Features of the 1946 Richards Constitution of Nigeria

The Richards Constitution introduced an African unofficial majority into the central legislative council.

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In this post, we shall look into the features of the 1946 Richards Constitution of Nigeria. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to identify the features of this constitution.

1946 Richards Constitution

The 1946 Richards Constitution of Nigeria was a significant step in shaping the political structure and representation in the country during the colonial era. The constitution was named after Sir Arthur Richards who was then the colonial governor of Nigeria.

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The 1946 Nigerian Constitution brought in several features to the governance and administration of Nigeria. It introduced elements of regional representation, African participation, and decentralization, which laid the groundwork for further political developments and the eventual path to independence.

Nigerian flag before independence. Source: Wikipedia.

Features of the 1946 Richards Constitution

  1. Reservation of Certain Services for Central Government: The constitution reserved certain services, such as railways, army, post, and telegraphs, for the central government. These services were financed and managed by the central government, reflecting its dominant role in crucial areas of governance.
  2. Apportionment of Revenues to Regional Governments: The revenues of Nigeria were apportioned to each region in the form of bulk grants. This ensured a decentralized financial structure where regions had control over their allocated funds for regional development and administration.
  3. Linking Native Authorities with Regional and Central Legislative Councils: The constitution established a connection between native authorities and the regional assembly, which, in turn, was linked to the central legislative council. This linkage facilitated the representation and participation of traditional rulers and native authorities in the governance process.
  4. Regional Councils as Electoral Colleges: Regional councils were utilized as electoral colleges for representation in the central legislative council. This mechanism allowed for regional representation in the central legislature, giving it a regional outlook.
  5. African Unofficial Majority in the Central Legislative Council: The Richards Constitution introduced an African unofficial majority into the central legislative council. This marked a shift towards greater African representation and participation in the governance of the country.
  6. North-South Unity in the Central Legislature: The constitution brought the North and South together under one legislature, fostering a sense of unity and common purpose among the different regions.
  7. Creation of Regional Assemblies with Limited Powers: The Richards Constitution led to the establishment of regional assemblies with limited powers to legislate on minor matters, subject to the Governor’s reserved powers. This devolved some legislative authority to the regional level.
  8. Bicameral Legislature for the North: The North was granted a bicameral legislature comprising the regional assembly and the regional house of chiefs. This structure provided additional representation and influence for traditional rulers in the North.
  9. Minority Representation in the Central Executive Council: Nigerians were in the minority in the central executive council, reflecting the continued dominance of British officials in key decision-making positions.
  10. Limited Franchise: The constitution maintained limited franchise, with only three representatives elected for Lagos and one for Calabar. This limited representation was an important factor in the early stages of political development in Nigeria.
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