Macpherson Constitution of 1951


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In today’s class, we will be talking about Macpherson constitution of 1951. Enjoy the class!

Macpherson Constitution of 1951

Macpherson Constitution of 1951 |

The weakness of the Richard’s Constitution and the imperial powers due to anti-colonial activities and the demystification of white superiority lead to the introduction of a new constitution. Sir John Macpherson became Governor of Nigeria in 1948. He reviewed the 1946 Constitution to avoid the mistake of Richard’s constitution. Constitutional conferences held in many parts of the country led to the formation of the Macpherson’s Constitution of 1951.


  1. The central legislative council: It was renamed the House of Representatives. The president was the Governor and it had 6 ex-official members. 136 representative members were through the regional houses and 6 special members were nominated by the Governor. The North sent 68 members while the West and East had 34 members which made up the 136 representatives.
  2. The Central Executive Council: This was known as the council of ministers. The Governor was the president and there were6 official members, 12 ministers of which 4 represented each region. They were in charge of government departments and appointed by the governor on the recommendation of the regional legislature.
  3. The Regional Legislature: The Northern and Western regions each had a bi-cameral House of Assembly and Chiefs. The Eastern region had only the power to make laws on certain issues like local matters, native courts, health, etc.
  4. Regional Executive Council: Each region had an executive council. The Lieutenant Governor was the president and it had 5 official members and 9 ministers. They advised the governor but he could accept or reject their advice.
  5. The colony of Lagos was part of the Western region.
  6. The three provinces were renamed, Western, Eastern and Northern regions.
  7. The three chief commissioners for each province were renamed Lieutenant governors.
  • Nigerians took part in the making of the constitution through constitutional conferences.
  • A new central law-making body called the House of Representatives was introduced.
  • The regions were given more powers and made autonomous.
  • The constitution played a great role in the realization of self-government. The motion for self-government was moved in the House of Representatives and discussed at the 1953’s London constitutional conferences.
  • The constitution allowed for an increase in elected majorities in both central and regional legislatures.
  • The constitution encouraged the true spirit of federalism by dividing powers between the central and the regions and granting consideration autonomy to the region.
  • The constitution did not make provision for the post of the prime minister and premier.
  • The constitution did not grant real ministerial responsibilities to ministers. They only acted as spokesmen of the ministries in the legislature.
  • The constitution vested too many powers on the governor.
  • Powers given to the regions to make laws were limited as their laws have to be approved first before they could be allowed to operate.
  • No single party had majority control of the House of Representatives and as such the council of ministers was not sure of their policies.
  • The constitution failed to grant political independence to Nigeria as demanded by the Nationalists.


The need for a new constitution arose as a result of the defects of the McPherson Constitution which led to its breakdown. The secretary of state for the colonies, Oliver Littleton confirmed the change of Macpherson’s Constitution when he announced on May 21, 1953, on the floor of the British House of Commons that her majesty had decided that the Nigerian Constitution would have to be redrawn to provide for greater autonomy.

The conference which sat between July 30 and August 22, 1953, reached the following agreements

  1. That a federal system of government should be established.
  2. That the regional Lieutenant-governor of Nigeria be called governors, while the governor of Nigeria should be called Governor-General.
  3. That legislative power should be shared between the federal, state and the federating units.
  4. That Lagos should be separated from the Western region and made a neutral federal territory.
  5. That a conference to be held in Lagos in 1954 should ratify a separate regional administration in the Cameroons if the people of the territory expressed their desires through a referendum.
  6. That her majesty’s government would grant self-government to those regions which desired it in 1956.


On January 19, 1954, the Constitutional Conference re-converged in Lagos to discuss some issues that were not attended to at the previous constitutional conference. The following agreements were reached

  1. Financial resources were to be allocated to the federal and regional government based on the principle of derivation.
  2. The commission recommended that autonomy should be granted southern Cameroon.
  3. That the judiciary should be regionalized.
  4. That the police force should be regionalized.
  5. That though southern Cameroons should remain part of Nigeria federation as a quasi-federal territory, it should have a legislature of its own.
  1. State 5 features of the Macpherson’s Constitution.
  2. Highlight 4 achievements made by Macpherson’s Constitution.
  3. Why was Macpherson’s Constitution criticized?
  4. Highlight 6 reasons for setting up Public Corporation.
  5. State 5 problems of Local Government.


In our next class, we will be talking about Lyttleton’s Constitution of 1954.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

Should you have any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.

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