Ironsi's broadcast to the nation - May 24, 1966.
"The Regions are Abolished': Ironsi's Broadcast to the Nation
Political Parties and introducing Decree No. 34, 24 May 1966.
During the past two weeks I presided over meetings of the Supreme
Military council and the Central Executive Council at which many
important state matters were considered. . .
It is now three months since the Government of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria was handed over to the Armed Forces. Now that peace has
been restored in the troubled areas it is time that the Military
Government indicates clearly what it proposes to accomplish before
relinquishing power. The removal of one of the obstacles on the way
is provided for in the Constitution (Suspension and Modification)
Decree (No. 5) 1966 which was promulgated by me today and comes into
effect at once.
The provisions of the Decree are intended to remove the last
vestiges of the intense regionalism of the recent past, and to
produce that cohesion in the governmental structure which is so
necessary in achieving, and maintaining the paramount objective of
the National Military government, and indeed of every true Nigerian,
namely, national unity.
The highlights of this Decree are as follows:
The former regions are abolished, and Nigeria grouped into a number
of territorial areas called provinces. . . .
Nigeria ceases to be what has been described as a federation. It
now becomes simply the Republic of Nigeria.
The former Federal Military government and the Central Executive
Council become respectively the National Military Government and the
executive Council. All the Military Governors are members of the
A Military Governor is assigned to a group of provinces over which
and subject to the direction and control of the Head of the National
Military Government, he shall exercise executive power. In order to
avoid any major dislocation of the present administrative machinery,
the grouping of the provinces has been made to coincide with the
former regional boundaries. This is entirely a transitional measure
and must be understood as such. The present grouping of the
provinces is without prejudice to the Constitutional and
Administrative arrangements to be embodied in the New Constitution in
accordance with the wishes of the people of Nigeria.
The National Military Government assumes the exercise of all
legislative powers throughout the Republic subject to such
delegations to Military Governors as are considered necessary for
purposes of efficient administration.
The public services of the former federation and regions become
unified into one national public service under a National Public
Service Commission. There is a provincial Service Commission for
each group of provinces to which is delegated functions in respect of
public officers below a given rank. This rather drastic change will
probably involve a reconstitution of the existing commissions, and
the National Military Government reserves the right to do so in the
manner stipulated in the Decree. Until this is done, the present
Commissioners continue to act in their posts. Every civil servant is
now called upon to see his function in any part of Nigeria in which
he is serving in the context of the whole country. The orientation
should now be towards national unity and progress. I expect all
civil servants to co-operate and to consult at all levels, vertically
and horizontally, between groups of Provinces and between Provinces
and the Centre.
People are aware that Study Groups have been set up to look into
various aspects of governmental activity. One of them is concerned
with problem relating to the Constitution. This Decree is without
prejudice to their activities and their reports will be given proper
consideration by the National Military Government in formulating the
proposals for the future civilian government.
In my nation-wide radio broadcast of January 28, 1966, I said, among
other things: "We cannot afford to continue with sterile political
strife and mutual recriminations. I have therefore ordered that
there shall be no display in party flags or symbols, and no shouting
of political slogans.'
On March 3, I caused a press release to be issued calling attention
to the fact that political meetings were, in spite of my order, being
held in certain parts of the country, and warned the public and the
press to cooperate with the Federal Military Government in its tasks
of national reconstruction.
In spite of these warnings, political party activities still
continue, either directly, or through various tribal societies and
organizations. The National Military Government owes it as a duty to
the people of this country to remove the ills which infested the
former regime, to restore the faith of our people in their to remove
the ills which infested the former regime, to restore the faith of
our people in their fatherland and its institutions, so that when the
time comes for the civilian government to return, a healthy body
politic would have emerged, and last vestiges of bitter factionalism
The National Military Government having committed itself to this
task is firmly resolved to conclude it, and will not be diverted from,
or obstructed in, the fulfillment of this objective by the
activities or political manoeuvres of any society, party, union or
association. Part of our task is the removal of politics based on
tribal affiliations which, as everybody knows, have manifested
political intrigues, or have been used as bases for party-political
propaganda. This leads me to the removal of the second obstacle on
the way for which provision has been made in the Public Order Decree
1966, which I have signed today and which comes into operation
forthwith, dissolving all organizations of the type scheduled therein,
and banning any manifestations of their political purpose. These
organizations have been dissolved and will be buried along with the
tribal, sectional and regional bitterness which they engendered.
Certain types of associations and organizations are unaffected and
will remain so, only for as long as they do not engage in any
political activity. It is the cardinal aim of my Government to foster
the growth of town development unions, membership of which should be
open to all inhabitants of the particular town irrespective of their
tribal origin. This does not mean for instance that Efiks residing
outside Calabar should not contribute towards the development of
Calabar development union but it does mean that a Tiv or Hausa
residing in Calabar should be eligible for membership and should be
allowed to participate fully in the development of that town.
This Decree also prohibits the formation of new political parties.
I must emphasize however that the ban on formation of new political
parties is of limited duration and is designed to enable this
corrective government to get on with its task especially at this
initial stage. At the appropriate time provisions will be made
outlining the procedure for the formation of new political
I want however to leave no doubt in the mind of anybody, that the
provisions of this decree will certainly be enforced. This is a
Military Regime and soldiers do not allow themselves to be diverted
from or obstructed in the fulfillment of their objectives. With us
the objectives will be pursued with supreme determination and vigor.
In this we need not only the cooperation but the discipline of every
I wish to make it clear that the prohibition of the formation of new
political associations has no sinister motive. The limitation period
until the 17th of January 1969 may be reduced if the Military
Government accomplishes its aims before then. Our determination is
that until the two decrees I have signed today are abrogated, every
individual should be preoccupied with the task of national
reconstruction, not as ex-politician, but simply as a Nigerian with
faith in his country's destiny.
Malicious rumours designed to mar our national reconstruction
continue to be carried about by certain individuals in spite of my
repeated warnings. Cases of impersonation of officers of the Armed
Forces are still reported. I have to warn again those who indulge in
these criminal acts to discipline themselves forthwith and not to
provoke us into taking very drastic measures which may otherwise
In pursuance of its policy for achieving national unity, my
Government is setting up a body to review all the existing Government-
sponsored newspapers in the context of national unity. This body
will also recommend the most effective organization for running the
Information, Broadcasting and Television Services in the country and
the financial implications involved.
I must not end this broadcast without pointing out a recent
development which, if not checked, will adversely affect the morale
of the Civil Service and thereby hamper our national reconstruction.
By this I mean the unnecessary criticism recently being leveled
against the Civil Service by certain sections of the Press. It is
common knowledge that civil servants are expected to tender advice to
Ministers but it was not obligatory on the part of the former
Ministers to accept advise so tendered. It will therefore be wrong
to blame civil servants for mistakes made by their Ministers who in
many cases did not accept the advice given to them by these officers.
I have to make it abundantly clear to everyone that my Government
will continue to use the services of the present civil servants.
However, my government believes in maintaining the highest standard
of efficiency in the Civil Service and will not hesitate to do away
with anyone found guilty of inefficiency, nepotism, tribalism and
I therefore wish to appeal to all newspaper editors and columnists
to look for a more profitable pastime and desist from criticising
civil servants unnecessarily especially as they realize that because
of the tradition of their calling, civil servants are barred from
defending themselves on the pages of newspapers. Such attacks will
certainly not help the Military Government and is sure eventually to
demoralizes members of the Public Service who are rendering such
noble service to this nation under difficult conditions. If any
member of the public has any genuine case against any civil servant,
he or she should make a report to the appropriate quarters.
We are determined to accomplish the main tasks we have set ourselves.
The various problems involved are being studied by the various
working parties which I have set up. Whilst these studies are in
progress my Government cannot remain at a standstill and must
therefore forge ahead in the meantime. As a corrective regime we
must ensure that the fatal maladies of the past are cured before we
relinquish power. We propose as a last act to give the country an
accurate count as well as a Constitution which will guarantee unity,
freedom, and true democracy to all Nigerians everywhere.
Investigations are proceeding in respect of ex-politicians of the
former regime. Any of them found guilty will be dealt with according
to Law irrespective of their position in the community. My
Government will then consider utilizing the services of those who
have not been found wanting and who are prepared to serve in the
context of national unity.
Nigerians must understand and respect one another in the new
national spirit. Those ex-politicians in different camps who
previously regarded one another as enemies should now forget the past
and work together for the common good.
With the dissolution of political parties and tribal unions I want
all Nigerians everywhere in Nigeria to regard one another not as
strangers but as Nigerians with common nationalists irrespective of
their tribe or place of origin. From henceforth no reference to
tribe or place of origin will appear in any official document. . .
Finally, I appeal to all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to
cooperate with the Military Government in the difficult task of
The Unification Decree: No. 34 of 1966
Decree No. 34
[24th May 1966]
THE FEDERAL MILITARY GOVERNMENT hereby decrees as follows:
- Subject to the provisions of this Decree, Nigeria shall on 24th
May 1966 (in this Decree referred to as ‘the appointed day’) cease to be
a Federation and shall accordingly as from that day be a Republic, by the
name of the Republic of Nigeria, consisting of the whole of the territory
which immediately before that day was comprised in the Federation.
2. 1. As from the appointed day—
- the Federal Military Government and the Federal Executive Council shall
be known respectively as the National Military Government and the
- the Federal territory shall be known as the Capital territory;
- the provinces, including Kaduna capital territory, in schedule 1 of this
Decree which immediately before the appointed day were respectively
comprised in Northern Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, Western Nigeria and
Mid-Western Nigeria shall be known respectively as the Northern group of
Provinces, the Eastern group of Provinces, the Western group of Provinces
and the Mid-Western group of Provinces;
- for the purposes of administration each group of provinces shall subject
to the authority of the Head of the National Military Government, be under
the general direction and control of a Military Governor appointed by the
Head of the National Military Government;
- Act No. 20 of 1963 (that is to say the Constitution of the Federation)
may be cited as the Constitution of the Republic.
- Without prejudice to section 8 of this Decree, the person who immediately
before the appointed day holds the office of Military governor of a Region
shall be deemed to have been appointed by the Head of the National Military
Government as Military Governor of the corresponding group of provinces with
effect from the day.
- The National Military Government may either conditionally or
unconditionally delegate to the Military Governor of a group of provinces
power to make laws by edict for the peace, order and good government with
respect to any matter specified in the delegation in relation to that group
- Subject to this day and any other Decree, a Military Governor of a group
of provinces may exercise by way of edict or, as the case may be, by
regulation, order, or instrument the powers and functions vested in the
Executive council of the Government of a former Region, or of the Governor,
Premier, or Minister (except in relation to criminal prosecutions) of a
government of a former Region under any existing law with respect to that
group of section 4 (6) of the Constitution (Suspension and Modification)
Decree 1966 (in this Decree referred to as ‘the principal Decree’) shall
cease to have effect.
- Subsection (4) shall be without prejudice to section 8 of this principal
Decree shall not affect the operation of that provision in relation to any
time before the appointed day.
- Any Edict made by the Military Governor of a Region which is in force
immediately before the appointed day shall, as from that vinces which
corresponds to that Region; and references to a Decree shall be construed
In this subsection ‘Edict’ includes a decree made as mentioned in
section 4 (6) of the principal Decree.
- Notwithstanding section 1 of this Decree, on and after the appointed
- the provisions of the constitution of each former Region which are not
for the time being suspended shall, in relation to the corresponding group
of provinces, have effect as modified by the combined operation of the
principal Decree, as amended, and this Decree; and
- the constitution of each former Region may be cited as the constitution
of the Northern, Eastern, Western or Mid-Western group of Provinces, as
the case may be, and references to the constitution of a group of
provinces shall be construed accordingly.
3. 1. As from the appointed day all offices in the service of the
Republic in a civil capacity shall be offices in a single service to be
known as the National public Service; and accordingly all persons who
immediately before that day are members of the public service of the
Federation or of the public service of a Region shall on that day become
members of the National Public Service: Provided that this subsection shall
not apply to the office of the Attorney-General of the Republic or a group
- As from the appointed day—
- the Public Service Commission established under section 146 of the
Constitution of the Republic shall be known as the National Public Service
Commission, and references in that section and elsewhere to the Public
Service Commission of the Federation shall be amended accordingly;
- all Regional Public Service Commissions established under the
appropriate provisions of the Constitutions of the Regions shall be known
as the Provincial Public Service Commissions, and references to the Public
Service Commissions recreated under the Constitutions of the Regions shall
be construed accordingly.
- Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution of the Republic or
a group of Provinces, the members of the Public service Commission of the
Federation and of the Regions who, immediately before the appointed day hold
office, shall continue in office until the appointments expire or are sooner
revoked, and fresh appointments are made.
4. 1. Subject to the provisions of this section, power to appoint persons
to hold or act in offices in the in the National Public Service (including
power to make appointments on promotion and to confirm appointments) and to
dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in
such offices shall, as from the appointed day, vest in the National Public
The National Public Service Commission may, with the approval of the Head
of the National Military Government, either conditionally or unconditionally
delegate any of its powers under subsection (1) above to any person or
authority in Nigeria.
Subject to subsections (4) and (6) below, all the powers of the National
Public Service Commission under subsection (1) above in respect of any
office in the National Public Service carrying an initial salary not
exceeding 2,292, shall be treated as having been delegated to the
appropriate Provincial Public Service Commission.
Any delegation effected under subsection (2) above (including any
delegation which in accordance with subsection (3) above or subsection (6)
below is to be treated as having been effected under subsection (2) above)
may be varied or revoked by the National Public Service Commission with the
approval of the Head of the National Military government.
Subsection (1) above shall not apply in relation to any of the follow
- the office of any judge of the Supreme Court, the High Court of Lagos,
the High Court of a group of provinces or the Sharia Court of Appeal;
- the office of economic adviser to the Republic;
- except for the purpose of making appointments thereto, the office of the
Director of Audit of a group of provinces;
- the office of the Magistrate and Justice of the Peace;
- any office in the Nigeria Police Force;
- any office to which section 148 of the Constitution of the Republic
- Without prejudice to subsection (4) above or to section 8 of this Decree,
any delegation effected under section 147 of the Constitution of the
Federation, or under the corresponding section of constitution of a Region,
which is in force immediately before the appointed day shall, as from that
day, be deemed to have been duly effected by the National Public Service
Commission under subsection (2) above.
- The provisions of this section shall be subject to the provisions of
section 5 of this Decree.
- Power to appoint persons to hold or act in the office of permanent
secretary to any department of government of the Republic or any other
office of equivalent rank in the National Public Service, and to remove
persons so appointed from any such office shall, as from the appointed
day, be substituted the words ‘Head of the National Military
- As from the appointed day, the provisions of the Constitution of the
Republic mentioned in Schedule 2 of this Decree shall be suspended.
- As from the appointed day—
- the provisions of the constitution of each group of provinces which are
mentioned in Schedule 3 of this Decree shall be suspended; and
- Schedule 4 of the principal Decree shall have effect subject to the
amendments specified in Schedule 4 of this Decree.
- 1. As far from the appointed day the principal Decree, as amended, shall
have effect with such modifications (whether by way of addition, alteration
or omission) as may be necessary to bring it, and through it—
- the unsuspended provisions of the Constitution of the Republic and of
the constitution of each group of provinces; and
- all existing law within the meaning of subsection (1) of section 12 of
the principal Decree, so far as in force immediately before the appointed
- all other law which would be existing law within the meaning of the said
subsection (1) if the references in that subsection to 16th
January 1966 were references to the appointed day; into conformity with
- Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, section 13
of the principal Decree (which makes provision for the saving of existing
offices, appointments, etc.) shall, with such modifications as may be
necessary in consequence of this Decree, have effect in relation to the
appointed day in like manner as it has effect in relation to 16th
- Nothing in this Decree shall affect the validity of anything done before
the appointed day.
- In this Decree, and in any other law—‘enactment’ includes any
provision of a Decree; ‘group of provinces’ means the Northern Group of
Provinces, the eastern group of Provinces, the Western Group of Provinces or
the Mid-Western Group of Provinces; ‘ the Military Governor’, in
relation to a group of provinces, means the Military Governor of that group
‘the Northern group of Provinces’, the ‘Eastern Group of
Provinces’, ‘the Western Group of Provinces’ and ‘the Mid-Western
group of Provinces’ have the respective meanings assigned in section 2 (1)
© of this Decree.
- Every Decree made on or after the appointed day shall apply throughout
Nigeria except in so far as the contrary intention appears therein.
by Nowa Omoigui, MD