Virtual Kollage: The main features and problems of the 1924 Alexander Ransford Slater constitution of Sierra Leone

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The main features and problems of the 1924 Alexander Ransford Slater constitution of Sierra Leone


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THE FEATURES OF THE 1924 RANSFORD SLATER CONSTITUTION OF SIERRA LEONE
Introduction
Sir Governor Alexander Ransford Slater replaced Sir Richard James Wilkinson as the governor of Sierra Leone on 4th May 1922. By 1924, the new Governor had planned a new constitution for the colony which came into effect in the same year.

FEATURES OF THE 1924 CONSTITUTION
Legislative Council
The constitution made provisions for a Legislative Council like the previous one. However, in this new constitution, the membership was increased to 22 including the Governor himself. There were eleven official members and ten unofficial members. Of the ten unofficials, seven were nominated and three were elected from the colonies. The legislature was mandated to make laws for the smooth running of the colony of Sierra Leone.

Representation of Chieftaincy
Another feature of the constitution was the representation of the people of the protectorates by their chiefs. The constitution made provisions for Governor Slater to nominate three Paramount Chiefs from the protectorate to serve as members of the Legislative Council.

The Executive Council
The constitution also made provisions for an Executive Council. The Council was made up of majority of Europeans heading the various departments in the colony at the time and the Governor himself. The membership was seven including the Governor. Five of the members were officials and the other two were unofficials. The official members included the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, Colonial Secretary and the Commander of the Troops. Of the two unofficial members, one was a European African called Charles Heddle and the other was a Sierra Leonean called John Ezzidio.

NOTE: When some members are called officials, it simply means they became members by virtue of the portfolio they held in the administrative set up of the colony.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SLATER CONSTITUTION
Increase in membership of the Legislative Council
One significant improvement of the 1924 constitution over the previous one was that it increased the membership of the Legislative Council. Previously, there were eighteen members in the Legislative council but this was increased to twenty-one excluding the Governor.

Elective principle
Another significant thing about the constitution was that, for the first time, the elective principle was introduced in Sierra Leone. Under the constitution, three single-member constituencies were created, two of them were in the urban areas and one was in the rural area. For the first time, the people of the colony of Sierra Leone were given the opportunity to elect representatives into the Legislative Council.

Increased African Representation
Through the elective principle, three Africans were elected to serve on the Legislative Council. In addition to the elected Africans on the council, three Paramount Chiefs from the tribes of the Mende and the Temne were appointed by Governor Slater to serve on the council. In other words, the Africans were given a bigger voice in the running of the colony.

PROBLEMS WITH THE SLATER CONSTITUTION
The Governor’s veto powers
The Governor of the colony still retained his veto powers by which he could veto the decisions of the Legislative and the Executive councils. He could reject any bill from being passed into law. He also had the power of certification. This means he could force a bill to be passed into law even if the majority of the members were against it.

Limited Franchise
The constitution was hailed to have introduced the elective principle for the first time in Sierra Leone but it was not a universal suffrage. To be eligible to vote, one must have been an educated African. In addition, one must own property valued at 10 pounds if one lived in the urban area or 6 pounds if one lived in the rural area.

Advisory role of the Executive Council
Another problem with the constitution was that the Executive Council continued to play only an advisory role and therefore the Governor could have his way anytime he wanted to.

SAMPLE QUESTION(S)
1. a. What were the features of the 1924 Slater constitution of Sierra Leone?
    b. Mention any two significant aspects of the constitution.
    c. Highlight any three problems of the Slater constitution.


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