Constitutional Development

Posted by on 10/12/2005 8:45:46 PM
Post Comment Constitutional Development Nigeria

As early as 1886, when Lagos Colony was separated from the Gold Coast, an Executive Council for the Lagos Colony was established. But Frederick Lugard had reduced the powers of this Executive Council to the status of a Legislature. In 1906, when the Lagos Colony was merged with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, the competence of this Legislative Council was extended to cover Lagos and the Southern Protectorate. In order to compensate the inhabitants of the Lagos Colony who were de jure British subjects and enjoyed the rights of British citizens, a small Legislative Council for Lagos Colony was introduced for the purposes of enacting Laws and scrutinising estimates and expenditure. The Legislative Council consisted of ten official and six unofficial members. (Crowder, 1973:243).

The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 coincided with the establishment of a Nigerian Council. The Nigerian Council comprised 24 official and 12 unof- ficial members. Six of the unofficial members were Europeans representing commerce, shipping, mining and banking. The six African unofficial members were chiefs namely; The Sultan of Sokoto, the Alafin of Oyo, the Emir of Kano, Chief Douglas Numa and one each educated Nigerian representing each of Lagos and Calabar.

The Nigerian Council was essentially an advisory body because it had no legislative powers. Most traditional rulers could not participate effectively because of their inability to communicate in English. Some other means of satisfying the demand of the Nigerian people for some form of representative government had to be explored as the resistance of the indigenous population against the imposition of a centralised hierarchical system of administration over traditionally acephalous societies, especially in Eastern Nigeria, was very stiff. Most notable was the exclusion of the educated elite from participation in the governance of Nigeria, and the very limited opportunities in the administrative machinery for such elite.

The legal status of Lagos as a Colony whose inhabitants were British subjects also facilitated the demands for greater freedom of participation in political activities. Moreover, the contemptuous attitude of the British colonial administration to Nigerian traditional rulers e.g., the Eleko of Eko, Chief Jaja of Opobo, Chief Nana of Olurnu, further infuriated Nigerian nationalists and inflamed the nationalist fervour.

The Nigerian Council and the small Legislative Council for Lagos were abolished by Order in Council in 1922 (Ezera, 1964). "Herbert Macaulay and other 'coastal elite' had indeed, been agitating against the government in Lagos for the imposition of water rates and the appropriation of land for government projects even before Lugard became Governor General in 1914" (Nnoli, 1978). After the amalgamation of 1914, "the nationalists fought against the exclusiveness and racial bias of the Crown Colony system of Government. Nationalist demand at this phase of the struggle was not the attainment of self-government but a measure of participation in the existing government" (Coren, 1981).

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