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1958 Lagos Constitutional Conference
The Lagos Constitutional Conference was held in Lagos in 1958 as a followup to the London Conference of 1957. The major issues discussed and resolved at the conference included the following:
The issue of granting fundamental rights to Nigerians was raised by the ethnic minorities. They contended that the three major ethnic groups which coincidentally controlled the three major political parties (NPC was dominated by the Hausa-Fulani, AG was controlled by the Yoruba and the Igbo dominated the NCNC) and the three regions were infringing on their rights.
Similarly, the Minorities Commission which was established at the 1957 Conference had recommended that provisions on fundamental human rights be inserted in the constitution to allay the fears of minorities. The conference agreed that the new constitution should contain comprehensive provisions on fundamental rights.
Self-government for the Northern Region
At the conference, the political leaders of Northern Region submitted a proposal for self-government for the region on March 15, 1959. The conference discussed and approved the proposal and the region became self-governing from that date.
The conference agreed that the administration of the Police should be entrusted to the Police Council while the operational aspects of the service should be the responsibility of the Inspector-General of Police. It also resolved that the Federal and Regional Police should be retained.
The conference accepted the recommendations of the fiscal commission appointed at the 1957 Conference that derivation and need should be the basic principles of revenue allocation and that the problem be revisited every three or five years.
Report of the Minorities Commission
The Minorities Commission had, in its report made available at the conference, acknowledged that the fears of minorities in the country were real.
Nevertheless, it did not consider state creation as the immediate solution to the problem. Rather it recommended the incorporation of a Bill of Rights in the constitution and that the Police be decentralized.
The issue of state creation divided the Nigerian delegation into two contending group. While one faction favoured the creation of new states, the other group was opposed to the idea.
However, the Secretary of State for the Colonies contended that the creation of states and the independence of Nigeria were incompatible. He claimed that state creation would lead to delay of Nigeria’s independence since the new states would need time to settle down.
He also observed that most of the demands for new states emanated from the south, and cautioned that the creation of states in the southern part of the country, while the Northern Region remained intact and monolithic, would (adversely) affect the balance of power between the north and south in favour of the north.
It is difficult to fault the argument of the British officials.
The conference then agreed that the issue of state creation be deferred till after independence.
The conference agreed that parts of the federal and regional constitutions that were of interest to either the federal or regional governments alone could be amended in the ordinary course of business of the relevant legislative houses.
But those constitutional provisions which were of general concern to both federal and regional governments would require a special procedure for their amendment.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies revisited the issue of Nigeria’s independence and informed the conference that the British Government had agreed to grant independence to Nigeria on 1st October, 1960.