As the case was in India where a constituent assembly was formed, the 1957 conference in London was attended by the major political parties in Nigeria. There, the issue of self-government was discussed extensively. The Western and Eastern Regions were endowed with self- government with their Premiers presiding over their Executive Councils. Of note was the setting up of the Minorities Commission and another on Revenue Allocation to evolve a formula for revenue allocation. Along these lines, the Raisman Fiscal Commission was inaugurated.
All the above recommendations were carried over to the Lancaster Constitutional Conference in 1958. The Lancaster Conference was prompted by the concern for the independence of Nigeria and the contents of the independence constitution. Besides, it was agreed that the Northern Region should attain self-government in March 15, 1959 and that independence for the country Nigeria should be attained on the October 1, 1960.
Other important issues discussed and agreed upon in 1957 were:
- Dual control of a centralized police force.
- Nigeria citizenship.
- The establishment of the council of the prerogative of mercy.
- Provisions in the constitution on the creation of more regions, and e. Mode of amending the constitution.
However, the Southern Cameroon later exercised its right of self- determination through a referendum in December 1959. On the basis of the new constitutional arrangement, elections were conducted with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the Northern People’s Congress emerging as the Prime Minister, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe the Governor –General and Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the opposition leader of the House of Representatives.
What were the high points at the Constitutional Conference of 1957?
In this discourse, you learnt about the constitutional development in pre- colonial and colonial Nigeria. In her Europeanization mission, Britain planted the indigenous native administration and introduced in succession, the Clifford’s constitution (1951), Littleton’s constitution (1954) and the Independence constitution (1960).
In pre-colonial time the Emir ruled in the Hausa/Fulani Empire (North) the Oba in the Yoruba/Bini Kingdoms (West and South) the Obi, or Igwe and council of age grades in the East. The Territory came under the influence of a variety of European trader’s colonial administration from 1472 to 1861 when Lagos colony was ceded. The advent of British concept of constitutional law into Nigeria commenced in 1900 with the proclamation of the Northern Protectorate and the Southern Protectorate and Colony of Lagos. The Clifford constitution was promulgated in 1922 introducing some constitutional and administrative arrangements into Nigeria in the name of humanity, civilization, socialization, progress, constitutionalism and rule of law. In the subsequent lectures, you will learn about the Post-independence constitutions.
- Discuss the constitutional development in pre-independent Nigeria, showing the merits or demerits (if any) in the carious colonial constitutions, 1922 – 1960.