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DISCOVER NIGERIA: LAGOS – Once Upon A British Colony

By Nehi Igbinijesu.

Lagos became a crown colony of the British Empire in 1861. Before that time, the British government had perfected its colony administration system of administration in the West Indies and in India. And so, it did not take any time to set up its typical crown colony administration in Lagos. By October 1862, a Legislative Council comprised of a Chief Justice, Colonial Secretary and a senior military officer in command of British troops stationed in Lagos, had been constituted.

In imposing the crown colony system of administration, the British gave no consideration as to whether their own system of governance disrupted the socio-political structures prior to their arrival. Driven by an inexplicable sense of superiority, they thought it a divine call to ‘civilize’ the ‘savages’ of Africa by imposing British law and education.

Lagos was thus administered without the inclusion of majority of indigenes. Only the western educated Africans were included in the membership of the Legislative Council between 1872 and 1928. Apart from the few local rulers who served in the short-lived Nigeria Council of 1914, indigenous membership of the Legislative Council was dominated by men like Captain James Pinson Davies, C.J George, James Johnson, Sapara Williams, Obadiah Johnson, J.E. Shyngle, Eric Moore and Dr. C.C. Adeniyi Jones.

In 1874, Lagos was downgraded from a full colony and merged with the Colony of the Gold Coast (today’s Ghana) as a result of a reorganization of British Colonies in West Africa. This development was greeted with displeasure from Lagos dwellers, foreign and black, which were now to be administered from Accra. Public meetings were organized to vent annoyance and petitions conveying their grievances were sent to the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Derby, in London.

In 1886, Lagos was reinstated as a full colony and given its separate government.

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