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The Clifford Constitution of 1922 (HIS 302)

It is noteworthy that Sir Hugh Clifford was appointed as the Governor of Nigeria by the Secretary of State for the colonies on behalf of the crown and the British government. He took over the baton of leadership from the former Governor in person of Fredrick Lord Lugard.

Hence, the emergence of Sir Hugh Clifford as the Governor General introduced a new legislative council and executive council which replaced the abolished Old legislative Council for Lagos colony and the Nigerian Council.

For a better understanding of the Clifford Constitution however, we shall sub-scrutinize it from five segments which are the Structure of the Constitution, the adequacies or merits, the inadequacies or demerits, the critiques and the successes.

Several structures marked the Clifford Constitution of 1922, these include the new Legislative Council, the Executive Council, the Act of Proclamation and the Elective principle. These shall be discussed in that order.

The Clifford Constitution of 1922 abolished the Nigerian Council of 1914 under the former Governor General (Lord Lugard). Thus, the new legislative council gave Nigeria access to power via electoral principles.

The council was composed of 46 members, 27 members out of the 46 were officials while 19 were non-official members. 10 out of the 19 were Nigerians. Out of the 10 Nigerians, 4 were elected, 3 were selected from Lagos and 1 from Calabar. The remaining 6 were appointed by the 4 governors to represent other parts of the country.

However, it must be noted that the Northern Protectorate was not a part of this Council. This Council was an advisory body to the Governor. It was an all-European council which was established to advise the Governor on Technical matters.

Thus, there was a Nigerian selected either as an official or non-official member as part of the decision-making body, until the time of the Macpherson Constitution. The act declares publicly or makes an official formal public announcement as regards the North which was governed by the proclamation emanating from the Governor.

This was established for the very first time in Nigeria’s political scene. Hence, an election was conducted in the legislative council thus, paving the way for Political Participation of Nigerian citizens in their government.


          The merits of this constitution are quiet numerical. First, the constitution introduced elective principles which for the very first time allowed Nigerians to elect their representatives into the legislative council.

Besides the above, it was the first written constitution in Nigeria which could be amended or changed at the appropriate time.

 Interestingly, it increased political agitation and awakened the spirit of nationalism which quickened the urge towards an independent Nigeria in 1960. The constitution in addition allowed Nigerians to be more represented than the Nigerian Council of Lord Lugard.

It also promoted greater participation of Nigerians in the Politics of their country. This constitution also paved way for the establishment of Newspapers like the West African Pilot, and Lagos Daily News among others established to increase political activities.


Unfortunately, the constitution was said to have isolated the Northern provinces of Nigeria. Hence, it can be stated that the Northerners were isolated as a result of their religious intolerance or discrepancy between the Westerners and the Northerners. For example, the Northern Provinces were under the influence of Islamic leaders and doctrines.

Africans were not represented in the Executive council as it was majorly dominated and controlled by the Europeans.

Only four of the unofficial members were to be elected by an adult male suffrage with a residential qualification of one year and a gross income of 100 Euro per annum (N200). Hence, the majority of Nigerians were disenfranchised as opportunities spread out for the rich to vote in the political activities of the country.

The Executives exercised veto power over the legislature. Therefore, the executive could reject the bill sent to it by the legislature for approval or assent.

It was sectional in nature as it was referred to as the constitution of the South only, while the North was excluded. Hence the Northern Province was deprived of elective principles as it was limited to Lagos and Calabar.


It is interesting to know that despite the advantages which could be deducted from Clifford Constitution as outlined above, constitutional analysts have criticized the constitution based on the following reasons;

First, the makers of the constitution were non-elected representatives of Nigeria, nor were Nigeria consulted during the process of making the constitution.

Second, it was also criticized because it did not make any provisions for the Nigerian nationalities and politicians to contribute to the decision-making and Policies as the executive council were reserved for the Whites only.

 Third, it sowed a seed of division in amalgamated Nigeria because the Legislative Council was not allowed to legislate for the Northern part of the country, planning the force of the North or South dichotomy, which had affected the unity of Nigeria to date.


 However, it is a literary device to state that the word “repetition” calls for emphasis as the success of the Clifford Constitution of 1922 can be seen from the advantages above. Hence, the Clifford Constitution was successful to an extent because it gave room for Nigerians to participate in the Political activities of their country.

It was also the first written constitution in Nigeria which can be easily amended where necessary. Thus, it prevented the emergence of dictatorship and ensures the continuity and stability of an aspiring Nigeria which seeks her Independence.

 The Clifford Constitution of 1922 did little or nothing too insignificant to the constitutional development of Nigeria. Although, it can be said that the constitution laid the foundation for a colonized Nigeria during the 1920s to develop her constitution after attaining her independence in 1960.

Thus, it must be noted that the effect of the Clifford Constitution can be traced to this present-day Nigerian constitution, that is, the operation of a written constitution even though it was criticized.

The fact remains that the Clifford constitution of 1922 cannot be erased from the historic data of Nigeria’s past leaders during the colonial era and thus gave birth to the Richard Constitution of 1945.

HIS 302: Previous Article: HIS 302: HISTORY OF NIGERIA FROM 1900

Dr Afe Adedayo Emmanuel

AFE, Adedayo Emmanuel Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Department of History and International Studies Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria.