Political Institutions during British Colonial Administration in Nigeria
The Secretary of State for the Colonies:
The office of the Secretary of State for the Colonies was established by the British government to supervise control and coordinate the activities of colonial administration and ensure the interest of the British is protected. The office was headed by the secretary of state for colonies who was a cabinet member, appointed to oversee the activities of the colony on behalf of the British Government.
Functions of Secretary of State for the Colonies
(i) The secretary was responsible for the appointment, transfer, redeployment and removal of governors.
(ii) He initiated and implemented colonial policies and programmes though subject to the approval of the British parliament.
(iii) He advised the governors on formulation of policies in their respective colonies.
(iv) He also issued regular orders and instructions to the governors on British Colonial Policies.
(v) He supervised the activities of the British colonies.
(vi) He was the link between the British government and the British colonial administration. He advised the British government on matters affecting the colonies.
(vii) He approved budgets prepared by the colonial governors for their territories.
(viii) In addition, he received delegation and petitions from the colonies on behalf of the Queen.
(ix) He approved draft constitutions prepared by the governors for their colonies.
(x) He controlled veto and certification powers of the governor.
(xi) He submitted annual reports about the colonies to the British Parliament.
(xii) He approved all major projects to be undertaken in the colonies and often chaired the constitutional conferences that led to their independence.
The Governor was the head of the British colonial administration in the colonial territory. He was appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. He resided in the colony and acted as the Head of State. The first Governor-General of Nigeria was Sir Fredrick Lugard (1914 – 1919), others were Sir Hugh Clifford (1919 – 1925), Sir Graeme Thompson, (1925 – 1932), Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon (1935 – 1943), Arthur Richard (1943 – 1948), Sir John Macpherson (1948 – 1955) and Sir James Robertson (1955 – 1960). First indigenous Governor-General, (Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (1960 – 1963).
Functions of Governor
(i) The governor exercised executive functions.
(ii) He presided over the legislative and executive councils.
(iii) He appointed members of the executive council and nominated the unofficial members of the legislative council.
(iv) The governor exercised veto and reserved powers over all issues.
(v) He had power to grant crown land
(vi) He performed legislative functions e.g proclamation, certification, ratification, etc. from 1922 – 1946 he legislated for the Northern protectorate through proclamation.
(vii) He appointed, disciplined and promoted public servants in his administration.
(viii) He gave assent to bills before they became laws.
(ix) He recommended changes in the constitution to the secretary of state for the colonies in colonial office in Britain.
(x) He had the power to reject or accept the advice of both legislative and executive functions.
(xi) He exercised the power of prerogative of mercy. He had the power to review judicial decisions.
(xii) He had the power to install and depose traditional rulers.
Functions of Governor-General
(i) The Governor – General was authorized to appoint the Prime Minister in the colony.
(ii) He appointed Ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.
(iii) He gave assent to bills passed by the Parliament into law.
(iv) He performed ceremonial functions.
(v) He could dismiss the Prime Minister and his cabinet through a vote of no confidence.
(vi) He had the power to dissolve, prorogue and summon the parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister.
(vii) He received credentials of dignitaries from other states to his country.
(viii) He addressed the parliament during the first Parliamentary session.
(ix) He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
(x) He exercised prerogative of mercy on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Native Authority
British Colonial Policy of Indirect rule used the native authorities, traditional political institutions to rule the people while the Residents and District officers supervised. Where traditional rulers were not available, warrant chiefs were appointed to fill the gap. Directives, Instructions, Orders from the colonial administration were passed to the people through their traditional rulers and appointed warrant chiefs (in Eastern Nigeria). Emirs, Obas, Warrant chiefs exercised the powers of Native Authority made use of their customs and traditions to rule the people. Their functions included:
(i) Maintenance of law and order in their community through ordinance.
(ii) Settled cases through the Native Authority Courts.
(iii) They collected taxes and the tributes from their people on behalf of the colonial administration.
(iv) They implemented directives and orders issued to them by the colonial administration.
(v) They controlled native treasuries.
The Legislative Council
In 1914, Lord Lugard established the Nigerian council which performed merely an advisory role. As provided by the 1922 constitution a legislative council was established with the official majority. This legislative council legislated only for southern Nigeria. The council performed an advisory role to the governor. By 1946, the legislative council which consisted of an unofficial majority legislated for the entire country. The legislative council from 1922 to 1951 had only four elected members. In 1951, the Legislative council was replaced with the House of Representatives. The Governor nominated European businessmen and African traditional rulers into the council instead of educated elites.
The governor could veto or reverse council decisions on some issue. The legislative council was mainly controlled by the official majority.
The Executive Council
British Colonial administration also established an executive council headed by the Governor to formulate and implement policies in the colony. The council also acted on political, economic, social, and security issues. The Executive council members were British officials. The Governor was also empowered to appoint other extraordinary members to obtain specialized advice. The council members coordinated the activities of various departments of the colonial government. All executive members were members of the legislative council. Nigerians (two) for the first time were appointed into the executive council as unofficial members.
Traditional rulers were the intermediaries through which British colonial administration ruled the people of West Africa. They excluded the educated elites from the administration. Other roles performed by the traditional rulers included:
(i) They motivated the people to accept colonial administration as the people initially revolted against colonialism.
(ii) They maintained law and order in their communities.
(iii) Their involvement in the administration helped to preserve the traditional political system.
(iv) House of chiefs took part in making law for the good governance of the territory.
(v) They settled disputes related to traditional laws and customs.
(vi) Traditional rulers also collected rate and taxes.
(vii) British Colonial administrator.