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The functions and powers of the Governor under the 1924 constitution of Sierra Leone

London Parliament England Ben Ben Westmins

Sir Governor Alexander Ransford Slater became the Governor of Sierra Leone on the 4th of May 1922. He replaced Sir Richard James Wilkinson. He remained in that position until September 1927. Ransford Slater was noted for the introduction of the 1924 constitution of Sierra Leone and the elective principle.

Appointment of government officials
One of the functions of the Governor was to appoint government officials to help him prosecute the policies of the metropolitan office in London. He was also given the powers to transfer the government officials from one portfolio to another portfolio or even to suspend or to dismiss them from their position.

Appointment of Judges
Another function of the Governor was to appoint judges to the various courts set up by the colonial powers. The judges were mandated to settle disputes that arose between one individual and another or between one group and the other.

Commander in Chief
The Governor was the commander in Chief of the local forces. He had the power to move troops into action to perform any duties he deemed important for the protection of the territorial area of the colony. He had the power to declare war over portions of the colony in order to restore peace or to maintain it.

Prerogative of mercy
The Governor had the power to pardon convicted criminals or anybody who was found to have broken the law, was duly tried and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He could do this on grounds of good conduct on the part of the prisoner or for health reasons. He could free a prisoner; reduce his or her sentence such as changing a death penalty to life imprisonment.

Grant lands
One of the powers of the Governor was to grant lands to people who needed it especially for commercial purposes.

Head of government
The Governor was the Head of Government. In other words, he was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the colony. He was assisted by the Heads of the various Departments he appointed.

Power of veto
The Governor had the veto power with which he could prevent a bill from being passed into law. He also possessed the power of certification with which he could force a bill to be passed even if the majority of the members of the Legislative Council were against it.

It is true that on the face of it the Governor possessed enormous powers under the 1924 constitution of Sierra Leone, however, there were certain limitations which kept him in check in the colonial days. Some of these are discussed below.

Limitation by Secretary of State
One of the limitations of the Governor was the Secretary of State for the colonies. Every year, the Governor had to dispatch a report to the secretary of State in London, detailing the activities of the previous year. He could also not undertake any major developmental projects without the express approval of the Secretary of State.

Metropolitan colonial policy
The Governor had to toe the line of the Metropolitan office in London. He could not do anything that was contrary to the policies of the British government. In this sense, he was limited by the powers of the government in London and the British parliament.

Limitations of his veto power
Any time the Government exercised his veto powers, he was required to inform the Secretary of State for the colonies, the circumstances under which he invoked the veto power. This limitation does not make him that powerful.

The Local Press
Another limitation on the powers and functions of the Governor was the local press. By this time, some local papers had sprung up and were expressing their views on goings on in the colony. The publications of these local papers could help to force the hand of the Governor to act in response to opinions expressed in the papers.

Public opinion in London
The opinion of the citizens in Britain also served as limitations on the powers of the Governor. The press in London and other cities of Britain may report on some of the things happening in the colony of Sierra Leone which the Londoners may find appalling. They could react to such news and the Governor would definitely be informed. This may compel him to amend his ways.

1. a. What were the functions and powers of the Governor under the 1924 constitution of Sierra Leone?
     b. In which four ways were these functions and powers controlled?

The main features of the 1947 constitution of Sierra Leone

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