Richards Constitution of 1946 was created due to the shortcomings of Clifford Constitution of 1922. The purpose of the constitution was to adequately represent the diverse elements of the country and to secure greater participation of Africans in discussing their own affairs.
Bernard Bourrdillon the predecessor of Richard, made efforts at creating Nigerian unity, he devised a scheme of regional assemblies whose decisions were to be submitted to the central legislative council for determination. The idea was to breach the gap created in the Northern Province, which has no representatives in that council. Bourdillon could be seen as the architect of the 1946 constitution.
Governor Richards succeeded Bernard Bourdillon and started the formulation of new constitution known as Richards Constitution of 1946. The constitution proposed for a legislative council for the whole country, regional councils for the three regions, introduction of indirect representation through native authorities and House of Assembly of the regions to the legislative council, and African majority in the legislature.
The Richard constitution of 1946 was designed to promote national unity and participation of Africans in their own affairs. The 1946 constitution provided for a new legislative council for the whole country. The council was made of the governor as president, sixteen officials and twenty eight unofficial.
The official members comprised of thirteen ex-officio and three nominated members while the unofficial members were made up of four elected and twenty-four nominated or indirectly elected members. The four elected members were from Lagos and Calabar.
A very important feature of the 1946 constitution was that members from Northern Nigeria and members from Southern Nigeria sat together for the first time in the council. Two official and nine unofficial members represented Northern Nigeria. Western Nigeria was represented by two officials and six unofficial and Eastern Nigeria by two officials and five unofficial members.
The special features of the 1946 constitution are the incorporation of the native authority structure in selecting unofficial members of the legislative council. The people’s representatives were given the opportunity of taking part in the work of government.
Richards constitution of 1946 solved the problem of legislating for the North by proclamation. A central legislature was created in which all the regions were being represented. The constitution also created regional assemblies in the Northern, Western and Eastern regions.
In the Northern region, the constitution provided for two chambers – a House of Chiefs and House of Assembly. For Eastern and Western regions, there was only one chamber, the House of Assembly in each. The regional assemblies submitted their deliberations to the Central Legislature for final approval.
The constitution was later criticized on different grounds. It was criticized that the regional assemblies sharpened and intensified regional diversities, which made national unity a mirage. Although supporters of the regional system argued that it allowed regions to develop at its own pace with regards to the differences in education and religion.
Secondly, the representation and delegates at the legislative council were handpicked from among the native authorities. The constitution did nothing to advance the principle of election which was still confined to Lagos and Calabar nor did it emphasize the income requirement for election. Franchise remained the same although income requirement was reduced from £100 to £50 in the case of election to the legislative council.
Thirdly, the governor had supreme control over the legislative council. Thus he could approve or disapprove of the resolution of the council. The relationship of the governor to the executive council remained the same; it had only one African unofficial member and eleven Europeans.
Fourthly, there was no division of power between the legislature and the executive councils. The allocation of revenue to the regions was a matter for the governor to decide and not through constitutional provision. As a result of the lapses, the legislative council was seen as a mere advisory body.
The Nigerian nationalist canvassed against the constitution and its obnoxious ordinances. They claimed that Nigerians were not consulted before the constitution was drafted. The campaign against the enforcement of the constitution according to Justice Udoma was spearheaded by NCNC under the leadership of Herbert Macaulay.
The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroun toured the whole country and raised fund to send delegation to London to protest against the constitution. Among the distinguished delegates were Dr. Olorum Nninbe, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, Chief Nijogn Essien and Buka Dipcharima. The secretary of states for colonies Mr. Creech Jones merely advised the leaders to return home and co-operate with the administration.
There was no effective change of the constitution, but the 1951 constitution incorporated some of the grievances of the nationalist.