British Colony And Protectorate In Nigeria

Post date:



66 / 100

British Colony And Protectorate In Nigeria Before Independence


The structure of government described above applied to both colony and protectorate of a British territory. A colony is a territory owned and controlled by a foreign power and whose people, in theory, enjoy some political rights.

The Lagos Colony, for example, was established in 1862 after the annexation of the area through gunboat diplomacy in 1861. In practice, the people of a colony did not enjoy rights markedly different from those of the protectorate.

On the other hand, a protectorate is a group of people who retains some power to manage their own affairs while the colonial power administers the territory and represents it in international affairs.

The hereditary or traditional ruler retains the right to govern and administer justice under the guidance and supervision of a British official. A protectorate is made up of British protected persons.

While the colonies were usually acquired through peaceful means, Great Britain sometimes engaged in outright wars to capture the areas later designated as protectorates. The British, for example, used military force to capture Opobo and most of Northern Nigeria.

They also employed military force to conquer the Ashanti nation in 1874 and to seize the Ashanti Golden stool, the symbol of the nation, in 1901. In practice, a protectorate is not different from a colony. The following protectorates were created by the Britain in Nigeria before the amalgamation of 1914.


The Colony of Lagos was created in 1862 and it was the first government to be established in Nigeria. The governor headed the government of Lagos and a legislative council made laws for the city.

In 1866, the Colony of Lagos was merged with the West African Settlements whose headquarters was in (Freetown) Sierra Leone. She became part of the Gold Coast in 1874 and regained her independent colonial status in 1886.

The British were, however, quick to realize that the maintenance of law and order in Lagos largely depended on the sustenance of peace among the Yoruba people with whom the people of Lagos had close blood relationship.

In order to stop the inter-tribal wars and the flourishing slave trade in the region, the British signed a number of treaties with the Yoruba kingdoms, and, consequently the British administration was gradually extended to the area. By 1899, the whole of Yoruba kingdom (except Egba kingdom which remained independent till 1914) had been brought under British control as a protectorate and attached to the Colony of Lagos.


The areas around the Niger Delta were constituted into a protectorate by the British after the Berlin Conference of 1885. The Protectorate which was called the Oil River Protectorate at the onset was renamed Niger Coast Protectorate in 1893 following the expansion of the protectorate to the hinterland.

The government of the protectorate was based at Calabar. But the administration of the area was in the hands of the Royal Niger Company, one of the European companies, which had been dominant in the coastal areas before the Berlin Conference.

The company was led by Sir George Goldie. The British which did not want to change the status quo entered into an agreement with the company to administer the territory on her behalf. The agreement was popularly known as the Royal Niger Company Charter.

The other British companies and merchants operating in the area felt dissatisfied with the arrangement which gave virtual trade monopoly in the area to the Royal Niger Company. Moreover, public opinion in Britain did not favour company rule and the idea of entrusting the management of Public affairs to a private company.

These factors and the desire of the British government to participate more actively in the political administration of its colonial territories led to the abrogation of the Royal Niger Company charter in 1899 and this paved the way for a full-blown British rule in the area.


In 1900, the areas formerly controlled by the Royal Niger Company otherwise known as the Niger Coast Protectorate, were merged with the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. The Protectorate was headed by a Lieutenant Governor. The first capital of the Protectorate was Lagos. The capital was later transferred to Enugu.

For administrative convenience, the protectorate was divided into three provinces and each was headed by a resident.


The areas to the north of the Niger Coast Protectorate and the other parts or the north captured by the British imperial forces were constituted into the Northern Protectorate in 1900. Lokoja was the first headquarters of the protectorate before it was moved to Zungeru and later Kaduna.

Lord Lugard was the first High Commissioner of the Protectorate. It was a vast territory made up of diverse people with diverse cultures and religions. Most parts of the protectorate came under British control by conquest.

Both the Northern and Southern protectorates were merged to form Nigeria in 1914.

Facebook Comments Box