Home Constitutional Law Power in Pre-Colonial Nigeria-The sovereignty or Supremacy in Colonial Times

Power in Pre-Colonial Nigeria-The sovereignty or Supremacy in Colonial Times

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In Pre-colonial times, what is today called Nigeria was an aggregation of self-sufficient, widely disintegrated and uncoordinated non-urban independent and hostile settlements. These settlements by absorbing one another in the process of growth and by conquest grew into great hierarchical kingdoms and empires like the Oyo Empire, Kanemi – Bornu, and Sokoto Caliphate. Subjects submitted to their family heads, family heads to clan-heads, clan heads to village heads and village heads to their monarchs in areas with a Chief or to the – Aro Chukwu Oracle and other governing bodies in areas without a Chief.
The Monarchs are supreme, and all powers legislative, executive and the judiciary resided in them. These were checks. For example, a Monarch may by reason of misrule be asked to open the calabash which is an invitation to commit suicide.

SELF-ASSESSMENT

Sovereignty was hierarchical in pre-colonial times. Discuss?
Attempt to locate whose sovereignty lay in pre-colonial times in the area now called “Nigeria.”

The sovereignty or Supremacy in Colonial Times

Colonial rule commenced in 1861 and terminated at independence in 1960 – a period of nearly 100 years. This period may be broken down into phases:

a. Total dependence on Imperial Parliament (1861-1921). The  British Crown acquired Lagos by the Treaty of Session, 1861, the  Sokoto Caliphate, Benin and Aro Chukwu by Conquest and most  to the rest of Eastern native states by bilateral arrangements. The  implication is that Lagos or the Yoruba Empire, and the Northern  Provinces became mere extension of the British Isles; while the  native states east of the Nigeria were British Protected. The  Imperial Parliament empowered the Crown to legislate by order –  in-Council for the colony, protectorates and foreign states.  The combined effect of the supreme court ordinance, 1863, southern  Nigeria order-in-Council 1899 and the Northern Nigeria order-in-  Council 1899 was to establish English type of courts and empower  them to observe, apply and enforce the common law of England,  Equity, Statutes of General Application as at 1874 (later Varied to 1900) as well as native laws and custom which were not repugnant  to natural justice, equity and good or incompatible with any local  enactment. Appeal from certain courts (Native courts and Provincial  court) lay to the Resident and the High Commissioner respectively, and later to the Lieutenant Governor.

The Governor was sole executive. He was appointed by the crown  and responsible to the secretary of state. Thus, it can be said that by  1900, the British Crown had acquired full and complete legislative, executive and judicial powers over the hitherto to independent and  autonomous native states now constituting Nigeria.  Between 1901 and 1906, the various native states had been merged  into two Protectorates – the Colony of Lagos and Protectorate of  Southern Nigeria and the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Both  Protectorates amalgamated in 1914 to form the protectorate of  Nigeria in 1914.

SELF-ASSESSMENT

  1.  Describe the constitution the Colony of Lagos and Protectorate of Nigeria. 
  2. Compare Sovereignty in the traditional legal system and the colonial legal system.

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