1. The central legislature: A House of Representative was created and also known as the central legislature. Membership was 148 and 136 of them were to be elected by the Nigerian members of the Regional legislature. 68 representatives from the North, 34 representatives each from the Eastern and Western Houses of Assembly. 6 members were to be appointed by the governor to represent those not properly represented and the other 6 would be ex-officio members the three lieutenant. governors, the chief secretary, the Financial secretary, and the Attorney-general. Laws made must be assented to by the governor before they could become laws.However, this House had limited powers. It had no power over bills relating to public service and public revenue and this was because the governor possessed wide reserved powers.
  2. Council of ministers: The governor was the president of this council, others were 6 official members charged with issues relating to civil service, defence, legal matters, etc, and 12 minister, 4 representing each region and to come from House of Representatives. Each minister was not executive head of any department, but responsibility was given to each over initiating discussion of policy in the council.
  3. The Regional legislature: The Northern and Western Regions each had a bi-cameral legislature — Houses of Assembly and Chiefs. The Eastern Region had only a House of Assembly. Each regional legislature had the power to make laws on some specific matters, e.g. local matters, cooperative societies, social welfare, local government, native courts and health.
  4. Regional Executive Council: Each region was provided with an executive council, with the lieutenant-governor as the president. The council advised the governor, but he could reject or accept such advice.
  5. The three provinces: The three provinces were renamed, Western, Eastern and Northern Regions.
  6. The Colony of Lagos: The colony of Lagos was part of Western Region.
  7. The chief commissioner: The three chief commissioners for each province were renamed Lieutenant-governors.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS OF MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION

  1. Central legislature: This Constitution introduced a new central law-making body called the House of Representatives.
  2. Wider representation: Each region was represented in the House of Representatives. For example, North-68 seats, East and West each had 34 seats.
  3. Autonomy of the regions: The regions were given more powers and made autonomous.
  4. Bicameral legislature: Both North and West now had bicameral legislature e.g. Houses of Assembly and Chiefs.
  5. The motion for self-government: The motion was moved in the House of Representatives and discussed at the 1953’s London Constitutional Conference. It laid the foundation for the process of decolonization of Nigeria.
  6. Power sharing: Powers were shared between the regions and the central government. The constitution defined their powers, making the regions subordinate to the central government.
  7. Home-made constitution: For the first time, Nigerians took part in the making of the constitution, through constitutional 29 conferences.
  8. Formation of political parties: It stimulated the formation and development of political parties.

 

THE WEAKNESSES OF MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION

  1. The existence of Regional/Ethnic politics: This factor had succeeded in weakening the central legislature e.g. the representatives at the centre were more loyal to their regions.
  2. No responsible government at the centre: The constitution made no provision for a responsible government at the centre, e.g. the ministers were not given portfolios, but could initiate discussions of policy in the council.
  3. Crisis in the Eastern House of Assembly: The exclusion of Nnamdi Azikiwe from the central legislature led to the crisis in the Eastern House of Assembly.
  4. The motion for self-government: Chief Anthony Enahoro in 1953, moved the motion in the House of Representatives requesting for self-government for Nigeria in 1956. The motion was rejected by Northern politicians and it caused bad blood between Northern and Southern politicians.
  5. Kano riot of 1953: This riot demonstrated the weakness and failures of Macpherson Constitution.
  6. Veto power: The 1951 constitution still provided for an all powerful governor with veto power to legislate on any matter in the country.
  7. Regional based political parties: The three major parties-the NCNC, NPC, and A.G .- were all regional parties. Infact, none of them commanded a nation wide support.
  8. Crisis within the NCNC: In 1953, crisis erupted within the NCNC as a party and the outcome of this was the expulsion of some party members. The expelled members formed a new party called United Independent Party (UIP).
  9. No provision for the office of a prime minister: No provision was made for the office of a Prime minister as head of government in the country and premiers for the regions, whereas the offices of council of ministers and regional executive council were created at the central and regional levels of government respectively.
  10. Dual membership in the legislature: The lieutenant-governors of the regions were members of both the regional legislature and the House of Representatives.
  11. Ethnic nationalism and regional divisions: This constitution encouraged ethnic nationalism and the emergence of political parties along tribal lines e.g. NPC and A.G.

 

THE LONDON CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE OF 1953

The colonial secretary, Mr. Oliver Lyttleton informed the British House of Commons on May 20,1953 about the situation in Nigeria. He maintained that events had shown that the three regions could not work together in a federation as was then structured. He suggested that the British government should invite representatives of the regions to London to discuss a redrafting of the Nigerian Constitution and that issues within the jurisdiction of the regions should not be subject to the central government’s intervention. So, anew constitutional conference, as recommended by the colonial secretary was then constituted in July, 1953 to fashion out a new constitution for Nigeria. Each region had to produce six representatives and one representative for the cameroun. The conference met between July and August 1953.

The following were some of the agreements reached:

  1. Designation: The Governor of Nigeria would be designated, Governor-General, while regional Lieutenant-Governors would be designated, Governors.
  2. Federal system of government: The establishment of a federal system of government in which residual powers would be vested in the regions.
  3. Legislative powers: Legislative powers should be shared between the central assembly and regional legislatures.
  4. Federal Capital Territory: Lagos should be removed from the Western region and be made a federal capital.
  5. The Cameroun for separate regional administration: Subject to ratification by a conference held in Lagos in 1954, a separate regional administration would be established in the cameroun if the inhabitants of the territory would support the proposal through referendum.
  6. Self-government for the regions: The British government would in 1956 grant internal self-government to those regions which wanted it.
  7. Electoral colleges: The regional legislatures would no longer act as electoral colleges for the central legislature.

 

LAGOS CONFERENCE OF 1954

On January 19,1954, the constitutional conference re-converged in Lagos to discuss some issues that were not attended to at the previous constitutional conference. It was also, to look at the report of Sir Louis Chicks’s Fiscal Commission of December 1953 with the following submissions made.

  1. Allocation of financial resources: Financial resources were to be allocated to the federal and regional governments based on the principle of derivation.
  2. Autonomy to the Southern Cameroun: The Commission recommended that autonomy should be granted the Southern Cameroon.
  3. Quasi-federal territory: Northern Cameroun to remain with Northern region but the Southern Cameroon to remain part of the federation but should be separated from Eastern region to be a quasi-federal territory with a legislature of its own.
  4. Regionalisation of the public service: In agreement with the principle of federalism, public service and the judiciary were to be regionalized.