The Parliament Buildings

Parliament Buildings which her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II graciously opened on Wednesday, 15th February, 1956 have been designed and constructed almost entirely by the Regional Public Works Department at the cost of £370,000. They provide for all the processes of a bicameral legislature, with one chamber for the House of Chiefs (Forty-six Members) and one for the House of Assembly (eight members).

It will now be possible for both Houses of the Legislature to sit at the same time. In the galleries of the Chambers themselves, there is accommodation for distinguished visitors, the public and the press. There are offices for the Premier, for the President of the House of Chiefs, the Speaker and Ministers. Spacious committee rooms, lounges and full catering facilities are contained within the building; separate office accommodation is provided for officials and staff of the Legislature.

The building is constructed largely of reinforced concrete with a steel framed roof. The outer walls are designed to provide protection from the sun, while allowing free movement of air. In the main chambers, a system of accelerated ventilation operates. There are facilities for the recording of debates and a public address system covers the whole building. Two passenger lifts serve all the three floors. Flood-lighting of the exterior was also installed.

A post office is planned adjacent to the main building, primarily intended for the convenience of Members. There is a small police post sited at a suitable point on the outskirts of the Parliament grounds. The whole site is designed to be enclosed by railings and the grass area within is to be laid out with shrubs and trees. Within this area is a macadamized parade ground for use on ceremonial occasions.

The Foundation Stone, made of Sicilian Marble, was executed by a specialist firm in the United Kingdom. The inscription on its reads –


A casket, buried in the foundations, contains coins of various denominations, stamps, the Order of the Day for 1st of March, 1955, a brief history of the building, a programme of the laying of the Foundation Stone Ceremony and a list of the Executive Members and both Houses of the Legislature. A joint select committee of the two legislative Houses was appointed in February 1952, its terms of reference being to consider and make recommendations to both Houses on the question of the design and building of a new House of Legislature.

Sketch plans prepared by the Public Works Department were discussed by a sub-committee of the select committee later in the year and were finally approved in principle in June 1953. Authority to proceed was given by Government in March 1954, the project being entrusted to the Public Works Department to undertake by direct labour. Construction work was begun on the 12th November, 1954. The target date for completion was March 1956, the intention being to have the new House ready for the Budget Session of this year.

An Ad-hoc committee including Ministers and officials was appointed and held its first meeting on the 23rd of November, 1954, to advise on the details of equipment and furnishings for the new House and to consider arrangements for the speedy execution of this major undertaking. This Committee sat regularly throughout the period of construction, so that detailed planning of the project was undertaken concurrently with construction work. Permission was given for the employment of a firm of Structural Consultants to assist the Engineers and Architects of the Public Works Department.

Work on the foundation and basement was far enough advanced by February, 1955, to enable a ceremony of Foundation Stone laying to take place. This ceremony duly was performed by His Excellency the Governor, Western Region, on the 1st of March, 1955. Messages for the occasion were received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Governor-General, and the Governors and Ministers of the other Regions of the Federation.

By the end of July 1955, the main concrete and steel structures had been completed and work begun on the internal fittings. During this period contracts were let for the installation of lefts, telephones and electrical wiring, and for the painting of the whole building.

During October 1955, the repercussions of the Dock Strike which had occurred earlier in the year in the United Kingdom, were being felt, despite steps which had been taken to anticipate the resulting difficulties. Permission was therefore granted for the use of air freight in respect of vital materials. In early November, the Director of Public Works flew to the United Kingdom to accelerate the dispatch of such materials for want of which speedy construction was seriously endangered.

The news of the Royal Visit was a further incentive to complete the building even earlier than the original target date of March 1956. By dint of strenuous effort and effective organization on the part of the Public Works Department, this earlier completion date has now been achieved.

If one arrives at the Western Nigerian Parliament Buildings from the dual carriage way, one finds a wide area which, when enclosed by a railing, will be called Parliament Gardens.
On the main entrance is a canopy which connects the administrative offices – offices of the President of the House of Chiefs, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Clerk of the Legislature and their staffs.
Looking at the building from below the canopy, it will be noticed that the windows to the Chambers have horizontal concrete fins which exclude the sun during the heat of the day.

One then moves on to the V.I.P (Very Important People) entrance in front of which is a fountain and a Car Porch. One enters and passes by the staircase into a small hall to the public entrance on the north side. Here, one finds Members Telephone Booths, Cloak Rooms, “Gents and Ladies” and the Main Lift. Coming in front of this public entrance, circulation then starts from this main entrance turning right to the House of Assembly Chamber. Passing through the Lobby to the Chamber, one see on the right the booth where Order Papers and Messages for Members are collected; on the left is the Tape Recording Room.

Turning left into the Corridor surrounding the House of Assembly and continuing along the side, one passes through the “NOs” lobby into the Chamber by the main procession entrance used by the Speaker. On the left is the “AYEs” Lobby.

The Speaker’s Chair is at the far end of the Chamber and the Clerk sits at the Mace table in front of the Speaker’s Chair on the floor of the House. The Chamber will accommodate 134 Members. All the Members’ seats have individual desks but there are two benches on either side of the House for the “Front Benchers” – Government on the right of the Speaker and Opposition on the left.

Immediately above the Speaker’s Chair is the Tape recording and Verbatim Reporters Gallery. Above this again is the Press Gallery which has its own entrance and telephone rooms.
Surrounding the Chamber on the three sides above is the Public Gallery which will accommodate 330 persons. On the Public Gallery facing the Speaker, two rows of seats are reserved for V. I. Ps. There is a Civil Servant Gallery, on either side behind the Speaker’s Chair, for officials with whom the Ministers may wish to discuss matters raised in the House. There is also a bar situated at the circular end of the seats.

There is a removable bronze screen which defines the floor of the House – what is said within the screen, according to parliamentary practice, is “privilege”. Ventilation of the Chamber is by three extract fans in the ceiling and twelve fans situated on the Public Gallery. The hanging microphone is for tape recording purposes.

Starting again from the main entrance foyer and turning left, one approaches the House of Chiefs Chamber passing the “NOs” Lobby. On the left again, one follows the ceremonial routes of the Presidents of the House.
Entering, one will notice that the Chamber is smaller than the House of Assembly – it will accommodate 106 members.
Under the Royal Arms is the Throne, in front of which is the President’s Chair. When the Throne is occupied, the President’s Chair is moved to the left. The Throne is a symbol of authority in the House of Chiefs and the Mace, in the House of Assembly.

Generally speaking, the arrangements in the House of Chiefs are similar to those in the House of Assembly. Leaving the Chamber of the House of Chiefs by the same door, one enters the House of Chiefs Foyer which has similar facilities to the foyer of the House of Assembly.
Returning again to the main entrance, one passes on the left the covered way leading to the President’s Room and Administrative Offices.

Ascending the main staircase, which is cantilevered out from the main lift shaft, one arrives on the first floor. The room in front of the lift door is the Members Lounge used by the Members of the House of Assembly only.

Off the main verandah are the Committee Rooms on both sides of which are sliding, folding doors so that the room can be used for one or two committees. The ceilings of the Committee Rooms and elsewhere have been designed so as to show the reinforced concrete structure necessary for a big span. Lavatory accommodation for members is provided at the west end, and catering facilities at the east end.

Ascending to the second floor, the Library is opposite the Lift Door. Both this room and the Members Lounge under it on the first floor have timber and glass screens to allow free circulation of air.
Turning right at the main corridor, one comes to the Ministers’ offices which surround the main roof of the Chamber which is screened by a lattice timber screen. Continuing westwards, one enters the Ministers’ Lounge and the Roof Garden from which a fine view of the University Teaching Hospital and Ibadan generally is obtained. A fire escape ladder is fixed on the roof, which is protected by numerous lightning conductors
. Returning to the main entrance staircase, the view from the verandah of Ibadan should be noticed.

Continuing along the verandah, one passes into the part of the building which may be used by the House of Chiefs. This contains more Committee Rooms and Offices. Continuing eastwards, one arrives at the Roof Garden of the House of Chiefs, where catering facilities are available. The Roof Garden is situated over the House of Chiefs entrance.

The colour scheme of the building is in pastel shades in order to avoid glare.
The visitor now returns to the ground floor and goes out by the main Door to the Parliament Gardens. Flags over the House of Chiefs and the House of Assembly, will be flown when the House are in season. An electric light will show on the top of the Flag Staffs when the Houses are session at night.

It may be of interest to note that all electrical wiring for the lights, electric clocks, division bells, tape recording, machines, etc., are buried in the floor and walls. No wires can be seen in the building.

5,500 yards of concrete were used in the construction of the House. This equals a column of concrete a yard square over 3 miles high.
36,000 bags of cements were used for the concrete plastering. This equals 600 trips for a lorry from Lagos to Ibadan every day – except Sunday for 2 years.
315 tons of steel were used in reinforcement. If laid end to end this steel would stretch for 186 miles i.e., from Lagos to past Ogbomoso or from Ibadan to 5 miles past Ifon.
28,000 F. C. of timber was used for shuttering and studding.
500 men worked on the site each month. Each worked 260 hours per month or about 64 per week, for a total of over 2 million man-hours. In addition, a great deal of work on furniture and fittings was done in Lagos and Ibadan workshops.
Numbers of individuals trades working on the buildings, during the average month were:-
  • Masons … … … … … 70
  • Carpenters … … … … … 140
  • Blacksmiths … … … … … 10
  • Labourers … … … … … 190
  • Plumbers … … … … … 10
  • Painter … … … … … 70
  • Plant Drivers, Storekeepers, Watchmen, etc. … 30

  • 50,500 cement blocks were used for walling and partitions. At 300 blocks a day this equals 168 days work, excluding Sundays. A block-making gang worked for half a year to produce the blocks.
    There are 5,200 panes of glass in the windows.