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The Lyttleton Constitution of 1954

As we have seen Nigeria has gone to several British constitutions such as we have discussed above; to therefore reveal such would be cumbersome.

Nigeria nationalists felt it was time for self-government, one Mr Anthony Enahoro introduced a private bill in a conference held in Lagos stating that Nigeria should look forward to obtaining their political independence by 1956, it was opposed by the Northerners, this led to conflict, and the case was taken to the Colonial Secretary of State known as Oliver Lyttleton, then he announced that Macpherson constitution would be withdrawn to provide greater autonomy, and in determining effort to resolve the issues.

Conferences were held in London and Lagos, and the decision and resolutions of these conferences were embodied in the 1954 Lyttleton constitution.


The major achievement of the Lyttleton constitution was federalism. Federalism can be defined as the constitutional division of power among the tiers of government, or levels of government such as the Federal, state and local levels, introducing the exclusive concurrent list and residual list, and regional autonomy.

The 1954 constitution also increased the membership of the central legislature to 184 members; the Northern region had 92 seats, the Eastern region had 42 seats, the Western region had 42 seats, Southern Cameroun had 6 seats and Lagos had 2 seats.

The election was to take place every 5 years. The old practice was abolished; the new system provided that Ministers to the Central Executive council would be appointed by the leader of the Political party that gained the majority of the seat.

Interestingly, for the first time in the country’s political history, Ministerial responsibilities were allocated to each of the Federal Ministers 

 The Police and Judiciary were also regionalized and an electoral commission and conduct of the election were established. Importantly, the post of a Premier, the constitution provided for the post of a Premier as the leader of the government in the regions.

The leaders of the political party with the majority in the regional Assemblies became the Premier; Nnamdi Azikwe Premier for the East, Ahmadu Bello Premier for the Northern Parties and for the West we had Obafemi Awolowo.

Also, elections into the Eastern, Western and Central Legislatures became direct with the introduction of indirect election by adult male suffrage in the North. 

More so, Lagos was removed from the western region and made a federal capital territory. In addition, Supreme Court was established for the country.


    Despite its apparent popularity at the material, the 1954 constitution still had it critics who claimed that despite the fact that it solved some constitution problems it created new problems.

They insisted that the constitution by creating, re-establishing, and strengthening regionalism had succeeded in creating three near autonomous regions and in the process what was left of a single Nigeria Nation.

They also claimed that the regions only satisfied the majority that is the WAZOBIA, resolving into the domination of the minority group by the majority.

The constitution also had some demerits and shortcomings such as the lack of provision of the prime minister’s office, the constitution had the council of ministers without a prime minister.

Also, the constitution lacked a uniform electoral system the north had a different electoral system for adult male suffrage while the East, West, and Central legislature was a direct election based on universal adult suffrage. 

The supreme power even though it was established it lacked the power to entertain appellate cases in Nigeria, also it was not it highest court in the country.

Lyttleton constitution was one of the best constitutions but could not be said to be satisfactory and perfect, but the constitution of 1954 paved the way for the independence of the country, thanks to the early nationalist who fought tirelessly, they turn out to be less selfish, a lot more human, mature, focus and visibly more tolerant than those who succeeded them at the end of the first republic and the years that followed. The independence constitution was the immediate successor of this constitution in 1960.


 So far constitutional development in Nigeria has been discussed up to 1954. The different factors that contributed to the failure of one and the introduction of another were fully exhausted.

The demerit, including critics of these constitutions, were submitted not only to create a vacuum of imperfections but also to ascertain that if one is not faulty, the introduction of another would not be expedient and thus creating room for further debate on constitutional politics.

What have been submitted above is relatively identical. Most of these constitutions left us with a landmark on the soil of historical and political Nigeria.

The general overview would be, if contemporary Nigeria is still governed by the use of a written constitution, properly stating the distribution of power, check and balances, rule of law, revenue allocation and so on, then the source of this phenomenon must be duly appreciated.

This and other reasons such as lessons on constitutional issues, awareness of the political past, and information for policy making among others, have in fact given birth to this astute work.

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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.