The London Conference and the Lyttleton Constitution

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After the colonial rule of John Macpherson, Lyttleton stepped up with his constitution and began to rule Nigeria in the year of 1954. I hope that you can recall from my former article that some conferences were held to remedy the Nigerian citizens and enable them to be part of the affairs of the country. One of those conferences was the London Conference which was held in 1953. Lets look into today's topic.


Following the breakdown of Macpherson constitution, a constitutional conference was called for in London by the Secretary of States, Oliver Littleton, between 30th July and August, 1953. The aim of the conference was for a new constitution that would grant greater autonomy to the regions without much interruptions from the center.

Delegates to the Conference

The delegates were 19 in number, distributed as follows;

1. 6 from each of the 3 regions.

2. 1 from Cameroun.

3. 1 person from N.C.N.C (Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe)

4. 1 person from the Action Group (Chief Obafemi Awolowo)

5. 1 person from the N.P.C (Sir Ahmadu Bello, the sarduana of Sokoto)

and 6. 39 Advisers.

Terms of Reference to the Conference

The terms of reference were, to;

1. Identify the defects of Macpherson constitution.

2. Consider changes required to remedy these defects.

3. Consider the steps required to put the changes into effect.

4. Consider the question of independence in 1956.

Resolutions of the Conference

The conference then resolved that;

1. There should be a federal system of government with functions divided into Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual lists.

2. Lieutenant-Governors were to be called Governors while the Governor were to be called Governor-General.

3. A separate region to be created for the southern Cameroun.

4. Lagos was to be neutralized and separated from western region as a federal territory.

5. Britain was to grant self-government to desiring regions.


The Lyttleton constitution was the outcome of the London conference of 1953 and ushered in a true federal structure in Nigeria. It provided for the Council of

Ministers, Central legislature and division of powers between the centre and the regions.

Features of Lyttleton Constitution

1. The constitution classified government powers into three namely; the Exclusive, Concurrent and residual powers. Exclusive list was for the central government alone, Concurrent list was for centre and the regions while Residual list of powers was for the regional government alone.

2. A true federal system of government with the region as unit was introduced by the constitution.

3. It provided for a three-regional federal structure for Nigeria.

4. Lagos was made the federal capital territory independent of western region.

5. A Court of Appeal was set up in each region.

6. The membership of the House of Representatives was increased from 148-184 with members directly elected by the electorate.

7. Legislative and Executive Councils were established in each region.

8. Eastern region was granted bi-cameral legislature.

9. Posts of the regional Premiers were created for each region.

10.There were no uniform electoral laws for all the regions.

Merits of Lyttleton Constitution

1. Federalism came into actual existence in Nigeria by division of powers across the tires of government.

2. It introduced direct election into the political system.

3. It attracted the first General elections in 1954.

4. The Governors and Governor-General were removed from the legislature.

5. Office of the Premier were established for effective governance at the regions.

6. There was proper division of functions into exclusive, concurrent and residual lists.

Demerits/Weaknesses of the Constitution

1. The constitution had no provision for the Prime Minister at the centre, therefore, the Governor-General controlled the Council of Ministers.

2. There was no uniform electoral law as each region made its own laws.

3. Official members were retained at central and regional legislature.

4. There was no provision for second chamber at the centre.

5. The Governors and Governor-General still retained their veto powers and could still legislate for the governance of the country.


Resolutions of the Conference

1. The East and West were to become self-governing in 1957, while the north will become self-governing in 1959.

2. The House of Representative was to be increased from 184-320 members.

3. Office of the Prime Minister was created at the centre.

4. The un-cameral legislature was retained at the centre.

5. Delimitation of the country into constituencies was approved and the country was to be divided into 320 single member constituencies.

6. A permanent electoral commission was to be set up.

7. Southern Cameroun was regionalised with their own Premier but Northern

Cameroun wanted to remain part of Nigeria.

Another conference was held in 1958 so let us look at it briefly.


The aim of this conference was to give finishing touches for Nigeria`s independence.

Resolutions of the Conference

1. A long list of Fundamental Human Rights was drawn to be entrenched the constitution to allay the fears of the minority.

2. October 1, 1960 was accepted for as the Independence Day for Nigeria.

3. Procedure for amending the constitution and altering regional boundaries were also to be entrenched in the constitution.

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