The Macpherson’s Constitution Of 1951: Features, Merits And Criticisms

Table Of Contents

1. Major Features/Provisions Of The 1951 Constitution
2. Demerits Of The Macpherson’s Constitution
3. Flaws And Criticisms Of The 1951 Constitution

The Richard’s constitution before it was severally criticized by the nationalists, because it was imposed on Nigerians without any prior consultation.

In order to express the criticisms, the leadership of the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroon’s (NCNC) under Herbert Marculay and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe toured the major cities of Nigeria, educated the people on the political issues at stake and collected donations to send a protest delegation to London. It was partly because of the protest that, the Richard’s constitution which originally was intended to last for 9 years, was replaced in 1951 by the Macpherson constitution.

Sir John Macpherson who arrived Nigeria in 1948 was sensitive to the criticism that the Richard’s constitution had not been based on prior consultations with Nigerians.

Major Features/Provisions Of The 1951 Constitution

1. It adopted the regional framework of Richard but renamed the Legislative Council, the House of Representatives and the Central Executive Council to the Council of State.

2. There were Regional legislative and Regional Executive councils for North, West and East.

3. The legislative councils for both the Northern and Western Regions were bicameral in nature, comprising of a House of Assembly and a House of Chief.

4. The Eastern Region had a unicameral legislature, i.e. the House of Assembly.

5. The Regional Executive Councils consisted of the Lieutenant Governors and members of the Regional Legislature appointed by the Lieutenant Governors.

6. A public service commission for the appointment, dismissal and other disciplinary control of public officers were established for Nigeria.

7. The qualification for voters registration was based on tax payment. The person must have been born in the native authority area in which he wished to vote or be voted for, or resident in the area for at least 12 months, if a non-indigene.

8. The House of Representatives had 148 members, 136 members were elected directly by the Regional House of Assembly, 68 members from the North and 34 members each from the East and West.

Merits Of The Macpherson’s Constitution

1. The constitution reflected the minds and aspiration of the masses because of the wide range of consultation before its introduction.

2. It introduced for the first time a revenue allocation formula in Nigeria based on the principles of derivation, needs and national interest.

3. It provided for the office of Ministers in Nigeria.

4. It assigned legislative authority to the Regional Assembly.

5. The constitution marked the beginning of representative government in Nigeria. The Central and Regional legislatures were made of elected majority, who were mostly Nigerians.

Flaws And Criticisms Of The 1951 Constitution

1. It contains both the elements of unitary and federal system of government which created confusion on the nature of centre-periphery relationship.

2. It did not provide for team spirit in the council of ministers.

3. It failed to provide for a responsible government at the centre.

4. The government of the federation had no effective leadership as it did not provide for a true political leadership either at the Centre or in the Regions e.g. There was no provision for the post of the Prime Minister.

5. The Qualification for election was still on the bases of payment of taxes.

The aforementioned demerits of Macpherson’s constitution of 1951 and the quest for a more representative responsible government, made it imperative for the introduction of the Lyttleton constitution of 1954.

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