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Features of Richards Constitution of 1946

Features of Richards constitution of 1946 Arthur Frederick Richards, 1st Baron Milverton GCMG (21 February 1885 – 27 October 1978), was a British colonial administrator who over his career served as Governor of North Borneo, Gambia, Fiji, Jamaica, and Nigeria. Richards was born in Bristol in 1885, the son of William Richards.

He was educated at Clifton College in Bristol and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1907 with a BA. He served as Governor of Nigeria. He was known in the Colonial Service as ‘Old Sinister’.

He became the first Colonial Office official to be raised to the peerage while still in office. In 1986, his former private secretary in Nigeria,

Features of Richards Constitution of 1946

The Richards Constitution of 1946 replaced the defective Clifford Constitution of 1922. It was as a result of the weakness of the Clifford Constitution that the Nigerian nationalists began to pressurize Sir Bernard Bourdillon, the Governor of Nigeria from 1935 to 1943, to give them a new befitting constitution.

It was Sir Bernard Bourdillon who split Nigeria into three regions: North, East, and West in 1939. However, this couldn’t hold till he left Nigeria in the year 1943 and then his successor Arthur Richards who continued and presented a new constitution in 1946 which materialized from December 1947.

Objective of Richards Constitution

  • To promote the unity of Nigeria
  • To evolve a constitution that covers all parts Nigeria
  • To split Nigeria into three (3) region & create a regional council for each
  • To allow Nigerians participate in their governance
  • To create a legislative council embracing all section   
  • To provide adequately for the desire of the diverse elements which made up Nigeria

Features of Richards Constitution

The Features of Richards constitution of 1946 provided for a new legislative council for the whole country. The council was made up of the governor as president, sixteen officials, and twenty-eight unofficial.

Official members consisted of thirteen ex-officials and three nominated members while unofficial members were made up of four elected and twenty-four nominated or indirectly elected members.

  • The features of Richards constitution of 1946, executive Council was still dominated by Europeans.
  • The features of Richards constitution of 1946 defined Nigeria in terms of regions (Northern, Eastern and Western regions) in place of former provinces.
  • Creation of regional Houses of assembly.
  • Creation of the central Legislative Council.
  • Limited legislative power to the regional assemblies.
  • Retention of the elective principle.
  • Integration of Nigeria under one (1) council.
  • Each region had its own regional council.
  • Bi-cameral legislature in the North but unicameral for the East and West.
  • An executive council of officials to assist the governor.
  • Regional Assemblies functioned as electoral colleges for the indirect election of members of the legislative council.

Functions of the Regional Council  

  • The features of Richards constitution of 1946 integrated the north and south administratively
  • The constitution increased the representation of  Nigerians in the legislative council
  • It paved way for federal constitution in Nigeria politics
  • It expanded the legislative council of Nigeria
  • The constitution provided for bicameral legislature in the north

Merits of Richards Constitution

  • The features of Richards constitution of 1946 provided for a bicameral legislature in the North, thereby institutionalizing bicameralism and recognizing traditional ruler-ship in Nigeria.
  • The features of Richards constitution of 1946 increased the representation of Nigerians in the legislative council.
  • North and South, for the first time, were legislatively integrated (i.e. had one all-Nigerian legislative council).
  • Nigerians were offered greater participation in the central legislative council.
  • Various interests and sections were adequately represented.
  • It recognized the diversity of the country.
  • Indirect rule system was carefully incorporated into the constitution.

Demerit of Richards Constitution

  • Regional Assemblies merely acted as advisory and consultative bodies
  • Impression of the unofficial majority in the council was false because the majority were chiefs or government nominees
  • There was no division of powers between the legislative and the executive councils
  • Nigerians were not fully consulted before the operation of the constitution therefore it was regarded as autocratic
  • The allocation of revenue to the regions was a matter for the governor to decide and not through constructional provision
  • The regionalism that this constitution introduced resulted in disunity in Nigeria
  • The legislative council was seen as a mere advisory body
  • The Constitution was arbitrarily imposed, thus, undemocratic
  • The elective principle was not extended beyond Lagos and Calabar
  • Regionalism was introduced unintentionally and thus, caused political division into Nigeria
  • The governor has Supreme control over the legislative council i.e. he could approve or disapprove of the resolution of the council

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