The Lyttleton Constitution emerged from the decisions taken at the 1953 London and 1954 Lagos constitutional conferences. These decisions made up most of the new constitution which came into effect in January 1954.
Features of Lyttleton Constitution
- There was a central legislature with 184 representatives. Northern Region had 92 of these while East and West each had 42 members, with Southern Cameroons having six and Lagos, two. A speaker was elected from the members.
- The council of ministers comprised the governor-general who was the president, three official members, three ministers from each region and one minister from Southern Cameroons. All the ministers who were members of the house of representatives were appointed by the governor general as suggested by regional executives.
- The constitution retained bicameral legislatures (houses of chiefs and assembly) for the Northern and Western Regions and only the house of assembly for the Eastern Region. From 1955, members of the Eastern and Western houses of assembly were directly elected by universal suffrage, while both direct and indirect elections were used in the North.
- Revenue allocation focused on derivation rather than need and national interest.
- Lagos formally became federal capital (separated from Western Region), with the right to elect two representatives to the house of representatives.
- Members of the house of representatives were chosen through direct elections instead of through electoral colleges of the regional legislatures.
- The regions had greater autonomy to formulate policies and execute programmes while the centre focused on an exclusive list, including defence, external affairs, customs, banking and currency.
- The leader of the political party holding a majority in the regional assembly became premier of the region. Consequently, Sir Ahmadu Bello became the premier of Northern Region, Obafemi Awolowo, premier of Western Region and Nnamdi Azikiwe, premier of Eastern Region. These premiers advised the regional governor on the appointment of regional ministers.
- The speaker of the house of assembly was appointed by the governor from members or non-members of the house.
- The governor became known as governor-general while lieutenant-govemors were designated governors.
- The judiciary was regionalised.
- The public service was also regionalised, with different federal and regional public service commissions.
Merits of Lyttleton Constitution
- The constitution formally established federalism.
- It introduced direct elections into the federal and regional legislatures in Nigeria.
- There were premiers in the three regions who were Nigerians.
- It established the offices of speaker and deputy speaker, occupied by Nigerians, in the legislature.
- The constitution made the legislative houses at both the federal and regional levels functional and effective by granting them powers to make laws.
- The Lyttleton Constitution made ministers heads of departments, having full responsibilities for their ministries.
Demerits of Lyttleton Constitution
- The constitution still vested some autocratic powers on the governor-general and regional governors.
- The constitution made the British governor-general continue to be the chairman of the federal executive council, by failing to provide for the position of a prime minister who should be a Nigerian.
- It did not institute a common electoral system for the whole country.
- It instituted a revenue formula which worked on derivation instead of need and national interest.
- It failed to allay the fears of the minorities as the regional structure favoured the major ethnic groups, thus there was clamour for more regions.
- The regional structure encouraged regionalism, ethnicity and national disunity.