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The Establishment of Colonial Administration

Author: smith on 16-09-2013, 21:00, views: 5 177


Amalgamated Protectorates (Source: Nigerian Historical Atlas)Amalgamated Protectorates (Source: Nigerian Historical Atlas)Administrative Boundaries


On December 31, 1899, owing to its flagrant mismanagement of the affairs of its assumed territories, the Niger Company lost its charter. And on January 1, 1900, its more southerly territories were combined with the territories of the Niger Coast Protectorate to form the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with headquarters at Calabar. The new Protectorate was divided into four administrative divisions: Western, Central, Eastern and Cross River (Afigbo, 1980).


In 1906, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos to form the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria with headquarters at Lagos. The new protectorate was divided into the Colony, Western, Central and Eastern Provinces. Later in 1914, the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was amalgamated with the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria to form one country, Nigeria (Nicolson, 1969: 180).


Map of Boundary Adjustments of Opobo Division/lkot Abasi LGA, 1932-1989Map of Boundary Adjustments of Opobo Division/lkot Abasi LGA, 1932-1989In all these changes and developments, Opobo remained consistently in Calabar Province. Within the district itself, Andoni was conquered and merged with it in 1904 (Ejituwu, 1991: 168-170) and so was Ogoni land in 1913-1914 (Cheesman, 1931). These boundaries were further enlarged with addition of some of the Ngwa Igbo and were constantly corrected in the 1930's and 1940's through the adjustment of tribal boundaries of the eastern Ikpa to the east and the Anaang groups to the north1. The headquarters of the district had been transferred from Norah Beach to Egwanga in Ikot Abasi in 1902.


The Anaang
The Anaang people in Opobo Division, despite all attempts of the colonial administration to reorganise them into one administrative unit with their Afaha brothers in Aba Division, resisted the transfer and in 1936 petitioned the District Officer, threatening not to pay tax and to declare a republic, if not allowed to stay with the Consulate at Egwanga.
(Ann. Reports, 1936, 1940)

Once established, the colonial administration moved with speed to develop Egwanga into a befitting District Headquarters. A number of offices and departments were established. By 1915, these included a Mess, District and Customs Offices, Mortuary, Police, Prison, Post and Telegraph, Judiciary, Transport, Education, Treasury, Medical and Forestry Departments (Sinclair, 1915: 1). European officers were appointed to man the different offices and departments. They included the District Commissioner, Medical Officer, Commissioner of Police and Treasurer (Cheesman, 1931: 5).


British Colonial Administration
In 1920, four British officials, twenty clerical staff and 22 court messengers governed the 696 sq. mile (1,802 sq. km) territory and 200.000 people population of Opobo Division, including 1.430 non-natives, 400 cows. 1,200 sheep and 9,200 goats.
(Ann. Report, 1920)


The Judiciary


In the judicial sphere, three classes of court were established. These were the Supreme Court, High Court and Native Court. The first two courts were located at the Government Station at Egwanga and were conducted by the visiting High Court judges from Calabar, while the Native courts were sited throughout the district. They included the Native courts at Essene (1902), Egwanga (1907-1925), Ekparakwa (1908), Ogoni (1913) (Lowering, 1915: 1) and Ukam (1927) (Cheesman, 1932 A), and sub-courts visited by members of the nearest main court.


The Andoni Native Court
In 1913, the Andoni had the first and only Christian Native Court in Nigeria, all the members being Christians. Led by high nationalistic spirit and Chiefs John Okuru and Oreforokuma Arong, they went to the law court to claim the Opobo land, the subsidies and rents of the Opobo chiefs and to sort their incessant wranglings for leadership. Eventually, the court had to be closed down to sober them.
(Ann. Reports. 1922. 1923)


All offences against individual person or persons, criminal or civil, were dealt with by a Native Court, supervised by the D. O. Offences against public order were tried in the Provincial Court, presided over by a colonial officer, while all serious offences went to the Supreme Court (Ina, 1989: 174).


But, as the territorial extent of the Supreme Court and High court was restricted only to a radius of three miles (five kilometres) from the Court Houses, the colonial authorities administered the district mostly through the Native Courts. People who held positions of responsibility in the society, or collaborated with the colonial authorities were appointed Warrant Chiefs and made to try cases in the Native Courts. Most often, they were not the traditional rulers (Cheesman, 1932). By 1927, however, an attempt was made to see that all new Warrant Chiefs were village heads and all orders from the colonial administration were passed to the people through the Warrant Chiefs and the Ekpuk (lineage) heads (ibid.). This was probably done to facilitate the collection of tax in 1928.


The Warrant Chiefs
The British government was established at Opobo, and the chiefs of the surrounding country were sent for to meet with the District Commissioner. An experienced man, who was well exposed through his contacts with the European traders at Egwanga, was usually selected in the community to represent the village chief. Being a presentable man, who could speak some English, dressed in chieftaincy attire and carried aloft by four hefty men, he made a good impression on the British administrators. He also offered some valuable assistance, providing for the men on military patrols in the area, and was rewarded with a Warrant to judge cases at the newly opened Native Court. A cap with the number and name of his court and the King's Crown emblem on it, proclaimed his authority.
Thus, he became a mediator between the white man's authority at Egwanga and the traditional village chief, representing the village at government level, passing official messages and delivering the chief's subsidy and the village tax (against a certain reward). The village recognised him officially as their messenger to government.
Eventually, and with official backing, he took over the functions of the village head after the death of the incumbent, and founded his own chieftaincy line.
(after Donatus Uko. 21/4/96 and Umo-Essen. 1980)


The Native Court system collapsed during the Women's War in 1929. The war which was precipitated by the opposition to direct taxation introduced in the area in 1928, caused the death of many women and destruction of property in the district (Ina, 1992: 175-178). Coupled with the colonial restrictions and the economic depression of 1929, it created instability and dissatisfaction in the district and loss of faith in the colonial administration, which necessitated political changes in the system.

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