Independence Day Specials VI: Indirect Rule System in Nigeria.


Indirect Rule in the North.

As said earlier, Lugard made some changes to the already centralised North traditional settings before it was fully employed. Lugard modified the settings to suit his purpose. He divided the protectorate of Northern Nigeria into two divisions headed by District officers (D.O). The District Officers supervised the Emirs.
Other basic changes included that:

  1. The Emir now collects a consolidated tax to be shared between the Colonial government in certain ratio as determined by the Colonial government.
  2. The emirates’ share of the taxes was paid into a Native treasury other than them having a total control. Money spent (for their salaries and other activities) were strictly according to budget.
  3. The district heads, supposed to be under the watchful eye of the Emir in the emirate capital, stayed in the districts they administer.
  4. The emir assumes the position of the Chief Executive and Supreme judicial authority of his Emirate or division with only limited interference of the political officers.
  5. The power and the position of the Caliphate were striped by the British authority who appoints and deposes Emirs as fits.
  6. The ruler of Sokoto (previously Caliph) became Sultan and his authority restricted to the districts of the Caliphate Capital.

The above pictured that the traditional authorities were mere agents as the British Political officers enjoyed immense powers and prestige. The system worked however. But in the middle belt of the North, it was totally a different story.

Indirect Rule in the Middle Belt.

The system of indirect rule developed by Lugard and his successors in the Fulani Emirates was equally applied throughout the rest of the Nigeria area of Nigeria. While it was largely successful in the Caliphate, it fell short in the non-muslim states.

The caliphate had a smooth tradition of centralization of authority and a regular tax collection strategy as against the other neighbouring states whose kings had limited powers and taxation controls. Tivland, for example, had no paramount chief in control; it made use of councils of elders for administration until 1937.

Even with the above facts, however, Lugard insisted that the indirect rule be used throughout the North. In trying to establish an ‘emirate type’ of rulership in the middle belt, he then instituted emirate like settings in places like Yawuri, Bussa, Kebbi, Bauchi, Muri and Abuja and named their rulers Emirs. Paramount chiefs were also created in places like Makurdi and Igbira.


Although these new chiefs had weaker sovereignty or support from their locals, they receive directives and are responsible to only the British who created them. The system naturally offended the people. Thus, a rebellious attempt against it followed. In 1915, the colonial army and police were deployed to restore sanity but to no concrete avail. Until 1937, when the system was finally modified.

Commissions of enquiry were set up and the issues were looked into. The Tivland, for example, had a native authority established now based on the use of council of elders. At the request of the people, they were given a paramount chief comparable to the powerful emirs of the north. This protests gradually encouraged the democratic process in the area. In 1953, sole authorities were already weakened and a more democratic structure in form of council government took center stage.


The next article is about the Indirect Rule in the South and How the Yorubas and the Igbos reacted. You know you can read previous posts on this series by Clicking here right?

Thanks for reading. Dont forget to share.

Ola-lawal M.D.

For Muzzammilwrites.


3 thoughts on “Independence Day Specials VI: Indirect Rule System in Nigeria.

pls., i will sincerely appreciated your views about the above excerpt in the comment box below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s