HC Deb 19 May 1960 vol 623 cc134-7W
Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about his discussions with Nigerian Ministers.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The Prime Minister of the Federation of Nigeria, the Regional Premiers, the President of the Senate and other Federal and Regional representatives met in London from the 10th May to 19th May for talks with United Kingdom Ministers on outstanding matters connected with the advent of Nigerian independence on the 1st October, 1960. The talks covered points arising on the drafting of the independence constitution and other subjects and led to complete agreement.

I was able to inform the Nigerian representatives that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers had on 9th May agreed that when Nigeria became independent she would become a full member of the Commonwealth. The Nigerian delegations expressed, their warm appreciation of this decision.

In considering the draft Independence Constitution we also considered several points of principles relating to the constitution of the individual Regions. Agreement was reached on the way in which decisions of the various Constitutional Conferences would be incorporated in the Constitutions for independence. It was agreed that as regards the provisions relating to the appointment of the Governor-General and the Regional Governors, and the powers previously exercised by the Governor-General and the Governors in discretion, it would be appropriate in the conditions of independence for the relevant powers to be exercised on the advice of Ministers. It was also agreed that the right of appeal to the Privy Council would be retained after independence except in the case of election petitions and that the Federal Legislature of independent Nigeria would be known as Parliament. It was further agreed that where it was not appropriate for previous decisions of the Constitutional Conferences to be incorporated in the Constitution the understandings recorded in the Reports of the Conferences would be recognised as a statement of intent.

Further drafting work remains to be done and arrangements were agreed for further consultations in Nigeria as necessary.

The meeting was also advised of the provisions proposed to be incorporated in the United Kingdom Bill conferring independence on Nigeria.

The Minister of Defence and I had discussions with Nigerian Federal Ministers, the Regional Premiers and the President of the Senate regarding the proposed Defence Agreement which had been first discussed in 1958. The results of these discussions were reported to a plenary meeting and I spoke as follows: —

"In paragraph 84 of the Report of the 1958 Conference one condition, and only one, was specified for the grant of independence to Nigeria and that was that the newly elected Federal Parliament early in 1960 should pass a resolu- tion asking for independence. That resolution was duly passed.

As was recorded in paragraph 83 of the Report of the 1958 Conference, the Federal Prime Minister and the Premiers were then at one with H.M.G. in believing that there would be mutual advantage to Britain and Nigeria in co-operating in the field of defence. We have now discussed this question in more detail, and have reached complete understanding. Each country will afford the other assistance in mutual defence. The United Kingdom will give Nigeria help in training, equipment and supplies. The United Kingdom and Nigerian Governments will give each other staging facilities for aircraft in their respective territories. The two countries do not seek for this purpose any concession of land but are perfectly content to rely on each others goodwill. I would emphasise that there is no intention of establishing a British base in Nigeria or for that matter in the Cameroons.

There remain a number of technical details which require further discussion between officials. It is hoped that this will take place within the next few weeks. The proposed Agreement will then be published and we have agreed that after independence it should be laid before the Federal Parliament. It will not be signed until after independence and will not come into force until ratified by both Governments. In the case of Nigeria this will involve a resolution being passed in both Federal Houses approving its terms."

The Prime Minister of the Federation of Nigeria endorsed this statement.

There was an exchange of views on the Cameroons under British Trusteeship which, in accordance with the Resolution of the United Nations, would be separated from Nigeria when Nigeria became independent. It was noted that the question in the plebiscites to be held early in 1961 posed a choice between joining Nigeria or joining the Republic of Cameroun. It was agreed that, if the Southern Cameroons joined Nigeria it would, as stated in paragraph 70 of the 1958 Conference Report, be with the status of a fully self-governing Region equal in all respects with the other Regions. If the Northern Cameroons joined Nigeria it would form part of the Northern Region with the new Divisions and local Government arrangements introduced on the 1st April, 1960. It was hoped to ascertain from the Government of the Republic of the Cameroun the terms on which the Northern or Southern Cameroons would enter the Republic.

It was also noted that the Nigerian military forces at present in the Southern Cameroons would be withdrawn by the 1st October, 1960. I stated that should it be necessary for the defence and internal security of the territory, they would be replaced by United Kingdom forces.

On the 16th May Nigerian Ministers also met the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations for a discussion on the arrangements for technical assistance after independence. The Nigerian Ministers welcomed the intention of the United Kingdom to provide technical assistance and it was agreed that officials should discuss detailed questions.

On the 17th May Nigeria and United Kingdom Ministers signed an agreement for a Commonwealth Assistance loan of £12 million by the United Kingdom to Nigeria. The agreement will operate from the 1st October, 1960.

Back to