1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nigeria
NIGERIA, a British protectorate in West Africa occupying the lower basin of the Niger and the country between that river and Lake Chad, including the Fula empire (i.e. the Hausa States) and the greater part of Bornu. It embraces most of the territory in the square formed by the meridians of 3° and 14° E. and the parallels of 4° and 14° N., and has an area of about 338,000 sq. m. The protectorate is bounded W., N. and N. E. by French possessions (Dahomey, Upper Senegal and Niger colony, and Chad territory), S.E. by the German colony of Cameroon and S. by the Atlantic.
Physical Features.—The country is divisible, broadly, into three zones running parallel with the coast: (1) the delta, (2) forest region, giving place to (3) the plateau region. The coast line, some 500 m. in length, extends along the Gulf of Guinea from 2° 46′ 55″ E. to 8° 45′ E. ending at the Rio del Rey, the point where the great bend eastwards of the continent ceases and the land turns south. The Niger (q.v.), which enters the protectorate at its N.W. corner and flows thence S.E. to the Atlantic, receives, 250 m. from the sea, the Benue, which, rising in the mountains of Adamawa south of Lake Chad, flows west across the plateau. Into the huge delta of the Niger several other rivers (the “Oil Rivers”) empty themselves; the chief being, on the west, the Benin (q.v.), and on the east the Brass. East of the Niger delta is that formed by the Imo or Opobo, Bonny and other streams, and still farther east is the Calabar estuary, mainly formed by the Cross river (q.v.). West of the Niger delta are several independent streams discharging into lagoons, which here line the coast. The most westerly of these streams, the Ogun, enters the Lagos lagoon, which is connected by navigable waterways with the Niger (see Lagos).
The delta region is swampy, and forms, for a distance of from 40 to 70 m. inland, a network of interlacing creeks and broad sluggish channels fringed with monotonous mangrove forests. The main rivers are navigable for ocean-going steamers for a distance of from 15 to 40 m. from their mouths. Beyond the delta firm ground takes the place of mud and the mangroves disappear. The land rises gradually at first, becoming, however, in many districts very hilly, and is covered with dense forests. The Niger at its confluence with the Benue is not more than 250 ft. above the sea. North of this point are hills forming the walls of the plateau which extends over the centre of the protectorate and is part of the great plateau of North Africa. This plateau, broken only by the valleys of the rivers, does not attain an elevation approaching that of the plateaus of the southern half of the continent, the culminating point (apart from particular mountain districts), situated in about 10° N., reaching a height of 3000 ft. only. The valleys of the Niger and Benue, especially the latter, are very much lower, the town of Yola on the Benue, some 400 m. inland, lying at an altitude of little over 600 ft. The surface is generally undulating, with isolated “table mountains” of granite and sandstone often rising abruptly from the plain. It is clothed largely with thin forest, but becomes more open to the north until, near the French frontier, the arid steppes bordering the Sahara are reached. Much of the country north of Zaria (11° N.) is covered with heavy loose sand. The most mountainous districts are northern Bauchi (a little north of 10°), where heights of 6000 to 7000 ft. occur; parts of Muri, along the north bank of the Benue; and the southern border of the Benue basin, where the hills (consisting of ironstone, quartz and granite) appear rich in minerals. The mountainous area covers some 50,000 sq. m. On the east the plateau sinks to the plains of Bornu (q.v.), which extend to Lake Chad. Tributaries of the Niger traverse the western portion of the country, the most noteworthy being the Gulbin Kebbi or Sokoto river and the Kaduna, which flows through a valley not more than 500 ft. above the sea. The north-eastern part of the country drains to Lake Chad by the Waube or Yo, an intermittent stream, which in its lower course forms the Anglo-French boundary. The western portion of Lake Chad (q.v.) belongs to the protectorate, which contains no other large lake. The water parting between the Chad and Niger systems runs N.W. and S.E. from about Katsena in 13° N. to the Bauchi hills. Of the tributaries of the Benue the most important is the Gongola. During the dry season most of the small rivers cease running and the water in the larger streams is low. The great rise of the Niger within the protectorate takes place in August and September and there is a second rise about the beginning of the year.
Inhabitants.—The population of Nigeria is estimated at 15,000,000. The Europeans (mostly British) number about a thousand, and are civil servants, soldiers, traders or missionaries. In the delta district and the forest zone the inhabitants are typical negroes. Besides the people of Benin, the coast tribes include the Jekri, living on the lower part of the Benin river and akin to the Yoruba, the Ijos, living in the delta east of the main mouth of the Niger, and the Ibos, occupying a wide tract of country just above the delta and extending for 100 m. east from the Niger to the Cross river. South of the Ibos live the Aros, a tribe of relatively great intelligence, who dominated many of the surrounding tribes and possessed an oracle or ju-ju of reputed great power. On the middle Cross river live the Akuna-kunas, an agricultural race, and in the Calabar region are the Efiks, Ibibios and Kwas. All these tribes are fetish worshippers, though Christian and Moslem missionaries have made numerous converts. The Efiks, a coast tribe which has come much into contact with white men, have adopted several European customs, and educated Efiks are employed in government service. The great secret society called Egbo (q.v.) is an Efik institution. Each tribe has a different ju-ju, and each speaks a separate language or dialect, the most widely diffused tongues being the Ibo and Efik, which have been reduced to writing. In general little clothing is worn, but none of the tribes go absolutely nude. In colour the majority are dark chocolate, others are coal-black (a tint much admired by the natives themselves) or dark yellow-brown. Cannibalism, human sacrifices and other revolting practices common to the tribes, are being gradually stamped out under British control. Trial by ordeal and domestic slavery are still among the recognized institutions.
In the northern parts of Nigeria the inhabitants are of more mixed blood, the negro substratum having been to a great extent driven out by the northern races of the continent. The most important race in Northern Nigeria is that of the Hausa (q.v.), among whom the superior classes adopted Mahommedanism in the 13th and 14th centuries. While the lower classes remained pagan, a fairly civilized system of administration, with an efficient judicial and fiscal organization, was established in the Hausa territories. The Hausa are keen traders and make excellent soldiers.
At the beginning of the 19th century the Hausa territories were conquered by another dominant Mahommedan race, the Fula (q.v.), who form a separate caste of cattle-rearers. Arab merchants are settled in some of the larger Hausa towns.
In general the people living in the river valleys have been unaffected by Moslem propaganda either in blood or religion. Thus along the banks of the Niger, Benue and other streams, the inhabitants are negro and pagans, and generally of a purely savage though often rather fine type. Of these the Munshi, who inhabit the district nearest the junction of the Benue with the Niger, were long noted for their intractability and hostility to strangers, whom they attacked with poisoned arrows. The Yoraghums, their neighbours, were cannibals. Nearer Yola live the Battas, who also had a bad reputation. These tribes, under British influence, are turning to trade and agricultural pursuits. In the central hilly region of Kachia are other pagan tribes. They wear no clothes and their bodies are covered with hair. South of the Benue, near the Niger confluence, dwell the savage and warlike Okpotos, Bassas and other tribes. In the districts of Illorin and Borgu, west of the Niger, the inhabitants are also negroes and pagan, but of a more advanced type than the tribes of the river valleys. To attempt any complete list of the tribes inhabiting Northern Nigeria would be vain. In the one province of Bauchi as many as sixty native languages are spoken.
In Bornu (q.v.) the population consists of (1) Berberi or Kanuri, the ruling race, containing a mixture of Berber and negro blood, with many lesser indigenous tribes; (2) so-called Arabs, and (3) Fula. The country to the back of Lagos is largely inhabited by Yorubas (q.v.), and the people of Borgu according to some native traditions claim to have had a Coptic origin.
Of the early history of the races inhabiting the coast lands little is known. The Beni appear to have been the most powerful race at the time of the discovery of the coast by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and the kings of Benin in the 17th century ruled a large part of the south-western portion of the existing British protectorate (see Benin). The Benin influence does not seem to have reached east of the Forcados mouth of the Niger. In the greater part of the delta region each town owned a different chief and there was no one dominant tribe. Among these people, who occupied a low position even among the degenerate coast negroes, and who were constantly raided by the more virile tribes of the interior, trading stations were established by the Portuguese, and later on by other Europeans, British traders appearing as early as the 17th century. There was no assertion of political rights by the white men, who were largely at the mercy of the natives, and who rarely ventured far from their ships or the “factories” established on the various rivers and estuaries.
By the end of the 18th century British enterprise had almost entirely displaced that of other nations on the Niger coast. But the principal trade of all Europeans was still in slaves. After the abolition of the slave-trade in the 19th century palm oil formed the staple article of commerce, and the various streams which drain the Niger coast near the mouth of the great river became known as the “Oil Rivers.” The opening up of the interior was in the meantime promoted, chiefly by the efforts of British travellers and merchants. Mungo Park traced the Niger from Segu to Bussa, where he lost his life in 1805. From Bussa to the sea the course of the river was first made known in 1830 by the brothers Richard and John Lander. Major Dixon Denham and Captain Hugh Clapperton entered the country now known as Northern Nigeria from the north in 1823, crossing the desert from Tripoli. Clapperton in 1826–1827 made a second journey, approaching the same territory from the Guinea coast. Dr Barth, travelling under the auspices of the British government, entered the country from the north and made the journeys, lasting over two years between 1852 and 1855, of which he has left the record that still remains the principal standard work for the interior. Macgregor Laird first organized in 1832 the navigation of the river Niger from its mouth to a point above the Benue confluence. During the next twenty-five years expeditions were dispatched into the interior, and a British consul was posted at Lokoja. Possession was also taken, in 1861, of Lagos island, with the object of checking the slave trade still being carried on in that region. But the deadly climate discouraged the first efforts of the British government, and, after the parliamentary committee of 1865 had recommended a policy which would render possible the ultimate withdrawal of British official influence from the coast, the consulate of Lokoja was abandoned.
It was re-established a few years later to meet the still steadily growing requirements of British trade upon the river. In 1880 the influence of the international “scramble for Africa” made itself felt by the establishment under the recognized protection of the French government of two French firms which opened upwards of thirty trading stations on the Lower Niger. The establishment of these firms was admittedly a political move which coincided with the extension of French influence from Senegal into the interior. Nearly at the same time a young Englishman, George Goldie-Taubman, afterwards better known as Sir George Goldie (q.v.), having some private interests on the Niger, conceived the idea of amalgamating all local British interests and creating a British province on the Niger. To effect this end the United African Company was formed in 1879, and trade was pushed upon the river with an energy which convinced the French firms of the futility of their less united efforts. Formation of the Royal Niger Company.They yielded the field and allowed themselves to be bought out by the United African Company in 1884. At the Berlin Conference held in 1884–1885 the British representative was able to state that Great Britain alone possessed trading interests on the Lower Niger, and in June 1885 a British protectorate was notified over the coast lands known as the Oil Rivers. Germany had in the meantime established itself in Cameroon and the new British protectorate extended along the Gulf of Guinea from the British colony of Lagos on the west to the new German colony on the east, where the Rio del Rey marked the frontier. In the following year, 1886, the United African Company received a royal charter under the title of the Royal Niger Company. The territories which were placed by the charter under the control of the company were those immediately bordering the Lower Niger in its course from the confluence at Lokoja to the sea. On the coast they extended from the Forcados to the Nun mouth of the river. Beyond the confluence European trade had not at that time penetrated to the interior.
The interior was held by powerful Mahommedan rulers who had imposed a military domination upon the indigenous races and were not prepared to open their territories to European intercourse. To secure British political influence, and to preserve a possible field for future development, the Niger Company had negotiated treaties with some of the most important of these rulers, and the nominal extension of the company's territories was carried over the whole sphere of influence thus secured. The movements of Germany from the south-east, and of France from the west and north, were thus held in check, and by securing international agreements the mutual limits of the three European powers concerned were definitely fixed. The principal treaties relating to the German frontiers were negotiated in 1886 and 1893: the Anglo-French treaties were more numerous, those of 1890 and 1898, which laid down the main lines of division between French and British possessions on the northern and western frontiers of Nigeria, having been supplemented by many lesser rectifications of frontier. (See Africa, §5.) It was not until 1909 that the whole of the frontier between Nigeria and the French and German possessions had been definitely demarcated. Thus, mainly by the action of the Royal Niger Company, a territory of vast extent, into which the chartered company itself was not able to carry either administrative or trading operations, was secured for Great Britain. In 1897, at a time when disputes with France upon the western frontier had reached a very active stage, the company entered upon a campaign against the Mahommedan sovereign of Nupe. This campaign would, no doubt, have led to important results had the company retained its administrative powers. In the expedition a force of 500 Hausa, drilled and trained by the company, and led by thirty white officers—of whom some were lent for the occasion by the War Office—decisively defeated a force of some thousands of native troops, led by the emir of Nupe himself. The capital town of Bida was taken and the emir deposed. From Bida the expedition marched to Illorin, where again the whole district submitted to the authority of the company. In Illorin the campaign had some lasting effect. In Nupe, on the northern side of the river, as the company was unable to occupy the territory conquered, things shortly reverted to their previous condition. When the company's troops were withdrawn the deposed emir returned and reoccupied the throne, leaving the situation to be dealt with after the territories of the company had been transferred to the crown.
The complications to which the pressure of foreign nations, and especially of France, on the frontiers of the territories gave rise, became at this period so acute that the resources of a private company were manifestly inadequate to meet the possible necessities of the to the position. Transfer of authority to the crown.Relations with France on the western border became so strained that in 1897 Mr Chamberlain, who was then secretary of state for the colonies, thought it necessary to raise a local force, afterwards known as the West African Frontier Force, for the special defence of the frontiers of the West African dependencies. In these circumstances it was judged advisable to place the territories of the Royal Niger Company, to which the general name of Nigeria had been given, under the direct control of the crown. It was therefore arranged that in consideration of compensation for private rights the company should surrender its charter and transfer all political rights in the territories to the Crown. The transfer took place on the 1st of January 1900, from which date the company, which dropped the name of “royal,” became a purely trading corporation. The southern portion of the territories was amalgamated with the Niger Coast Protectorate, the whole district taking the name of the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria, while the northern portion, extending from a line drawn slightly above 7° N. to the frontier of the French possessions on the north and including the confluence of the Niger and the Benue at Lokoja, was proclaimed a protectorate under the name of Northern Nigeria.
The company, during its tenure of administrative power under the charter, had organized its territories south of the confluence, into trading districts, over each of which there was placed a European agent. The executive powers in Africa were entrusted to an agent general with three provincial and twelve district superintendents. There was a small judicial staff directed by a chief justice, and there was a native constabulary of about 1000 men, trained and drilled by white officers. The company kept also upon the river a fleet of about thirty steamers. The entire direction of the proceedings of the company was, however, in the hands of the council in London, and the administrative control of the territories was practically from first to last vested in the person of Sir George Goldie. The local work of the representatives of the company was mainly commercial. When, on the surrender of the charter, Sir George Goldie withdrew from the company, the administrative element disappeared. No administrative records were handed over and very little machinery remained. Two enactments, however, bore testimony to the legislation of the company. One, which by force of circumstances remained inoperative, was the abolition of the legal status of slavery, proclaimed in the year of Queen Victoria's jubilee (1897). The other, more practical, which has remained in operation to the present day, confirmed and enforced by the succeeding administration, was the absolute prohibition of the trade in spirits beyond the parallel of 7° N.
While the development of the Royal Niger Company's territories was proceeding in the manner described, the regions under direct British control were also being opened up in and law and order introduced. In 1893, when the title southern Oil Rivers Protectorate was changed to that of Niger Coast Protectorate, a regular administration was established (subject to the Foreign Office in London) under Sir Claude Macdonald, who was succeeded as commissioner and consul-general in 1896 by Sir Ralph Moor (1860–1909). Progress in Southern Nigeria, 1885–1906.Under these officials peace was gradually established between various tribes, trade routes opened and progress made in civilization. The work was one of extreme difficulty, largely because there was no central native authority with which to deal. Small military expeditions had constantly to be employed to break up slave-raiding gangs or reduce to order tribes which blocked trade routes or made war on other tribes living peaceably under British protection. The most serious military operations were against the Beni, a peaceful mission to the king of Benin having been massacred in the bush in January 1897. The operations were completely successful and the Benin country was added to the protectorate (see Benin). In 1900, as stated, the southern portion of the Niger Company's territories was added to the protectorate, the change in administration being effected without difficulty of any kind. Sir Ralph Moor continued until 1904 to govern the country under the style of high commissioner. The efforts of the administration to better the condition of the natives without undue interference with customary law met with encouraging results, and the submission of the Aros to the government in 1902 brought to an end the system of tribal warfare for the purpose of making slaves, while the enforcement of a proclamation of 1901 prohibiting the buying, pawning or selling of slaves had a salutary effect. Trade steadily developed, and owing to the large sums paid as duty on imported spirits, the revenue of the protectorate was sufficient to cover the expenditure.
In Northern Nigeria in 1900 the establishment of British authority remained still to be effected. The man selected for the post of first high commissioner was Colonel-afterwards better known as Sir Frederick-Lugard, who had conducted one of the Royal Niger company's most successful expeditions into the western portion of the interior and had already been employed by the British government to raise and organize the West African Frontier Force.
The transference of influence from the company to the government was officially effected on the first of January 1900, on which day the Union Tack was hoisted at Lokoja, and the formation of a local administration was entered upon. The number of civilians in the employ of the government was very small, and the administrative machinery had to be evolved under the pressure of a somewhat acute military situation. Northern Nigeria brought under control.The headquarters of the West African Frontier Force had been at Jebba, not far from the point at which Mungo Park had lost his life upon the river. Neither Jebba nor Lokoja was considered suitable for the permanent capital of the protectorate, and survey parties were sent out, with strict orders to avoid conflict with the nominally friendly natives, to find a more suitable site. This was selected on a branch of the Kaduna river in the south-western corner of the province of Zaria, at a place of which the native name of Zungeru was retained. The ruler of Zaria, while professing friendliness, was, however, unable or unwilling to restrain the rulers of Kontagora and Nupe from aggression. These two potentates raided for slaves to the borders of the rivers and openly threatened the British position on the Niger. The Ashanti War of 1900 claimed the despatch of a strong detachment of the West African Frontier Force, and it was not until the return of the troops in February 1901 that Nupe and Kontagora could be effectively dealt with. In that year both provinces were subdued, their emirs deposed, and letters of appointment given to new emirs, who undertook to rule in accordance with the requirements of humanity, to abolish slave-raiding and slave dealing, and to acknowledge the sovereignty of Great Britain. Illorin and Borgu with a portion of Kabba were already under British rule. The rulers of other neighbouring provinces offered their allegiance, and by the end of the year 1901 nine provinces, Illorin, Kabba, Middle Niger, Lower Benue, Upper Benue, Nupe, Kontagora, Borgu and Zaria had accepted the British occupation. These territories, with the exception of Zaria, were all in the more or less immediate neighbourhood of the valleys of the Niger and the Benue, and Zaria bordered upon the Kaduna. For all these territories an initial system of administration was organized, and British residents were appointed to each province. Seventeen legislative proclamations were enacted in the first year dealing with the immediate necessities of the position, and providing for the establishment of a supreme and provincial court of justice, for the legalization of native courts of justice, and dealing with questions of slavery, importation of liquor and firearms, land titles, &c. In the autumn of 1901 the emir of Yola, the extreme eastern corner of the territories bordering upon the Benue, was, in consequence of the aggressions upon a trading station established by the Niger Company, dealt with in the same manner as the emirs of Nupe and Kontagora, and a new emir was appointed under British rule. In 1902 Bauchi and Bornu were brought under British rule. In Bauchi the emir was deposed and a new emir was appointed. In Bornu the extension of British authority was very willingly accepted as a guarantee against other European encroachments, and the legitimate Shehu was restored to the throne under British protection. Military stations were established in Bornu and in Bauchi, and both provinces were included in the system of British administration. Later in the same year an act of treachery culminating in the murder of a British resident, Captain Moloney, in the province of Nassarawa, led to the military subjugation of that province. The murderer fled northwards through Zaria to Kano, which was still an independent Mahommedan state. The emir of Zaria was found to be in treasonable correspondence with the emir of Kano. It was thought desirable to arrest and dethrone him, and his prime minister was temporarily appointed to administer the province under British protection. To all these provinces British residents were appointed, and British legislative enactments became applicable to them all. By the end of the year 1902 British administration had been extended to the whole of the provinces in the south, east and west of the protectorate. The important Mahommedan states of Sokoto, Gando, Kano and Katsena remained independent. These states were regarded as the stronghold of Fula supremacy. The emir of Sokoto held the position of religious as well as political head of all the lesser states of Northern Nigeria, and in response to friendly overtures on the part of the British administration had declared that between Sokoto and Great Britain there could be nothing but war. Katsena was the centre of local learning, while Kano was at once the commercial and the military centre of power. By the end of 1902 it had become evident that a trial of strength between the Mahommedan powers and the new British administration was inevitable. The Mahommedan rulers were themselves of comparatively recent date. In fighting them there was no question of fighting the whole country. On the contrary it was presumed with justice that their overthrow would be hailed with satisfaction by many of the subject peoples. Every attempt was made to settle the question at issue by conciliatory methods, but these having failed, a campaign against Kano and Sokoto was entered upon in January 1903. It was entirely successful. The capital of Kano, a walled and fortified town of great extent and formidable strength, fell to a British assault in February of 1903. Sokoto submitted after a battle which took place on the 17th of May. The sultan fled, and on the 21st of May a new sultan, chosen by the council of elders, was installed by the British high commissioner, after he had publicly accepted the conditions imposed by the British government. These conditions were that all nights of conquest acquired by the Fulani throughout Northern Nigeria passed to Great Britain, that for the future every sultan and emir and principal officer of state should be appointed by Great Britain, that the emirs and chiefs so appointed should obey the laws of the British government, that they should no longer buy and sell slaves, nor enslave people, that they should import no firearms, except flint-locks, that they should enforce no sentences in their courts of law which were contrary to humanity, and that the British government should in future hold rights in land and taxation. When these conditions were accepted by the Fulani chiefs the supremacy of Great Britain was established over the entire country. Katsena and Gando followed the example set to them by Kano and Sokoto. Throughout Northern Nigeria all chiefs, Mahommedan and Pagan, now hold their appointments under the British crown and take the oath of allegiance to the British sovereign.
It remained to organize the territories for British rule, to institute a reformed system of taxation, to establish courts of justice, and to open the country to civilized occupation.
The following account of the legislation carried into force up to 1907 shows in effect what was done in that direction. After the conquest of the Hausa States in 1902–1903 the king's writ ran—with the exception of a few districts inhabited by primitive savages—through the whole area known as Northern Nigeria. The temporary enactments of the earlier days were then superseded by laws based upon a more accurate knowledge of local conditions and rendered possible by the effective administration which had been set up throughout the country.
(F. L. L.)
- Returns at Zungeru for 1903.
- See Colonial Office Reports, Northern Nigeria Mineral Survey 1906–1907; Southern Nigeria Mineral Survey 1905–1907 (Miscellaneous, Nos. 59, 67, 68).
- In 1909 Sir Percy Girouard was succeeded by Sir H. H. I. Bell. The title High Commissioner had meantime been changed to that of Governor.