THE RICHARD'S CONSTITUTION OF 1946

The Richard's Constitution of 1946 :

  • The objectives of the Richard's Constitution were :

    1. To promote the unity of Nigeria. 2. To provide within that desire for the diverse elements which make up the country. 3. To secure greater participation by Africans in the discussion of their own affairs.

    Provisions of the Richard's Constitution:

    Under the Richard's Constitution a legislative council was established for the whole Nigeria and it consisted of: The Governor - as the President; 16 official members of which 13 were ex-officio and 3 nominated; and 28 unofficial members.

    Out of the 28 unofficials, 24 were indirectly elected while 4 members were elected. Two officials represented the Northern Provinces of the country and nine out of the 24 were unofficial members. Two officials and six nominated members represented the Western Province, while the Eastern Province was represented by two officials and were nominated members.

    One elected member represented Calabar while the colony of Lagos was represented in addition to three elected members by one official and one nominated unofficial member.

    Regional Councils:

    The Northern House of chiefs - This consisted of the: Chief Commissioner as President; All First Class Chiefs: and Not less than 10 Second Class Chiefs.

    The Northern House of Assembly - This consisted of the:- Senior Resident as President, 18 other official members, and 20 - 24 unofficial provincial members. Out of these 14 - 18 were selected by the Native Authorities and 6 were appointed by the Governor to represent interests not adequately represented.

    The Western House of Assembly - This consisted of the:- Chief Commissioner as President, 13 other official members, and 15 - 19 unofficial provincial members. Three Head Chiefs were nominated by the Governor. 7 - 11 were selected by the Native Authorities and 5 were nominated from interests and communities not adequately represented.

    The Eastern House of Assembly - It comprised the:
    Chief Commissioner as President, 13 other official members, and 15 - 18 provincial members, out of which 10 - 13 were selected by the Native Authorities and 5 nominated by the Governor from interests and communities not adequately represented.

  • FUNCTIONS OF REGIONAL COUNCILS:

    The Regional Councils served as a link between the Native Authorities and the Legislative Council. The Regional Councils considered and advised the Governor by resolution on any matter referred to them by the Governor or introduced by member of the council.

    In addition, the Regional Houses examined estimates of expenditure, both annual and supplementary, and also bills that were applicable to the regions; but the Governor was not bound to accept the recommendations of the Regional Councils.

    It should be noted that the Regional Houses had no constitutional powers to make laws. They were in fact only deliberative and advisory councils.

    WEAKNESSES OF THE RICHARD'S CONSTITUTION:

    The nationalist leaders criticised the Constitution on the ground that they were not consulted. They strongly criticised the arbitrary manner in which the Constitution was introduced without consulting them.

    The N.C.N.C. in a memorandum not only denounced the constitutional proposals as autocratic in origin, but also as designed to create a false impression of providing for an unofficial majority when in fact the 'unofficials' were either Chiefs who were officials appointed by the governor, or their nominees.

    Chief Obafemi Awolowo believed that the Constitution fell below expectations and that it contained same weakness as the previous Constitution. On June 1947, a delegation of the N.C.N.C. leaders left Nigeria for London to protest against the Richard's Constitution before the Secretary of State for the Colonies. They demanded among other things the immediate revision of the Constitution.

    The Constitution allowed the nationalist leaders only discussions and not actual participation in running the affairs of the country and for this the objective of the Constitution was not achieved.

    This was because the Regional Councils had only deliberative and advisory functions to perform and the Governor was not bound to accept the recommendations of the legislative council.

    THE ADVANNTAGES OF THE RICHARD'S CONSTITUTION:

    One of the greatest achievements of the Richard's Constitution was that it brought the North and the South in a common legislative council. It allowed the whole country to meet as a body and deliberate on the affairs of the country. Therefore, the Constitution achieved one of its objectives of promoting the unity of the country.

    Secondly, the Constitution introduced the concept of regionalism into the political history of the country. Besides, the Constitution sharpened nationalism in Nigeria. As a result of the N.C.N.C. tour of the country to explain the deficiencies of the Richard's Constitution, many people in the country became politically conscious and even some became members of political parties in order to fight against coloninsm and imperialism.

    Thirdly, the Richard's Constitution represented a constitutional advance and paved the way for further rapid constitutional developments in the country. A highly centralised unitary constitution was not suitable to a country of the size and diversity of Nigeria.


See 1999 Constitution
Listing of past Constitutions