Constitutional Development In Nigeria

Table Of Contents

1. Meaning Of Constitution
2. Pre-colonial Political Administration In Nigeria
3. Pre independence Constitutions In Nigeria
4. The Nigeria Council

Meaning Of Constitution

Constitution is a the whole body of laws, rules and regulations, principles, traditions anf guidelines by which a state or nation is governed. The constitution is regarded as the grand norm because no other law over-rides its law. It specifies the structures of government and their functions including the power relationship among the structures.

The constitution specifies the rights and duties of the citizens, the mode of electing office holders, their tenure, the process of removing them from office and the process of constitutional amendment or alteration.

Pre-colonial Political Administration In Nigeria

Before we discuss the colonial or pre independence constitutions in Nigeria, it is important to consider the pre-colonial system of government in Nigeria. Three main patterns can be identified;

a. The Hausa- Fulani Traditional System Of Government:

This was based on the islamic Emirate authority system which was centralized and autocratic in nature. The Emir wielded ultimate powers and combined both political and spiritual authority over his people. He appointed district heads who were subject to him and accounted to him. It was a defined system authority.

b. The Yoruba Traditional Political System:

The Yoruba traditional political system was more constitutional in nature han the Hausa- fulani type. The oba who exercised power and leadership was not an absolute ruler. Rather his power was lined with check and balances as powerful aides or officials performed define functions in the yoruba trditional system of government, it was possible to locate authority and there existed clear power relationship between the Oba and other organs of government.

c. The Igbo Traditional Political System:

This was a lose or diffused authority system. There was no central authority figure, as different groups exercised power and authority for the good of society. The group were the family and kindred elders, the age grade system, titled men and diviners.

For the above reason, the Igbo traditional political system was described as acephalous. On a general not, the Igbo traditional authority system was democratic in nature since there was no absolute ruler who imposed his will and decisions on the people, the various groups exercised levels of authority and were accountable to the people. This made consultation, debate and consensus important factors in decision making in the Igbo traditional society.

Pre Independence Constitutions In Nigeria

Prior to the advent of the British in Nigeria in 1861, the geographical entity known as Nigeria was a collection of ethnic nationalities which had varying history, culture and religious backgrounds. They also had varying levels of social development and traditional political authority systems of government. Through vast trading activities and following the Berlin Conference of 1884/85. Which partitioned Africa, the British acquired Nigeria as a colonial territory.

For administrative convenience, the british introduced the policy of Indirect Rule as the system of government in Nigeria. By this policy, the Bristish used the local authority structures and personnel to administer the colonial territory. This was a cost effective system because the Bristish lacked the required manpower to administer the colonial territory.

Sir Lord Frederick Lugard became the first Governor General of Nigeria in 1914. Following the amalgamation of the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria with the protectorate of Northern Nigeria in 1914.

The Nigerian Council

After the amalgamation, lord Lugard established the Nigerian Couincil(1914) to serve the newly amalgamated Northern and Southern Nigeria.

The membership of the council was 36 number. Out of the 36 members, only 6 were Nigerians- mainly traditional chiefts – 2 Emirs form the North, the Alafin of Oyo, and 3 representatives, I each from Lagos, Benin-Warri, and Calabar. The Council was an advisory body to the Governor and did not exercise executive or legislature authority. Its resolutions were not binding, its meetings were irregular and poorly attended. Inspite of the above short comings, the Council, became a launching pad for Nigerian nationalism. Its significance can be understood because it offered the first opportunity for Nigerians to come together to discuss at a national level.

The Council existed side by side the legislature Council of the Colony of Lagos, until both were abolished by the Clifford Constitution.

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