Nigeria Colony & protectorate

British colony & protectorate

Nigeria Independent






Quick reference

General issues: British colony & protectorate 1914-1960, Independent federation within the British Commonwealth 1960-1963, Federal republic 1963-Present

Country name on general issues: Nigeria

Special issues: British Cameroons 1960-1961

Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1914-1973, 1 Niara = 100 Kobo 1973-Present

Population: 17 160 000 in 1914, 173 600 000 in 2013

Political history Nigeria

Setting the scene

Postal history Nigeria

Please click on the image to enlarge

Nigeria is located in  western Africa. Nigeria has a large – the largest in Africa – and diverse population. In southern and central Nigeria many different Niger-Congo peoples live – the Igbo and Yoruba being the largest population groups. In the northern part the population consists of Afro-Asiatic peoples – the largest group being the Hausa. In the northeast Nilo-Saharan peoples live – the Kanuri being the largest group. Europeans first explored the coast of Nigeria in the late 15th century. Trade posts were established in the 16th century. The Nigerian hinterland was not explored until the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The colonial era

Events take a different turn in the 19th century. In the mid 19th century, the British have focused their attention on the lower Niger basin and, initially, established themselves in the coastal regions. In 1862, the colony of Lagos is established. Private companies expand trade from the coastal regions into the hinterland. In the late 19th century the ‘Scramble for Africa’ is at its height. At the 1885 Berlin conference – where the colonial powers divide their respective spheres of interest in Africa – Great Britain claims and is awarded the entire lower Niger basin – then called the Niger Districts.

At the time, the British control only a small part of Nigeria. As it is a prerequisite of the 1885 Berlin conference for continued recognition of territorial claims to establish effective colonial rule, the British set to work to bring the Niger Districts under their control. Successively, the Yoruba kingdoms are subdued by 1893, the Edo kingdom of Benin by 1897, the Aro confederacy – a federation of Igbo kingdoms – in 1902, the Kanuri caliphate of Borno in 1902 and finally, the Hausa caliphate of Sokoto in 1903. Thus, most of Nigeria has been brought under control of the British by 1903 although pockets of resistance existed and revolts occurred until 1907.

As many African countries Nigeria is full of contrasts - The Hausa village of Yaama in northern Nigeria

As many African countries, Nigeria is full of contrasts – The Hausa village of Yaama …..

In these early days of colonial expansion, Nigeria goes through a number of administrative changes. Protectorates are formed and, from 1886 to 1900, a large part of the country is contracted out to a chartered company for further development – the Royal Niger Company. By 1906, two entities exist: the Northern Nigeria protectorate and the Southern Nigeria colony & protectorate. These two protectorates are, in 1914, joined to form the colony & protectorate of Nigeria. The British administered most of Nigeria by way of indirect rule through existing royalty.

The British Cameroons

During WWI, the British invaded neighboring Cameroon – then a German protectorate – together with the French and the Belgians in 1914. The German administration capitulated in 1916. After the treaty of Versailles in 1919, Cameroon was ceded by Germany and divided between Britain and France. In 1922, the League of Nations defined the mandate for the British and French administrations of Cameroon. A mandate that would be renewed in 1946 when the mandated territories became United Nations trust territories. As Nigeria gains independence on 1 October 1960, the British Cameroons – now called the Southern and Northern Cameroons – are put under a separate trust administration in the advent of a referendum that will be organized in 1961 to decide on the future of the Southern and the Northern Cameroons. The Northern Cameroons vote for association with Nigeria and thus, on 1 June 1961, becomes a de jure part of what is, by then, the independent federation of Nigeria. The Southern Cameroons vote for association with Cameroon and are joined on 1 October 1961 with Cameroon.

Independent Nigeria

And Lagos - the commercial capital of Nigeria

….. vis a vis Lagos – the commercial capital of Nigeria

The call for independence was heard in Nigeria from the 1920’s. From the 1940’s, successive constitutions allowed for increasing self government, and in 1960 independence was gained within the British Commonwealth as the federation of Nigeria. The federal structure was chosen to reflect the different interests of the population groups in Nigeria. In 1963, Nigeria became the federal republic of Nigeria, now with a president as the head of state.

Increasing conflicts between the population groups brought the country into civil war in 1967. One of the constituent parts of the federation – the Eastern Region, dominated by the Igbo population group – declared independence as the republic of Biafra. Federal forces, after a three year war, ended the existence of the republic of Biafra.

Until 1999, Nigeria has – with intermittent periods of democracy –  known mainly military dictatorship. Since 1999, the country has been democratized. Currently, the federation consists of 36 states – traditional polities are still recognized as part of the political system. The capital was, in 1991, transferred from Lagos to Abuja.  In recent years Nigeria has been confronted with incursions from Boko Haram – an extremist group striving for the establishment of Islamic rule, active mainly in the northern part of Nigeria and also in neighboring countries.

Economically, Nigeria is qualified as a ‘mixed economy emerging market’. The largest part of the population is employed in agriculture, while services account for the largest part of the GDP. Oil – found in the early 20th century but at the time not exploited as the British focused on the Persian Gulf for oil – has, since the 1970’s, become the major export product, currently accounting for 95% of the exports.

Postal history Nigeria

Postal history Nigeria

1953 – Timber harvest: timber rafting

The first stamps issued in the future Nigeria are those of the colony of Lagos from 1874. Since then the stamps issued reflect the administrative changes in Nigeria. Thus, stamps have been issued by the Oil Rivers protectorate, the Niger Coast protectorate, the Northern Nigeria protectorate and the Southern Nigeria colony and protectorate. The colony and protectorate of Nigeria has issued stamps from 1914. The stamps issued during the colonial period are of designs both common to the British possessions and designs specific for Nigeria. Independent Nigeria has issued stamps from 1960 – the first set commemorating independence. Nigeria has a limited stamp production – the stamps are of designs reflecting subjects of national interest.

As the British Cameroons are integrated with Nigeria, Nigerian stamps are used from around 1920. Special issues have appeared in 1960 for use in the British Cameroons issued by the British trust administration – stamps of Nigeria overprinted ‘Cameroons U.K.T.T.’ for ‘Cameroons United Kingdom Trusteeship Territory’. These stamps were valid for use in the Northern Cameroons until joined with Nigeria on 1 June 1961, and in the Southern Cameroons until joined with Cameroon on 1 October 1961.

For an overview of the political and postal developments in the form of a diagram, please refer to the country diagram of British West Africa – Nigeria.

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