Monarchy of Nigeria (1960–1963)

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Queen of Nigeria
StyleHer Majesty
Formation1 October 1960
Abolition1 October 1963

From 1960 to 1963, Nigeria was a sovereign state and an independent constitutional monarchy. Nigeria shared the monarch with Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and certain other sovereign states. The monarch's constitutional roles were mostly delegated to the governor-general of Nigeria.

Elizabeth II was the only monarch to reign during this period. As such, she was officially titled Queen of Nigeria.

The monarchy was abolished on 1 October 1963, when Nigeria adopted a president as its head of state.


External videos
Princess Alexandra representing the Queen at the independence celebrations at Lagos, 1 October 1960
Princess Alexandra representing the Queen at the independence celebrations at Lagos, 1 October 1960
video icon Princess Alexandra Declares Nigeria Independent (1960) Source: British Pathé.

The Federation of Nigeria had superseded the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria within the British Empire on 1 October 1954. The Federation was initially a quasi-federal British colony. It became independent as a dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 October 1960 under the Parliament of the United Kingdom's Nigeria Independence Act 1960.[1]

Princess Alexandra of Kent represented the Queen at the independence celebrations. She flew to Lagos on 26 September 1960, and was welcomed in Nigeria by a crowd of tens of thousands of people.[2] On 1 October, the Princess presented Nigeria's instrument of independence, also known as the Freedom Charter, to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who became the Prime Minister.[3] On 3 October, the Princess formally opened the first federal parliament of independent Nigeria, on behalf of the Queen, before an assembly of people and diplomats.[4] Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, President of the Nigerian senate and Governor-General-designate, addressed the Princess, asking her to open Parliament by reading the Speech from the Throne.[5][6] The Princess later took a state drive through Lagos, saying an official farewell to Nigerians.[7]

The Queen sent a message to Nigerians, which said:[8]

My husband and I return the happiest of memories of our visit to Nigeria, and our thoughts are with you on this memorable day. As you assume the heavy responsibility of independence, I send my good wish for a great and noble future. It is with special pleasure that I welcome you to our Commonwealth family of Nations. ... May God bless and guide your country through the years to come.

Constitutional role[edit]

The flag of the Nigerian Governor-General featuring the St Edward's Crown

Nigeria was one of the realms of the Commonwealth of Nations that shared the same person as Sovereign and head of state.[9]

Effective with the Nigeria Independence Act 1960, no British government minister could advise the sovereign on any matters pertaining to Nigeria, meaning that on all matters of Nigeria, the monarch was advised solely by Nigerian ministers.[10][11] All Nigerian bills required Royal assent. The monarch was represented in the Federation by the Governor-General of Nigeria, who was appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Nigerian Prime Minister.[1] After independence, the monarch held her sovereignty in virtue of her "Nigerian Crown", and acted on the advice of the Nigerian Government.[12]

The Crown and Government[edit]

The Government of Nigeria was officially known as Her Majesty's Government.[1]

The monarch, the Senate, and the House of Representatives constituted the Parliament of Nigeria.[13] All executive powers of Nigeria rested with the sovereign.[14] All laws in Nigeria were enacted only with the granting of Royal Assent, done by the Governor-General on behalf of the sovereign.[15] The Governor-General could reserve a bill "for the Queen's pleasure"; that is withhold his consent to the bill and present it to the sovereign for her personal decision; or he could veto it completely by withholding his assent therefrom.[16] The Governor-General was also responsible for summoning, proroguing, and dissolving Parliament.[17] The Governor-General had the power to choose and appoint the Council of Ministers and could dismiss them under his discretion. All Nigerian ministers held office at the pleasure of the Governor-General.[18]

The Crown and Foreign affairs[edit]

The Royal Prerogative also extended to foreign affairs: the sovereign or the governor-general conducted treaties, alliances and international agreements on the advice of the Nigerian Cabinet. Nigerian representatives abroad were accredited to foreign countries by the monarch in her capacity as Queen of Nigeria.[1] The governor-general, on behalf of the Queen, also appointed Nigerian high commissioners, ambassadors, and similar principal representatives, and received similar diplomats from foreign states.[19] The letters of credence were formerly issued by the monarch.[20]

The Crown and the Courts[edit]

Within the Commonwealth realms, the sovereign is responsible for rendering justice for all her subjects, and is thus traditionally deemed the fount of justice.[21] In Nigeria, criminal offences were legally deemed to be offences against the sovereign and proceedings for indictable offences were brought in the sovereign's name in the form of The Queen versus [Name].[22] Hence, the common law held that the sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted in her own courts for criminal offences.[23] The highest court of appeal for Nigeria was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and criminal prosecution was instituted in the monarch's name.[1] The monarch, and by extension the governor-general, could also grant immunity from prosecution, exercise the royal prerogative of mercy, and pardon offences against the Crown, either before, during, or after a trial.[24]

Federal and provincial aspects[edit]

Nigeria's monarchy was federal,[25] with four legal jurisdictions—one federal and three provincial—with the monarch taking on a distinct legal persona in each.[26]

The Queen of Nigeria was represented by the Governor-General at the federal level, and by Governors in the three regions: Northern, Western, and Eastern. The Governors and the Governor-General were appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Nigerian Premiers and the Nigerian Prime Minister respectively.[1][25][27]


The Royal Style and Titles Act, 1961 of the Nigerian Parliament granted the monarch a separate title in her role as Queen of Nigeria.[28]

Elizabeth II had the following styles in her role as the monarch of Nigeria:

  • 1 October 1960 – 1 June 1961: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith[29][28][30]
  • 1 June 1961 – 1 October 1963: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Nigeria and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth[28][30]

Colloquially, the Queen was referred to as Oba Obirin (Yoruba: King Lady) by the people of Nigeria.[31]

Oath of allegiance[edit]

In Nigeria, the oath of allegiance required a person to swear or affirm that he would be "faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, according to law", while for the oath of office he had to swear that he would "well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second in the Office of _______".[32]

Cultural role[edit]

The Crown and Honours[edit]

Within the Commonwealth realms, the monarch is deemed the fount of honour.[33][34] Similarly, the monarch, as Sovereign of Nigeria, conferred awards and honours in Nigeria in her name. Most of them were awarded on the advice of "Her Majesty's Nigerian Ministers".[35][36][37][38]

The Crown and the Defence Force[edit]

The monarch was the commander-in-chief of Nigerian Armed Forces.[1]

The Crown sat at the pinnacle of the Nigerian Defence Force. It was reflected in Nigeria's naval vessels, which bore the prefix HMNS, i.e., Her Majesty's Nigerian Ship.[39] The Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Navy were known as the "Royal Nigerian Army", and the "Royal Nigerian Navy" respectively.[40][1] The prefix "Royal" was dropped when the monarchy was abolished.[41]


Queen Elizabeth II (left) with Saidu Samaila Sambawa in Nigeria, 2003

The monarchy was unpopular with Nigerians and all political parties in Nigeria agreed that the country should be a republic.[1] Nigeria adopted the president of Nigeria as head of state, on 1 October 1963,[1] when the Federation of Nigeria became the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Queen sent a message to the new President Azikiwe, which said:

As Nigeria becomes a republic, I send you, Mr. President, and to all the people of Nigeria my sincere good wishes for success and prosperity. During the past years I have shared in the hopes and aspirations of your great nation. I have the happy memories of the warmth and splendour of your hospitality and the many friends I made when I visited Nigeria. I am sure that in the future the common memories of our long association will strengthen and increase the friendship of our countries as fellow members of the Commonwealth. I wish you all good fortune in the years to come, and pray for your country's successful achievement of the great tasks you have undertaken.[42]

Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria twice: 28 January–16 February 1956 and 3–6 December 2003, the latter time to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2003.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chika B. Onwuekwe (2003). "Constitutional Development, 1914–1960: British Legacy or Local Exigency?". In Adebayo Oyebade (ed.). The Foundations of Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola. Africa World Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 1-59221-120-8.
  2. ^ African World Annual: Volume 56, African World, 1960, p. 39
  3. ^ Hyacinth Kalu (2011), The Nigerian Nation and Religion.: (Interfaith Series, Vol. I)., p. 4, ISBN 9781462029471
  4. ^ Walter Phelps Hall, Robert Greenhalgh Albion, Jennie Barnes Pope (1965), A History of England and the Empire-Commonwealth, Blaisdell Publishing Company, p. 707{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "NIGERIAN INDEPENDENCE". AP Archive. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  6. ^ Federal Nigeria: Volumes 1-5, Consulate General of Nigeria, p. 12
  7. ^ The Independent Nigeria, Pacific Printers, 1960, p. 158
  8. ^ Ifeoha Azikiwe (2013), Nigeria, Echoes of a Century: 1914-1999, p. 146, ISBN 9781481729260
  9. ^ Nigerian Legislature: Historical survey of Nigerian governmental system: 1960-1993, Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, 1997, p. 1, ISBN 9789782078797
  10. ^ Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 72. ISBN 9780905838793.
  11. ^ A. Toriola Oyewo, Ademola Yakubu (1998), Constitutional Law in Nigeria, Jator Pub., p. 26, ISBN 9789782660367, By S. 78 of the Constitution, executive authority was vested in the Queen as Head of State but she acted on the advice of Nigerian Ministers.
  12. ^ Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 73. ISBN 9780905838793.
  13. ^ "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA" (PDF). p. 28. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  14. ^ "The Nigerian Constitution: History and Development", Oluwole Idowu Odumosu, Sweet & Maxwell, p. 194, 1963
  15. ^ "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA" (PDF). p. 37. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  16. ^ Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 54. ISBN 9780905838793.
  17. ^ "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA" (PDF). p. 41. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  18. ^ "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA" (PDF). p. 50. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  19. ^ Proposals for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Adopted by the All Party Constitutional Conference Held in Lagos on July 25 and 26, 1963, Federation of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Information, Print. Division, 1963, p. 7
  20. ^ Dennis Chukude Osadebay (1978), Building a Nation: An Autobiography, Macmillan Nigeria, p. 140, ISBN 9789781322662
  21. ^ Davis, Reginald (1976), Elizabeth, our Queen, Collins, p. 36, ISBN 9780002112338
  23. ^ Halsbury's Laws of England, volume 12(1): "Crown Proceedings and Crown Practice", paragraph 101
  24. ^ "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA" (PDF). p. 54-55. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  25. ^ a b Afrika-Instituut, Petoria (1963), Bulletin: Volume 1, p. 16, Nigeria is, at present, a federal constitutional monarchy with the Queen as Head of State, represented in Nigeria by a Governor-General and by Governors in the three Regions.
  26. ^ Proceedings of the National Conference on Nigeria Since Independence, Zaria, March 1983: Political development, Panel on Nigeria Since Independence History Project, 1984, p. 414, Nigeria's sovereignty was divided between three Regional Governments and a Federal One. Because, the Queen was an absent sovereign, she was represented in Nigeria by a Governor-General at the centre and by Governors in the regions.
  27. ^ A. Toriola Oyewo, Ademola Yakubu (1998), Constitutional Law in Nigeria, Jator Pub., p. 26, ISBN 9789782660367
  28. ^ a b c Royal Styles and Title Act, 1961, quoted in Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 86. ISBN 0-905838-79-3.
  29. ^ "No. 39873". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 May 1953. p. 3023.
  30. ^ a b "Nigeria: Heads of State: 1960-1963". Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  31. ^ British Pathè (1956). "Queen Arrives In Lagos (1956)". Retrieved 6 July 2021 – via YouTube.
  32. ^ Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 78. ISBN 9780905838793.
  33. ^ Benjamin Obi Nwabueze (1982). A Constitutional History of Nigeria. C. Hurst & Co. p. 75. ISBN 9780905838793.
  34. ^ Commonwealth Journal: The Journal of the Royal Commonwealth Society · Volumes 12-14, Royal Commonwealth Society, 1969, p. 99
  35. ^ "No. 40673". The London Gazette (5th supplement). 30 December 1955. p. 49.
  36. ^ "No. 42234". The London Gazette (4th supplement). 27 December 1960. p. 8931.
  37. ^ Federation of Nigeria Official Gazette (PDF), 1 January 1962
  38. ^ Federation of Nigeria Official Gazette (PDF), 2 June 1962
  39. ^ Nelson Bossman Soroh (2001), A Sailor's Dream: Autobiography of Rear Admiral Nelson Bossman Soroh, Crucible Publishers, p. 175
  40. ^ Charles Mwalimu (2005), The Nigerian Legal System: Private law, Volume 2, P. Lang, p. 985, ISBN 9780820471266
  41. ^ Internal Security Management in Nigeria: Perspectives, Challenges and Lessons, Springer Singapore, 2019, p. 410, ISBN 9789811382154
  42. ^ African World, African Publications, 1963, p. 4
  43. ^ "Commonwealth visits since 1952". Official website of the British monarchy. Royal Household. Retrieved 8 November 2015.