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Volume 65: debated on Thursday 30 July 1914

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any and, if so, what portion of the fees, rents, and royalties leviable under the Minerals Ordinance, 1913 (Nigeria), will be handed over to the native owners of the lands on which such fees, rents, and royalties are to be levied?

It is proposed to repeal the Ordinance in question and the draft of an Ordinance to replace it is under consideration. I am not in a position at present to say what the provisions of the law will be in respect to the matters referred to.


asked whether 107 prisoners were found to be detained in the prison in Northern Nigeria without any record being found of any conviction against them and that they had to be released; and, if so, how long these prisoners had been detained?

I have no information as to this alleged illegal detention of prisoners. If the hon. Member can give me any evidence of the occurrence of such cases, I will ask the Nigerian Government for a report upon them.


asked what section of the Provincial Courts Ordinance provides for the case of civil suits between the Government and the natives of Nigeria?

This is provided for by a separate Ordinance—Chapter 7 of the Laws of Southern Nigeria.


asked whether the Protectorate of Nigeria, with the exception of certain small areas not yet brought under British Government control, is in a state of unbroken peace and tranquility; and, if so, why the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court should not be extended to the whole Protectorate with the exception of the disturbed areas?

The satisfactory state of peace and tranquility does not demand the extension to the more backward territories of Nigeria of a system which has been shown to be manifestly unsuited to them, and to cause great delays and many abuses.


asked if the Nigerian Provincial Courts Ordinance is passed will there be any provision that a native accused of a crime involving a sentence of death or penal servitude will be entitled as of right of demand to be tried by a judge of the Supreme Court with a jury and assessors?

No such provision is contained in the Ordinance. The provisions for transfer of cases to the Supreme Court and those requiring the confirmation of the Governor in the case of the heavier penalties are considered sufficient.


asked if the Nigerian Provincial Courts Ordinance is passed will there be any provision that actions by or against a native wherein the Government is interested shall, on the request of the native or the Government, be tried by the Supreme Court, and not a Provincial Court presided over by an executive officer?

Suits by or against the Government will remain within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.


asked whether, considering the Supreme Court of Southern Nigeria has had jurisdiction over the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria for fourteen years, there is any urgency in the proposed legal changes; and whether the matter will be allowed to stand over till the wishes of the suitors and inhabitants could be taken and a Committee publicly inquire into the matter of the proposed changes?

It is only of recent years that the administration has been extended to large districts in the interior, to which the machinery of the Supreme Court has been found unsuitable. As I have already explained, the jurisdiction of the Court remains as before in the Colony and the principal centres of trade. There is no reason to delay the proposed legislation, which is advocated by all those who have adequate knowledge and experience.


asked whether the Supreme Court of Northern Nigeria did not try any criminal and only one civil cause during the fourteen years of its existence; and, if not, how many civil and criminal cases have been tried during that period?

I am not in a position to give this information without reference to the Governor-General of Nigeria. I will ask him for a report.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the revenue from Court fees in Southern Nigeria for 1912 was £103,000 and the judicial expenditure only £15,000; and whether he will consider the possibility of appointing additional puisne judges to the Supreme Court of Southern Nigeria, if it were necessary to strengthen the judiciary to meet the requirements of the amalgamation?

The figures quoted do not appear to correspond with any at my disposal. But I am advised that no additional puisne judges are required.


asked why African-British subjects in the Protectorate of Nigeria are to be placed under a different jurisdiction from African-British subjects in the Colony of Nigeria, the former under the Provincial and the latter under the Supreme Court; and whether the inhabitants of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and the southern province of the Protectorate of Nigeria, who' have up till now had the right to be tried by a judge and jury or assessors, will be deprived of this right by the Provincial Courts Ordinance?

The machinery of the Supreme Court is ill adapted to the needs or the inhabitants in the interior, who are mostly in a somewhat primitive stage of development; but the Court will have jurisdiction in the Colony and also in all the important centres of trade in the Protectorate. Trial by jury has never been in force outside the Colony, and this will remain unchanged. Trials, with assessors, are provided for in the Protectorate under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.