The Lyttleton Constitution Of 1954: Significance, Merits And Demerits

Table Of Contents

1. The Major Significance Of The 1954 Constitution
2. Merits Of The 1954 Constitution
3. Demerits Of Lyttleton Constitution

As the Macpherson constitution got highly criticized and objected to, Sir Oliver Lyttleton, the then Secretary of State for Colonies organized series of constitutional conferences both in London 1953 and Lagos 1954 respectively. The outcome of these conferences was the 1954 Lyttleton constitution which came into force in October 1954.

The Major Significance Of The 1954 Constitution Are:

1. The offices of the Speaker and the Deputy speaker were created to preside over regional legislatures with the exceptions of the North.

2. The civil service was decentralized and regionalized in such a way that the central or federal government had its own federal civil service while each of the regions had its own civil service.

3. The Lieutenant Governors were renamed Governors.

4. It provided for the post of permanent secretaries at both the centre and regions.

5. It introduced full ministerial responsibility. The ministers now bore individual responsibility to the legislature. There was reduction of in the number of appointed members in the central and regional legislatures as well as in the executive councils. The proportion of elected members were substantially increased.

6. The constitution also established a supreme court, regional courts and a High court of Lagos.

7. It provided for direct elections of candidates into the legislature.

8. Lagos became a federal territory separate from the Western region.

Merits/Advantages Of The 1954 Constitution

1. This marked the beginning true federal state in Nigeria.

2. It introduced the derivative principle in sharing of revenue.

3. For the first time there were clear division of powers between the two levels of government i.e. The federal and regional governments in which each was autonomous in its own area of jurisdiction.

4. Nigerians were for the first time appointed Ministers with portfolios.

5. It regionalized Nigeria, giving regional governments full powers over their local affairs.

6. It introduced the posts of permanent secretaries and parliamentary secretaries in Nigeria.

Demerits And Flaws Of Lyttleton Constitution

1. The Secretary of State had the power to disallow any law made by any legislature, even after the Governor General or the Governor as the case may be had given his assent.

2. It nurtured ethnicity which had been deliberately introduced and encouraged by previous constitutions by the regionalization policy. For instance, in the Northern region it was renamed Northernization where people from other regions were seen as foreigners.

3. Although local people participated in producing the constitution, the final draft still reflected the interest of the colonial government.

4. Ministerial appointments were based on the 3 major political parties which were regionally based.

This rendered the centre ineffective because the loyalty of the ministers resided in their regions.

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