Constitutional Development | Macpherson, Features, Merits & Demerits

The Macpherson Constitution Of 1951 In response to the weaknesses identified in Richard’s Constitution, exacerbated by anti-colonial activities and the erosion of white superiority, a new constitution was introduced. Sir John Macpherson assumed the role of Governor of Nigeria in 1948 and undertook a review of the 1946 Constitution, culminating in the Macpherson Constitution of […]

The Macpherson Constitution Of 1951

In response to the weaknesses identified in Richard’s Constitution, exacerbated by anti-colonial activities and the erosion of white superiority, a new constitution was introduced. Sir John Macpherson assumed the role of Governor of Nigeria in 1948 and undertook a review of the 1946 Constitution, culminating in the Macpherson Constitution of 1951 after constitutional conferences were held throughout the country.

 

Features Of The Macpherson Constitution

  1. The Central Legislative Council: Renamed the House of Representatives, with the Governor serving as president, 6 ex-officio members, 136 representatives from regional houses, and 6 special members nominated by the Governor.
  2. The Central Executive Council: Rebranded as the Council of Ministers, headed by the Governor as president, consisting of 6 official members and 12 ministers (4 representing each region).
  3. The Regional Legislature: Bi-cameral House of Assembly and Chiefs for the Northern and Western regions, while the Eastern region had jurisdiction over specific issues such as local matters, native courts, and health.
  4. Regional Executive Council: Each region had its executive council with the Lieutenant Governor as president, comprising 5 official members and 9 ministers.
  5. Lagos was part of the Western region, and the three provinces were renamed Western, Eastern, and Northern regions. Chief Commissioners were renamed Lieutenant Governors.

 

Merits Of The Macpherson Constitution

  1. Involvement of Nigerians in constitution-making through constitutional conferences.
  2. Introduction of the House of Representatives as a central legislative body.
  3. Granting more powers and autonomy to the regions.
  4. Facilitating the realization of self-government, discussed in the 1953 London constitutional conferences.
  5. Increase in elected majorities in both central and regional legislatures.
  6. Promotion of federalism by dividing powers between the central and regional governments.

 

Demerits Of The Macpherson Constitution

  1. Absence of provisions for the positions of prime minister and premier.
  2. Limited ministerial responsibilities, as ministers primarily acted as spokesmen in the legislature.
  3. Excessive powers vested in the Governor.
  4. Restricted legislative powers for regions, requiring approval for their laws to operate.
  5. Lack of majority control by a single party in the House of Representatives, leading to policy uncertainties.
  6. Failure to grant political independence as demanded by nationalists.

 

The Constitutional Conference Of 1953

The deficiencies of the Macpherson Constitution prompted the need for a new constitution, leading to the 1953 Constitutional Conference. The secretary of state for the colonies, Oliver Littleton, announced the decision to redraw the Nigerian Constitution for greater autonomy on May 21, 1953. The conference, held between July 30 and August 22, 1953, resulted in agreements that established a federal system of government, renamed regional Lieutenant Governors as Governors, and shared legislative powers between federal, state, and federating units.

 

Lagos Constitutional Conference Of 1954

Convened on January 19, 1954, to address unresolved issues, the conference reached agreements on allocating financial resources based on derivation principles, granting autonomy to southern Cameroon, regionalizing the judiciary and police force, and maintaining southern Cameroons as part of the Nigerian federation with its legislature.

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