Government Under the Crown Colony System

Functions and Powers of the Governor Under the Crown Colony System

Under the Crown Colony system of administration, the Colonial Governor was appointed by the British Crown but this is based on the recommendations of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The governor resided in the colony and was mainly responsible for the day-to-day administration of the colony. The functions of the governor included:

1. Formulates and implements policies

One of the functions of the Colonial Governor was to formulate and implement policies for the development of the colony and ultimately for the interest of the British government. He also ensures that he carries out the day-to-day administration of the colony.

2. Prerogative of Mercy

Another function of the the Governor was to exercise the royal prerogative of mercy. In other words, the Governor, the only representative of the British Crown in the colony, could pardon a convicted criminal, commit a death penalty to life imprisonment or release those who have serves more than half of their jail term.

3. Appointment of members of the Executive Council

Also, the governor as the head of the Executive Council, had the power to appoint all the members of the Council.

4. Appointed officials

The governor had the power to appoint people worked in the colonial Civil Service. He also appointed Senior members heading the various departments and agencies. The Governor also had the power to promote officials, to transfer them or even dismiss them when they fall foul of the tenets of their engagement.

5. Power of veto

The power of veto gives the Governor the power to reject any legislation emanating from the Legislative Council if he does not support it. The power of Certification, on the other hand, allowed him to pass into law, a bill that has been rejected by majority of the members of the Legislative Council. 

6. Accent to legislation

Another function of the colonial Governor was to to accent to legislation by the Legislative Council before it could become effective. was subject to the Governors assent, which could be withheld at his discretion.

Limitations of the Governor

1. Follow policy guideline

One of the limitations to the powers of the Governor was that he could never deviate from the policy direction of the colonial office in London. He had to ensure that he toed the official line. Any attempt to sideline official policy guidelines was met with swift resistance.

2. Annual report

The governor was required to prepare an annual report and submit same to the office of the Secretary of State for the colonies. In this report, the Governor detailed all his activities in the previous year. The Secretary of State could question him on any aspect of the report with he finds a problem of a breech.

3. Powers of the Secretary of State

Though the Governor had the power to use his veto, anytime he did, he had to inform the Secretary of State about the grounds on which exercised the veto. Apart form that, where the Secretary of State felt compelled by circumstances on the ground, he could override the Governor’s veto power.

4. Approval major civil works

The Governor needed to seek the approval of the Secretary of State before any major public works could be undertaken in the colony.

5. Executive and Legislative Council

The Executive and the Legislative Council could advise the Governor on certain aspects of his administrative work. Though the governor could discard their advice, nonetheless, it served as a check on the exercise of his powers.

6. Petition by the locals

Another limitation on the powers of the Governor was that the natives right to petition the colonial office in London against some of his policies. When the petition is upheld, the particular policy had to be withdrawn completely, or modified.

Functions of the Legislative Council Under the Crown Colony System

As part of the administrative structure of the British colonies, a provision was made for a Legislative Council. The council was made up of Senior British officials heading the various departments and other special interests, such as mines, commerce, banking and industries. 

The Council was made up of two types of members. There were official members heading the various departments in the colony and there were also unofficial members who did not head any departments. The Legislative Council was headed by the Governor and their functions included:

1. Made Laws

One of the functions of the Legislative Council was to help the Governor in making laws for the administration of the colony. The laws that were passed were referred to as Ordinances.

2. Amend Laws

Another function of the Legislative Council was the power to amend ordinances. The Council also had the power to alter any administrative policies of the Executive Council if it felt that the policy was not going to inure to the benefit of the colony or its masters in London.

3. Measures public opinion

Public opinion is defined as the views of a people on a particular issue at a particular time. The Legislative Council served as a place the views of the people are expressed though the people in the Council. Therefore, the colonial administration is able to ascertain the opinions of the public on very important issues of colonial interest.

4. Discussed Budget

Another function of the Legislative Council debated the annual budget of the colonial territory before it was sent to the Secretary of State for the colonies for approval.

Limitations to the Powers of the Legislative Council

1. Governor’s veto power

One of the limitations to the powers of the Legislative Council was the Governor’s veto power. The veto power meant that the Governor could prevent a law from being passed if he disagreed with it. He also had the power of certification which gave him the power to force a bill in law if he felt it was necessary. These powers constituted a limitation to the powers and functions of the Legislative Council.  

2. Limited scope

The jurisdiction of the Legislative Council was limited to only the coastal areas of the Gold Coast. The activities and laws of the Legislative Council did not extend to the Ashanti and the Northern territories. t was the Governor who was responsible for the direct adminstration of those territories.

3. Colonial Validity Act of 1865

Another limitation of the Legislative Council was the passage of the Colonial Validity Act of 1865. Under this law, the British crown was granted the power to declare null and void any law made in the colony which violated natural justice or was not in consonance with British law.

4. Governor’s casting vote

Again, the powers of the Legislative Council is limited by the Governor’s casting vote. Whenever there was a tie in the votes cast in the Legislative Council over a policy or programme, this enabled him to decide whether a decision should hold or not, when there was a tie of votes in the council.

5. Powers of the Secretary of State

Again, the Secretary of State for the colonies had to approve the drafting of all important bills before it could come before the Legislative Council. This was a limitation because, in other words, if the Secretary of state did not give his approval then a bill could not be drafted.

6. Manipulations by the Governor

Most of the members of the Legislative Council were either appointed or nominated by the Governor. To a certain extent therefore, the Governor exerted a lot of influence over them. For that reason, he could have his way in the Council. 

7. Only the Governor could introduce money-bills

Another limitation was that the Legislative Council was not mandated to introduce money-bills. Only the Governor had the exclusive right to introduce money bills in the Legislative Council.

Functions of the Executive Council Under the Crown Colony System

The crown colony system of administration also made provision for an Executive Council as part of the administrative structure of the British colony. The members of the Executive Council were mainly heads of important governmental departments in the colonies.

Until 1942, the membership of the Executive Council was mainly Europeans. It was only until 1942 that two Africans were appointed to serve on that Council. These Africans were Nana Ofori Atta and Sir Arku Korsah. Then in 1943, Nana Tchibu Darko was added.

1. Formulation of policies

One of the functions of the the Executive Council was to advise the Governor on the formulation of policies. Constituted by heads of important departments within the colony, the input of the members of the Council is very crucial because they have a first hand information on the goings on in their individual departments and therefore have an idea about how best to fix them.

2. Implementation of policies

Another function of the Executive Council was to implement the policies so formulated. Being the heads of Departments and being privy to the processes leading to the final policy document, they appear to be the best people to implement them once they have been approved.

3. Granting of amnesty 

Again, the Executive Council played a prominent role in the granting of pardon to convicted criminals. They, for example, could advise the Governor on the exercise of that power of prerogative of mercy. 

4. Allocation of land

Though the governor had the power to allocate land to people who needed it for commercial activities, he received advise from the Executive Council in taking a decision.

5. Acted as an intermediary

The Executive Council was the arena of the formulation of policies before laws are made to actualize those policies. Therefore, the Executive Council functioned to link the Governor and the Legislative Council.

Limitations to the Powers of the Executive Council

1. Governor not bound to take their advice

One of the limitations of the Executive Council was that the Governor was not under any obligation to take its advice. To take or not to take advice from the Executive Council was at the discretion of the Governor.

2. Governor appointed most members of the Council

The Governor a certain controlling influence over the members of the Executive Council. This was so because he was the head of the Council and most of the appointments to the Council were made by him. Therefore, since the members owe their continued presence on the Council to the Governor, they supported him and the decisions he endorsed.

3. Members were all Europeans

Another criticism of the Executive council was that it was made up only of European officials. This was the case up until 1942. Before this time, Africans were excluded from the membership of the Executive Council. 

4. Accountability to the Legislative Council

Unlike the practice of parliamentary system in Britain at the time, where the cabinet was and still is responsible to the Parliament, in the Gold Coast, the members of the Executive Council were responsible to the Governor, instead of being responsible to the Legislature.This was clearly against what pertained in Britain at the time.

5. Oversight by Secretary of State for the colonies

The secretary of State for the colonies also had some control over the Executive Council. In order to ensure that the policies that were pursued in the colonies were in tandem with metropolitan London, the minutes of all the Executive Council meetings were forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for perusal.

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