Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1922 In Nigeria – Features, Terms, Background, Pros and Cons
Background to the Constitution
The system of government introduced as a result of the amalgamation of 1914 created sharp divisions between British officials and educated Nigerians on one hand, and between the chiefs and the educated elements on the other hand.
It was therefore quite easy for the British colonial officials and traditional rulers to align against the educated elites who had no political platform to articulate their position. The meeting of the National Congress of British West Africa held in Accra, Ghana in 1920, provided the opportunity for educated African to articulate their views. The Congress demanded for self-government and an elected legislative council, among other things.
The British colonial authorities rejected these political demands as being too ambitious and unrealistic. Sir Hugh Clifford who had become the governor of Nigeria in 1919 was particularly trenchant in his criticism of the Congress and denounced the conference as “a self-elected and self appointed congregation of educated African gentlemen …..”
Notwithstanding the open criticism of the Congress and its demand for political and constitutional reforms, the British authorities realized that it was important to incorporate the educated Africans into the political Process. It was against this backdrop that Governor Clifford promulgated the 1922 Constitution.
Features of Clifford Constitution of 1922
The main features of the Clifford Constitution were as follows:
- Retention of existing political structures
- Establishment of legislative council
- Establishment of executive council
- Local government
- Extension of Indirect rule to southern provinces
Retention of Existing Political Structures
The division of the country into three units, namely, the Lagos Colony, the Northern Provinces and Southern Provinces was retained under the Clifford Constitution. The Governor had responsibility to administer the whole country while a Lieutenant Governor was in charge of each protectorate. The Governor continued to make laws for the Northern Protectorate.
Exstablishment of Legislative Council
A Legislative Council which had power to make laws for the Colony of Lagos and the Southern Provinces was set up. The body had 46 members including the following:
- The Governor (President)
- 26 official members
- 15 unofficial members including 6 Nigerians
- 4 elected members (3 for Lagos and one for Calabar)
Establishment of Executive Council
An Executive Council was established for the whole country to advise the Governor. It comprised the Governor who served as its president and eleven senior officials who were heads of departments.
The qualifications required of candidates seeking election to public office included the following:
a) He must be a male.
b) He must be a citizen of Nigeria.
c) He must have been resident in the area for at least 12 months.
d) He must have a gross annual income of £100.
There was provision for local government by native authorities.
Extension of Indirect Rule to Southern Provinces
The constitution provided for the extension of indirect rule to the Southern Provinces.
Merits of Clifford Constitution of 1922
The Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1922 in Nigeria has the following advantages.
- The constitution created a conducive atmosphere for political activities and formation of political parties in Lagos and Calabar e.g.the NNDP of Herbert Macauley.
- Newspapers were established to further popularize the increased political activities.
- The constitution made it possible for the elective representation of Nigerians into the legislative council.
- The constitution established a new legislative council for the colony and protectorate of Southern Nigeria (excluding the northern protectorate)
- The constitution gave inspiration to nationalist activities in the country which acted as a preparatory ground for self-govemment.
- More Africans were allowed into the legislative council.
- Clifford constitution was the first written constitution in Nigeria
- It established a constitutional government in Nigeria as opposed to government by statutory instrument or orders.
- It increased political awareness through political education and political campaigns.
- It enhanced greater political participation by means of political party membership.
- The constitution later generated political controversies which helped to increase the tempo of nationalism in Nigeria. This led to its revision in subsequent constitutions.
Demerits of Clifford Constitution of 1922
The Hugh Clifford Constitution of 1922 in Nigeria has the following disadvantages.
- Disenfranchisement – Only 4 of the unofficial members were to be elected by an adult male suffrage with residential qualification of one year and a gross income of £100 per annum. The majority of Nigerians were disenfranchised.
- Majority of the Europeans dominated the legislative council.
- Executive council was also dominated and controlled by the Europeans.
- Those elected were only for the legislative council and were unofficial. This franchise was not extended to the executive council.
- Illiterates who were in an unofficial capacity dominated the legislative council.
- The governor had veto power over issues both in the legislative and executive councils.
- Clifford’s Constitution was accused of sectionalism by its definition. It was a constitution for the south only, the north was excluded.
- Majority of the members of the legislative council were nominated and not elected.
- The application of elective principle was limited to Lagos and Calabar. Other parts of the country did not experience this.