THE RICHARD’S CONSTITUTION OF 1946
The Governor of Nigeria at the outbreak of the Second World War (1939-45) was Sir Bourdillon. He was in office between 1939 and 1944. In 1939, the Northern and southern protectorates were made provinces. Northern Nigeria remained a province and Southern Nigeria was broken into two- eastern and Western provinces. At the time of Bourdillon’s retirement in 1944, he had almost concluded the new constitution, where he proposed, regionalism. So, Sir Richards Constitution of 1946 replaced Clifford Constitution of 1922.
The new constitution was published and tailored specifically to promote the unity of Nigeria and enhance greater participation of Nigerians in their own affairs.
Features of the 1946 Richard’s Constitution of Nigeria
1) The Executive Council: The central executive council of Richard’s was dominated by Europeans as in the Clifford Constitution of 1922. Richards was the president of the council.
2) The Nigerian Legislative Council (Central legislative Council): The membership was 44. Sixteen were official and 28 unofficial members. The governor, (Richard’s), Chief Secretary to the government, the three Chief Commissioners of the provinces were official members. Four were to be elected – three for Lagos and one for Calabar in a franchise of 100 and 20 respectively. Under the new constitution, these four would be selected by the regional Councils and to be set up in each region. Another 4 nominated were to represent banking, shipping and commerce were official members. Others were nominated to represent the East, West and North as unofficial members.
3) Creation of Houses of Assembly or Regional Houses of Assembly: The Assembly members were to be elected by the native authorities while the Regional Assembly members were to elect members of the central legislative council (through electoral colleges).
4) Bi-cameral legislature: The constitution granted the North a bicameral legislature Regional Assembly and the Regional House of Chiefs. All first class chiefs were members by right.
5) Legislative powers: The regional assemblies were given limited powers to legislate on minor matters subject to the governor’s reserved powers.
Composition of the Houses
- Northern Regional Assembly – 19 Officials and 20 unofficials.
- Eastern Regional Assembly – 13 Officials and 14 unofficials.
- Western Regional Assembly – 14 Officials and 15 unofficials.
Note: Eastern and Western regions had unicameral legislature.
6) Elective Principle: The constitution still retained the elective principle with limited franchise. Three representatives were elected for Lagos and 1 for Calabar.
7) Regionalism: Regions were created out of the former three provinces – Eastern, Western and Northern regions.
8) Unofficial majority: This constitution produced an African unofficial majority into the central legislative council.
9) Legislature: It brought the North and South together under one legislature.
10) Services: Some services were reserved for the central government and financed by it, e.g. post and telegraphs, railways and army.
11) Revenues: The revenues of the country were made available to each region in the form of bulk grants.
12) Dual membership: Members of the central legislative council were at the same time members of the regional councils. The central legislature did not possess a national outlook but a regional outlook.
13) Minority: Nigerians were in the minority in the Nigerian or Central Executive Council.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF RICHARDS CONSTITUTION
- To introduce regionalism: This was by creating three regions out of the three provinces.
- A broad based constitution: This was different from Clifford’s and it was meant to embrace all parts of the country.
- Creation of opportunities: The introduction of regionalism was a process of creating opportunities for Nigerians to be involved in the affairs affecting their country.
- The legislative council: The council was introduced in order to accommodate every section of the Nigerian society.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF RICHARDS CONSTITUTION OF NIGERIA
- Introduction of regionalism: This was a foremost achievement of this constitution. The former 3 provinces gave way to 3 regions – North, West and East.
- Legislation: The north and south were brought together for legislation.
- Federalism: The full blown federal structure of 1954 was laid down by this constitution.
- Unofficial majority: Richard’s Constitution gave the unofficial members a majority in the legislative council.
- More representation: Many Nigerians were now represented in the Legislative Council even though in an unofficial capacity.
- Bi-cameral legislature: The North had Houses of Assembly and Chiefs, thereby introducing bicameralism into the system, even though, East and West had only unicameral legislature.
- Unity: It brought together for the very first time since 1923, Northern and Southern Nigeria, making for the unity of the country.
- The central legislature: Regional assemblies later became the body (electoral college) for electing representatives into the central legislature.
- A Link: It provided a link between the native administration and the Central Legislative Council through the Regional Assemblies.
- It serves as a stimulant: Richard Constitution serves as a stimulant in its activities.
- Franchise qualification: It was reduced from one hundred pound to fifty pounds annual income and 24 months to twelve months residence.
- Membership: The constitution provided for one Nigeria in the Executive council.
WEAKNESSES OF RICHARDS CONSTITUTION
- The Executive council: It was still dominated by Europeans as in Clifford’s Constitution. Changes were not made.
- Elective principle: It was retained by Richard’s and Lagos and Calabar were only favoured. This principle of representation was not extended to other parts of the country.
- Division of the country into unequal parts: The country was divided into 3 unequal regions, making the North larger than the other two combined.
- Limited power to legislate: Limited powers were given the regional assemblies to legislate on minor matters and this should be subject to the governor’s reserved powers.
- Nomination of Chiefs: The chiefs were nominated and not elected into the Legislative Council. Therefore, they mainly represented the interests of those that nominated them.
- Veto powers: The governor still had the power to veto bills and can reject or accept advice from members of the executive council.
- Constitutional proposals: It was rushed through both in the legislative council and in the British parliament. Nigerians were not involved in discussing the proposals.
NATIONALISTS OPPOSITION TO THE 1946 CONSTITUTION OF NIGERIA
- That the people of Nigeria were not consulted before drawing and applying the constitution.
- That the elective principle was restricted only to Lagos and Calabar as it was with the Clifford Constitution of 1922.
- That the regional assemblies were advisory and consultative bodies only.
- That the governor should not have reserve powers to veto or certify bills.
- That the chiefs and their nominees into the legislative council were not representatives of the people.
- That there was no provision in the constitution for Nigerians to take active part in the management of the affairs of Nigeria.
- And that, the constitution was imposed on the people of Nigeria.