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Colonial Expansion, The Scramble for Africa

Sokoto caliphate, Nupe, Lokoja, central Nigeria, ruthless war

In 1884 and 1885 European powers carved Africa into spheres of influence at the Berlin West Africa Conference. Britain, its claim to Nigeria affirmed, moved quickly to consolidate its territory. The colony of Lagos, first declared in 1861, was expanded, and in 1887 a new protectorate, Oil Rivers (later the Niger Coast Protectorate), was created in the Niger Delta. The British also waged bloody and ruthless war on resisting coastal and forest peoples, particularly in Benin, Nupe, and Ilorin. Its hold in the south was secure by 1897.

While Britain was consolidating these areas, it granted the Royal Niger Company a trading monopoly in the north. In return the company agreed to advance British interests, economic and political. The company set up headquarters at Lokoja, located at the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers in central Nigeria, and extended its trade northwest up the Niger and northeast up the Benue. Treaties were signed with several African states, including Nupe, Sokoto, and Gwandu, thus depriving French and German rivals access to the northern region.

In 1900, with the south secure, Britain revoked the Royal Niger Company’s charter and declared that a colonial government would administer Nigeria as two protectorates: one in the south and one in the north. (Lagos was incorporated into the southern protectorate in 1906.) Simultaneously, Britain went to war against the Sokoto caliphate in the northwest, conquering it by 1903. Remaining pockets of resistance within the caliphate and elsewhere in northern Nigeria were quelled over the next few years. In 1914 Britain joined the two protectorates into a single colony, and in 1922 part of the former German colony of Kamerun was attached to Nigeria as a League of Nations-mandated territory.

Article key phrases:

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