The MaCpherson Constitution 1951
Between 1949 and 1950, Nigerians were consulted through questionnaires at villages and districts. Before this, a select committee of the Legislative Council had been set up to review the Richard’s Constitution of 1946. The effect of this was a General Conference at Ibadan where a draft constitution was adopted forming the Nigeria (Constitution) Order – In – Council of 1951 which came later to be referred to as the MaCpherson’s Constitution.
This constitution formalized the division of Nigeria into three regions and it seemed to re-emphasize the principle of grater autonomy and the retention of the unity of the country. With this, the movement towards a federal structure was a quicker and surer way of solving religious, economic, educational and political differences existing in Nigeria. The highpoint of this Constitution is that a House of Representatives with 148 members replaced the Legislative Council. The Governor exercised legislative powers with the advice and consent of the House of Representative. As for the regional legislatures, they had power to legislate on a specific number of items. The membership of the House or Representatives consisted of the members of the Regional House of Assembly from among their own members.
The most significant effect of this Constitution is that it set the pace for regionalization, federalism and democracy.
The Lyttleton Constitution, 1954
The crisis in the Eastern Region in 1951 and the crisis at the centre actuated the Constitutional Conference in London and Lagos in 1953 and 1954 respectively. At these Conferences, it was generally agreed that a truly federal constitution should be enacted. As a result of the recommendations from these conferences, another constitution came into force in 1954. It is usually refereed to as the Lyttleton Constitution [named after Sir Oliver Lyttleton the Governor of Nigeria at that time]. The major and one of the outstanding achievements of the Lyttleton Constitution was the operation of a federation of three regions with the federal territory of Lagos as the capital. The Eastern Region and the Western Region were to achieve self-government in 1957 while the North achieved same in 1959. This time, there was more participation by Nigerians.
Other important achievements of these constitutions were the establishment of the Federal High Courts, a High Court for each of the regions, and the Southern Cameroon’s. Between 1958 and 1959, there was a major Constitutional Conference in London during which the independence constitution was proposed. By this time, the Eastern and Western Regions had attained self-government and Nigeria had her first Prime Minister in the person of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
i. What are the essential achievements of the 1951 Constitution? ii. Discuss the landmarks achievements of the 1954 Constitution.