Nigeria was a creation of the British colonial
adventurer and empire builder. The March for markets, raw materials and
the need to exert political influence overseas led Britain to journey
to places as distant as Wikki in present day Borno State.To the Northwest,
Sokoto came under her influence too. Deriving the name Nigeria from the
word 'Niger' - the name of the river that constitutes the most remarkable
geographical feature, the colonial master coupled together the diverse
peoples North and South of the river and its tributary the Benue
into a modem nation-state.
Sir Lord Fredrick Lugard
The vegetation in tile South is predominantly rain forest, but moving
northwards one finds a belt of savannah and scrubland which gives way
to the Sahara Desert. From across the desert came the earliest external
influence to reach some of the areas now part of Nigeria.
That was Islamic faith and ideas which began to filter from North Africa,
first into Kanern- Bornu. Although, at the time, it was the religion
of a few elite until the nineteenth century. The Niger River, the name
from which Nigeria is coined, empties into the Bights of Benin and Bonny,
through an intricate network of Delta characterized by a thick mangrove
which the British ventured in order to get prized items of trade in
the nineteenth century. But this was after the trade in slaves had been
outlawed in 1833.
Sir Bernard Bourdillon
The external influence resulting from this
trade brought tremendous impact on Nigeria. From the late 15th Century,
Europeans began frequenting the Bights of Benin (now the Bights of Bonny),
in search of tropical products and slaves. By the eighteenth century,
the ports of Nigerian coastlines, mainly Lagos, Brass, Bonny and Old
Calahar, had become centres of the trans-atlantic slave trade.
Trade routes from these ports extended through the communities of the
South to the Hausa States. But the industrial revolution and the advent
of the machine made the trade unnecessary and unprofitable. The aftermath
was an increased interest in palm oil trade.
Sir John Macpherson
In 1849, the British Government appointed John Beecroft
as the Governor of Bights of Benin and Bonny His job was to regulate
commercial relations with the coastal city States. Backed by fierce
gunboats, he interfered with the internal affairs of these States and
the process which culminated in the imposition of colonial rule came
afoot. There were also missionary interests at play. In 1861, Lagos
was proclaimed crown colony.
And through the initiative of the United Africa Company, formed by
George Goldie, through an amalgamation of British firms in 1879, most
of the parts which became Northern Nigeria were preserved as British
sphere to the chagrin of French and German competitors.
Sir James Robertson
The Company received a charter to administer it
until 1899 when the charter was revoked, and tile British Government
administered it directly, under the name "Protectorate of Northern
Nigeria" The Delta Area had itself been proclaimed the Oil Rivers
Protectorate, following the signing of a number of treaties between
the local rulers and British consular officials.
Finally, in 1914, the two British administrations were merged, to form
a single territorial unit known as Nigeria. This territory was administered
by the British until 1960 when the Union Jack (British flag) was lowered
for the Nigeria flag to take its place.
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