THE NIGER-DELTA/BIAFRA EXPEDITION: How the rest of the South was conquered.
Although Lagos was the first place the British conquered, it appeared that there was also a concomitant push going on in the South South of what is today called ‘Nigeria’ as at the same time when Lagos was been bombarded. The interference also came as an impact of the British military (Navy) presence in the Niger-Delta area.
Thus: in order to practically abolish slave trade, British warships patrolled the West African coastline in 1807. The military passed a Slave Trade Abolition Act but up until 1836, when they employed the use of real force, Bonny was still a great dealer in slave trade through the coast.
To stop them,the British Navy initiated a clean operation which of course met resistance from the then King of Bonny, Alali. Alali arrested the Captain of the British Warship (liet. Tyron) and his troop in a bid to counter react.
Apparently, the move didnt end well for the Bonny Camp. British relaunched a tougher operation into Bonny with more warships. At the longrun, Bonny had to surrender and was made to sign a treaty of ensuring the safety of European lives and property within the coast. Because Alali later flaunted the agreement in 1837, the British Military toppled his rulership and installed a new King: W.D Pepple, a native who was practically an ally to the Europeans. This laid a solid ground for the British to ride on.
The military then made use of the opportunity to
fully interfere in the local politics and administration of the region. In 1849, a consul (John Beecroft) for Bights of Biafra and Benin which covers the entire coastline of Nigerian area, was appointed to ensure the security and safety of lives and property of the British traders operating in the area.
It was during Beecroft’s 6 yr reign that Lagos was penetrated through the coastline in 1851. Itsekiri and Calabar was also bombarded and penetrated. By 1880, British were the most dominating European power in the Niger-Delta coast having penetrate every area in the south (South east inclusive). So that by 1885, after the Berlin Conference (84-85), other European powers in contest will have no choice but to officially concede the region to her total control.
The British military forged on. However, the mission of dominance and control never came so easy in some region like Opobo and Itsekiri were King Jaja and Nana respectively threw up notable resistance. Unlike the other Southern territories, Benin isnt close to or on the coast. But it got penetrated as well. This shows further shows the super strength of the British military as compared to the locals of that time. Though it took time before the British could occupy Benin because of its distance from the shore. In 1892, the British consulate first stepped into the territory in an attempt to solve a teeming societal conflict.
Complains have reached them in Bonny about how the Oba of Benin (Ovonramwen) was maltreating and imposing heavy terms and conditions on the neighbouring Itsekiri traders in an attempt to monopolise trade. The consulate sees this as a threat to business so it made approach to the King. They offered him a treaty of protection to control the situation which he (Oba) signed. But as usual, like every other African ruler, he failed to abide. So the Consul reacted fully by interfering and eventually took control of the territory.
Oba Ovonramwen initially formed a resistance but it was nothing to big for the British army to handle. On August 1897, Ovonramwen surrendered and was later exiled into Calabar before he died in 1914.
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