1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Borgu

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BORGU, or Barba, an inland country of West Africa. The western part is included in the French colony of Dahomey (q.v.); the eastern division forms the Borgu province of the British protectorate of Nigeria. Borgu is bounded N.E. and E. by the Niger, S. by the Yoruba country, N.W. by Gurma. The country consists of an elevated plain traversed by rivers draining north or east to the Niger. The water-parting between the Niger basin and the coast streams of Dahomey and Lagos runs north-east and south-west near the western frontier. In about 10° N., below the town of Bussa, rapids block the course of the Niger, navigable up to that point from the sea. The soil is mostly fertile, and is fairly cultivated, producing in abundance millet, yams, plantains and limes. The acacia tree is common, and from it gum-arabic of good quality is obtained. From the nut of the horse-radish tree ben oil is expressed. Cattle are numerous and of excellent breed, and game is abundant. Borgu is inhabited by a number of pagan negro tribes, several of whom were dependent on the chief of Nikki, a town in the centre of the country, the chief being spoken of as sultan of Borgu. The king of Bussa was another more or less powerful potentate. In the early years of the 19th century Borgu was invaded by the Fula (q.v.), but the Bariba (as the people are called collectively) maintained their independence. In 1894 Borgu became the object of rivalry between France and England. The Royal Niger Company, which had already concluded a treaty of protection with the king of Bussa, sent out Captain (afterwards Sir) F. D. Lugard to negotiate treaties with the king of Nikki and other chiefs, and Lugard succeeded in doing so a few days before the arrival of French expeditions from the west. Disregarding the British treaties, French officers concluded others with various chiefs, invaded Bussa and established themselves at various points on the Niger. To defend British interests, the West African Frontier Force was raised locally under Lugard's command, and a period of great tension ensued, British and French troops facing one another at several places. A conflict was, however, averted, and by the convention of June 1898 the western part of Borgu was declared French and the eastern British, the French withdrawing from all places on the lower Niger.

The British portion of Borgu has an area of about 12,000 sq. m. Up to the period of inclusion within the protectorate of Nigeria little or nothing was known of the country, though there were interesting legends of the antiquity of its history. The population was entirely independent, and resisted with success not only the Fula from the north but also the armies of Dahomey and Mossi from the south and west. Travellers who attempted to penetrate this country had never returned. Since 1898 the country has been opened, and from being the most lawless and truculent of people the Bariba have become singularly amenable and law abiding. Provincial courts are established, but there is little crime in the province. The British garrisons have been replaced by civil police. The assessment of taxes under British administration was successfully carried out in 1904, and taxes are collected without trouble. In south Borgu the people are agricultural but not industrious or inclined for trade. In the north there are some pastoral settlements of Fula. The Bariba themselves remain agricultural. Cart-roads have been constructed between the town of Kiama and the Niger. The agricultural resources of Borgu are great, and as the population increases with the cessation of war and by immigration the country should show marked development. Shea trees are abundant. Elephants are still to be found in the fifty-mile strip of forest land which stretches between the Niger and the interior of the province. The forest contains valuable sylvan products, and there are great possibilities for the cultivation of rubber. There are also extensive areas of fine land suitable for cotton, with the waterway of the Niger close at hand. Labour might be brought from Yorubaland close by, and a Yoruba colony has been experimentally started. (See Nigeria and Bussa)