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Nigeria (Native Chiefs, Appointment)

Volume 393: debated on Wednesday 3 November 1943

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33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will give particulars respecting the Nigerian Ordinance vesting the chiefs with sole native authority; whether he is aware of apprehension among political and other bodies lest this abrogates traditional communal control of those chiefs; and whether he will sympathetically consider representations on the matter?

Authority to appoint chiefs as sole Native Authorities has in fact existed since 1916. The only difference which the 1943 Ordinance now introduces as compared with the position previously obtaining is that authority now exists for appointments as a native authority of a chief associated with a council. The Government is anxious to associate councils with chiefs wherever this is practicable. Although some of the unofficial members of the Legislative Council spoke against the provisions of the Bill referred to, all voted in favour of the Bill. I am not aware of any apprehension in the matter, but I am always ready to consider any representations which may be made through the Governor.

Is the Minister aware that to many applicants this represents a retrograde step, seeing that previously chiefs were appointed in relationship to democratic principles? This seems to abrogate those principles entirely.

The hon. Member must be under a misapprehention. Previously the position has been that it has always been possible to appoint a chief without a council. The only object of this new Ordinance is to make it possible to do what for some reason was not done beforeā€”to appoint a chief in association with a council. It is not a retrograde step but a progressive step.