Government Notes

The McPherson Constitution of 1951 – Features, Achievements and Weakness


The weakness of the Richard’s Constitution and the imperial powers due to anti- colonial activities, and the de- mystification 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The colony of Lagos was part of the Western region.
  • The three provinces were renamed, Western, Eastern and Northern regions.
  • 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 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 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 spokes men 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 a 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.


  • Mention 5 features of the Macpherson’s Constitution.
  • What were the weaknesses of the Macpherson’s Constitution?

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