LYTTLETON CONSTITUTION OF 1954
Macpherson Constitution was revised through constitutional conferences, e.g. 1953 London and 1954 Lagos Constitutional conferences. The product of this revision exercise was the Lyttleton Constitution.
FEATURES OF LYTTLETON CONSTITUTION
- A federal system: This constitution introduced a federal system of government.
- The lieutenant – governors in the regions became known as governors.
- The governor of the country became known as governor-general.
- Residual powers: Regional Houses of Assembly were given residual powers to pass bills into laws without the approval from the central government.
- Concurrent legislative list: Items listed on the concurrent list both the central and regional legislatures were to legislate on them. If there was a conflict in the performance of such functions, the central legislature would prevail.
- The post of a premier: The constitution provided for the post of a premier as the leader of government in the regions. The leader of the political party with a majority in the regional assembly became Premier-Nnamdi Azikiwe, Premier for the East, Ahmadu Bello, Premier for the North and Obafemi Awolowo, Premier for the West. The regional governors appointed ministers based on the advise of the premiers.
- No provision for the post of a prime minister: No provision was made for the post of a prime minister, as head of government in Nigeria.
- The governors and governor-general were no longer members of the regional and central legislatures respectively.
- The governor – general and the regional governors still retained the power to accept or reject bills.
- Departmental control: Ministers at both the regional and central levels of governments can now control the departments within their ministries.
- Regionalisation of the civil service and the judiciary: The regions now had its civil service and the judiciary.
- Quasi-federal territory: Southern Cameroun to remain part of Nigerian federation as a quasi-federal territory, with a legislature of its own.
- Federal capital territory: Lagos was removed from the Western Region and made a federal capital territory.
- Supreme Court: This constitution also established a federal Supreme Court for the country.
Other Important Characteristics of Lyttleton Constitution
1) Central legislature (House of Representatives): Membership: 1 speaker (as president) 3 ex-officio members (European minister) and 184 elected members.
- Northern Region ——- 92 seats.
- Eastern Region- -42 seats.
- Western Region — -42 seats.
- Southern Cameroun —– 6 seats.
- Lagos – ——2 seats.
Members were to be elected through direct election.
2) Council of minister: It was smaller than that of Macpherson. Membership: The governor-general, as the president, three ex-officio members (Chief secretary, financial secretary and attorney-general), and 10 ministers (3 each from a region) and 1 from southern Cameroun.
3) Regional legislature: Houses of Assembly in the regions were given residual powers to pass bills into laws without the approval of the central government. The West and North had Bicameral Legislature (Houses of Assembly and Chiefs) and East only House of Assembly.
4) Regional executive council: The governor presides over this council. He has the power to appoint a regional premier from the party that won the majority seats in the Assembly.
5) The leader of the political party: The leader of the party with a majority in the Regional Assembly became premiers Nnamdi Azikiwe for the East, Ahmadu Bello for the North and Obafemi Awolowo for the West.
6) Appointment of Ministers: The regional governors were to appoint ministers based on the advise of the premiers.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF LYTTLETON CONSTITUTION
- Regionalization of the civil service and the judiciary: The regions now had its own civil service and the judiciary.
- A federal system of government: This constitution gave Nigeria a federal system of government.
- Supreme Court: Supreme Court was established for the country.
- A federal capital territory: Lagos was removed from the Western region and made a Federal Capital Territory.
- Specific functions to perform: The two tiers of government- central and regional were given specific functions to perform.
- Departmental control: Nigerians became ministers at different levels of government with full ministerial responsibilities.
- The offices of a speaker and deputy speaker: These two offices were created in the country’s legislative houses.
- Regional head of government: The post of a premier as head of government for a region was created.
- Elections: Elections into the Eastern, Western and Central legislatures became direct and with the introduction of indirect election by adult male suffrage in the North.
- Southern Cameroun: Southern Cameroun was separated from the Eastern region.
- Office of the governor: The constitution raised the status of the governor to governor – general and lieutenant – governors to governors.
- Membership of the legislative- council: This constitution removed the governor-general and the lieutenant-governors from membership of the legislative council
- Office of the Premier: It created the office of regional premier for the first time.
- Democratic principles: The constitution extended democratic principles through expanded franchise and membership of the House.
- It reduced the official representatives in the Legislative House: This is due to few slots.
WEAKNESSES OF TH E LYTTLETON CONSTITUTION
- Loyalty of ministers to their regional leaders: This happened because their regional leaders were not part of the central decision making body — the federal Council of Ministers.
- No provision for the office of a prime minister: This constitution did not make provision for the office of a prime minister as head of government for Nigeria, even when there was the council of ministers.
- Retention of official members: This constitution still retained official members in the federal and regional executives.
- No uniform electoral system: The North had a different electoral system -adult male suffrage while the East, West and the Central legislature was direct election based on universal adult suffrage.
- Second chamber: There was no Senate as the second chamber at the central legislature.
- Veto and Reserve powers: Lyttleton Constitution still gave veto and reserve powers to the Head of state (Governor-general) and even to reject bills, accept or reject advice.
- Establishment of a Supreme Court: Even though the Supreme Court was established, it had no power to entertain appellate cases in Nigeria. Also, it was not made the highest court in the country.
- Regionalization of the public service: It strengthened the regions at the expense of the federal public service.
- Appointment: The mode of selecting the ministers was undemocratic as they were appointed instead of elected.
- Regional structure: It retained the three regional structures despite calls for the creation of more regions.
- No plan for independence: The constitution made no plans for eventual independence status like granting self-government.
- No second chamber: It failed to provide for the second chamber at the federal level and Eastern region.
THE LONDON CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCE OF 1957
The resolution arrived at during the 1953 Constitutional Conference was that within three years, starting from August 31, 1953, the new constitution (Lyttleton Constitution) would be revised. The conference was to convene in 1956 but had to wait till 1957 because of the crisis in the Eastern Region. The crisis was between the NCNC chief Whip in the House, E.O.Eyo, and the premier, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Eyo accused Azikiwe of corruption by diverting public money into the African Continental Bank (ACB) where the family had enormous interest. However, the colonial secretary had to set up a commission to investigate the allegation. The London constitutional conference was later held between May 23 and 26 June 1957, reaching the following agreement.:
- Appointment of premier: The governor of the region should appoint as premier the person that commanded a majority in the House of Assembly.
- Appointment of ministers: The governor would also appoint ministers on the advice of the premier.
- The governor: He would no longer preside over the executive council business of the state.
- Appointment of regional governor: The Queen would appoint a Regional Governor, on the advice of the United kingdom ministers with due consultation from the regional government concerned.
- The Eastern Region: It was to have its own House of Chiefs.
- Northern Region of Nigeria: This region was to become self-governing by 1959.
- The central legislature (House of Representatives) membership: This House will have 320 members and was to be elected by universal adult suffrage in the East, West and the Southern Cameroun and by adult male suffrage in the North.
- The office of the Prime Minister: This office was created as head of government of the federation.
- Status of a region: The Southern Cameroun was to have the status of a region with its own premier. The Governor-general of Nigeria would however, continue to have ultimate responsibility for it as a trust territory.
- The police: The police force would continue to be a federal institution.
- The issue of minority: There was to be a Commission of Inquiry to look into the fears of the minorities in the country.
- Self government: The Eastern and Western regions were to be self-governing in August 1957.
WILLINK’S COMMISSION OF INQUIRY (1957)
Reasons for the setting up
The commission had to look into the grievances of minority groups and their agitations for separate states and make recommendations. However, the commission claimed that there were two genuine fears among the minorities.
- The use of physical force by political parties which was becoming a feature of Nigeria politics was seen by the commission as a threat to democracy.
- Regional governments did not secure in its majority the commitment to meet the wishes of the minorities.
- Creation of more states: The commission recommended that the problems of the minorities could not be solved by creation of more states.
- The police: A strong united police force under federal authorities was recommended.
- Fundamental human rights: The need to entrench the fundamental human rights in the constitution to safeguard the interests of the minority.
- Muslim laws: Non-muslims in the North not willing to be tried under muslim laws should have the option of being tried in a non-muslim court of justice.
- Existing boundary: This commission recommended that no change should be made in the existing boundary between Northern and Western Regions, any change should come through plebiscite.
- Annual reports: Annual reports for both the special and minority areas were to be submitted to the House of Representatives and the appropriate Regional Houses.
- Special councils: Minority areas with special council for both Calabar and MidWest to monitor regional governments.
- Development boards: Establishment of special development boards for Niger Delta areas.
- Special areas with special problems: Financial and other responsibilities to be shared equally by both the regional and federal governments. Niger Delta should be declared a special area.
THE 1958 CONFERENCE
The conference met from september 29 to october 27, 1958. This conference was to examine the recommendations of the following commissions: Minorities Commission, Delimitation and the Fiscal Commissions. The issue of the minorities was the one that generated tension among the members of the conference. Action Group (A.G.), as a party did not accept the findings of the Minorities Commission but the NPC and NCNC favoured it. However, all the delegates agreed to the fundamental human rights of the citizens as recommended and listed by the commission and to be entrenched in the constitution. Similarly, all the parties to the conference agreed that, October 1, 1960 should be Independence Day for Nigeria. So, before this date, general elections were to hold in 1959 into the House of Representatives. The following were the results of the election.
Results of the Election
- Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) won 142 seats.
- National Congress of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) and Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) alliance won 89 seats.
- Action Group (AG) won 73 seats. Since the law had stipulated that an overwhelming majority or absolute majority would be the deciding factor for the winner of the election, the result showed that no party won the election. NPC and NCNC, then agreed to form a coalition government, with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the prime minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as the Governor-General. Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the leader of the opposition in the parliament.