Frederick Lugard

  • Some people claimed Nigeria’s 1914 Amalgamation expired after 100 years; is this true?

    Recently, and for about 10 years now, the debate about the union and unity of Nigeria has gathered so much traction. Both the political class and the members of the academia have perpetually propounded theories and narratives about why the nation has remained everything but one. For many, including researchers, analysts and commentators, the problem of Nigeria was (and is) the forceful merger of the Northern and Southern Nigeria by the British Colonial government. Termed the mistake of 1914, the amalgamation is perennially described as the undoing of the entity called Nigeria.

    While Britain (through Lord Frederick Lugard) had her own reason for the amalgamation, many remain in the dark even today as to the rationale, and think that the amalgamation should be scrapped, and the regions should be allowed to go their ways. This narrative is further strengthened by purveyors of the termination or expiry theory of the amalgamation.

    In recent times, many agitators claim that the 1914 amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria was an agreement to merge endorsed by the peoples of those regions. Many today (in fact since 2014) say that there was an ouster or severance clause inserted into the amalgamation treaty, and that it has since expired. 

    One of such is Konye Obaji Ori, who wrote in 2013 that the British Edict of 1914 expire by 31st December of that year, and we would need to agree either to extend it or not. According to him, ‘the document that amalgamated Nigeria into one country would expire. The British colonial edict of 1914 could be renewed or denounced, and the Nigerian state could stay united or split into several entities.’

    Similarly, Tony Nnadi a lawyer and Secretary General of Movement for New Nigeria insisted in 2014 that from 2014, Nigeria no longer exists because the lifespan of the amalgamation treaty has elapsed, and that the ethnic nationalities were free to declare autonomy for themselves. 

    Screenshot of Tony Nnadi’s Interview on the Amalgamation

    ‘Nigeria has come to an end. That’s the way to put it very simply,’ he had declared. He argued that the amalgamation of the different regions did not happen in one fell swoop, but separate events that culminated in 1914, therefore there was equally a need to unbundle the package in order ‘to come to a conclusion on the matter’ of the amalgamation.

    ‘The British didn’t get the territory overnight, the treaty of Lagos was in 1861 and in some places, they conquered, they got treaties all around, they now started consolidating and merging them  as far as 1906, it was in 1906 that they could put all of what they got, their oil rivers here, Lagos there, they put it together as southern protectorate and then, it was in 1914 that they completed the processes because something, they thought the amalgamation could happen overnight, it was a whole series of processes, they had to merge the legal system, the tax system and all of that. In 1914, they consolidated all of those things into one sheet to become what we now call the amalgamation’, he submitted.

    This perspective is echoed by Paul Eric who wrote in 2016 that ‘And also because the amalgamation in 1914 was by treaty, obviously, in international law, any treaty that is not dated expires after 100 years and invariably marks the end of the country as it ceases to be legal entity.’

    However, Paul Eric seems to be alone in his theory as this researcher examined tonnes of literature on the amalgamation, and there is no mention anywhere as to whether the amalgamation was a treaty or agreement.

    But was the amalgamation an agreement or treaty?

    In the first instance, there is no study or research, including Lord Lugard’s Nigeria Report on The Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria and Administration 1912 – 1919 (sighted at the National Archives, University of Ibadan), with the indication that the amalgamation was a treaty or agreement. The dictionary defines a treaty as an agreement or arrangement made by negotiation’ or ‘a contract in writing between two or more political authorities (such as states or sovereigns) formally signed by representatives duly authorized and usually ratified by the lawmaking authority of the state.’ There is no available record to testify to this.

    But in the case of the amalgamation, what appears more credible is the fact that it was an administrative fiat of Nigeria by the British colonialist overlord for economic and administrative convenience.

    Speaking on this matter, a Professor in the Department of History, University of Ibadan, Professor Rasheed Olaniyi explains the basis of the amalgamation: “The unification of a country can come in any form. Some achieve unification of diverse territory through warfare and then they settle at the end of the day and then, unite. In other forms, it could have been through colonization just like we have it in Nigeria. It could also be through treaty or diplomatic maneuvering. But in the case of Nigeria, it was through colonisation.

    “The British thought it fit for their own administrative convenience and also for the purpose of budgeting as well as meeting fiscal responsibilities of Nigeria as a British colony by that time. Those were the basic three reasons for bringing the three sections together. Of course, it was for the purpose of British economic exploitation of the country, not for the interest of the peoples. I use peoples because of the distinct differences of ethnicity, culture and so on.”

    Historians Mathias Isiani and Ngozika Obi-Ani also argue that ‘[T]he two protectorates were culturally apart, yet in 1914 Lord Frederick Lugard amalgamated them,’ an indication that the amalgamation was a unilateral creation of the British Colonial Government without any due consultation with the regions so merged.

    Lugard himself alluded to this in his much referenced report:

    ‘It was clear that so large a country as Nigeria, with an area of 332,400 square miles – of which the North and South were connected only by a single railway, and the uncertain waterway of the Niger, while no lateral means of communication existed at all – must be divided into two or more dependent Administrations under the control of a Central Government. The first problem therefore which presented itself was the number of such Lieutenant-Governors, their powers, and relations to the various departments, together with the subordinate Administrative units throughout the country, and the control of such departments as the Railway and the Military Forces, which were common to the whole of Nigeria. The functions, and future constitutions, of the Executive and Legislative Councils, the unification of the Laws and the Regulations based upon them, and of the Executive “General Orders” and other instructions, the Judicial system, the methods of Taxation direct and indirect, and the disposal of the Revenue so as to benefit the country as a whole, without creating jealousy and friction, the assimilation of the policy of Native Administration – these, with many minor problems, had to be solved by any scheme of amalgamation which should have any prospect of permanency…’

    Extract from Lugard’s report on the Amalgamation

    Was there a Severance or Expiration Clause in the Amalgamation?

    Again, a perusal of archival documents and accounts of historians and commentators did not yield any testimony to the perpetually acclaimed 100 years severance or ouster clause of the amalgamation. Once again, Professor Rasheed Olaniyi opines that there was no timeline or time-scale in the matter of the amalgamation.

    ‘There was no time line, no time frame, no deadline. Not even 100 years. You see, in the process of agitation, for all kinds of break away or something like that, there will be propaganda of all kinds. Different kinds of narrative will come up so there is nothing like 100 years or whatever,’ said Professor Rasheed Olaniyi.

    “There was nothing like agreement, it was imposed by the colonial state. As a matter of fact, the first time that the Nigerian political class would meet and discuss was 1947 and that was when Nigeria legislative council or the House of Representatives was constituted in 1947. That was the first time. Subsequently they met 1953,1954 then 1955 so, they met at different points in Lagos, there was a conference in Ibadan where all of them met, there was also a conference in London were all of the met and discussed various issues affecting Nigeria as far as the colonization and state government was concerned. So, they met not before 1947. It was the first time. The three legislative councils, the western province, the Northern Province then the eastern province so, that was the first time they met.

    “There was no treaty for the amalgamation of 1914. There was nothing like a treaty. Who represented who and where? These are the questions we need to ask. Who represented the Southern or the Northern Province at that time? If at all, there was something like that, it was colonially imposed because one, there were differences in terms of the various resources of the various sections of the country by that time. So, there was a need to balance the budget in order to facilitate the provision of infrastructure for economic exploitation; there was a need to fund the railway, the customs, to fund so many other aspects of governance by that time.’


    From all available data, including Lord Frederick Lugard’s report, there is no proof that the 1914 Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Nigeria had a 100 years expiry or cessation or ouster clause, as widely claimed by many commentators on the Nigerian state.

    There is no record of any treaty signed by leaders of the respective regions, as the amalgamation was a British fiat, for the smooth running and governance purposes.

    This researcher produced this fact-check per Splash FM 105.5, Ibadan, with the Dubawa 2021 Fellowship partnership, to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

  • [email protected]: How true is claim that Flora Shaw, British journalist, coined the name Nigeria?

    A British journalist, Flora Shaw, is widely credited with the coinage of the name “Nigeria” to describe the “Niger Area,” which was then a territory administered by the Royal Niger Company

    Oral history and some historical literature have over the years popularised the claim that Shaw (later Lady Lord Lugard), a female journalist reporting for The Times based in London, coined the name of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.

    For instance, an article, “Who named Nigeria and in what Year?” published by Dailyschoolnews Nigeria Portal, claimed Flora Shaw created the name ‘Nigeria.’

    The British Journalist, Flora Shaw, who coined the name ‘Nigeria’ for the ‘Niger Area’

    “Nigeria was named after the River Niger and its environs. Nigeria was named and discovered by a British journalist named Flora Shaw, who surprisingly later got married to Lord Fredrick Lugard, a British administrator,” the article claimed.

    However, there are several other claims that Flora Shaw did not coin ‘Nigeria’.

    For instance, a post on Nairaland Forum claimed that “Flora Shaw (lord Lugard’s Wife) Didn’t Coin The Name Nigeria.”

    The post claimed a book published in 1862, “Life in the Niger” by William Cole mentioned ‘Nigerians’ in two places. “This was 31 years before Flora Shaw’s ‘formulation’ of the term Nigeria or Nigerians,” the post stated.

    Life in the Niger 

    However, a commentator countered the claim, adding that it was a review by modern editors describing “a trip by the author and five Nigerians.” 

    The commentator added: “This reference is a description of the book by modern time editors trying to point readers in the right direction.” 

    In addition, the Nairaland Forum post claimed that there is also a use of “Nigerian” in another publication by Richard Burton in 1863, in his article “My Wanderings in West Africa: A Visit to the Renowned Cities of Warri and Benin.” 

    The post claimed that while making an observation about the variation in skin color among people in that area, Burton Wrote in the book that, “The skin is mostly black; some, however, are fair and reddish, a thing everywhere to be observed among Nigerian tribes.” 

    The post concluded that “It’s not certain that either Burton or Cole coined that word either. The term may already have been in use by then.”

    Similarly, a Youtube video by The Renaissance, entitled, “1914 Almagamation of Nigeria- A Hoax” also discredited the claim that Flora Shaw coined ‘Nigeria.’

    While evidence on the exact coinage of ‘Nigeria’ remains sketchy, what has been established is the fact that Flora Shaw suggested the name ‘Nigeria’ as the identity of the ‘Niger Area’ in an article in The Times of London of January 8, 1897,  123 years ago.

    However, evidence showed that she did not christen the ‘Niger Area’ as her suggestion was adopted 16 years later by Lord Federic Lugard when he fused the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, 106 years ago. 

    However, the United Kingdom’s National Portrait Gallery traced the origin of the name Nigeria to Flora Shaw.

    “Writing in The Times in 1897 she coined the name ‘Nigeria’ for the territories administered by the Royal Niger Company,” the organisation posted on its official website

    In the article, she wrote: “The name Nigeria applying to no other part of Africa may without offence to any neighbours be accepted as coextensive with the territories over which the Royal Niger Company has extended British influence, and may serve to differentiate them equally from the colonies of Lagos and the Niger Protectorate on the coast and from the French territories of the Upper Niger.”

    A former Africa correspondent for the Independent, Karl Maier, in the page 10 of his book entitled “This House Has Fallen” supported the historical claim that Shaw coined the name ‘Nigeria’.

    “London finally settled on Nigeria, a name coined sixteen years before by Lugard’s future wife, Flora Shaw, in an article she wrote for the British establishment newspaper, The Times,’ Maier documented in the book.

    A screenshot of the page 10 of Karl Maier’s ‘This House Has Fallen’ 

    Furthermore, a twitter handle, @historyintwists,  posted on Twitter a scanned article detailing how the name “Nigeria” was suggested by Flora Shaw in the Times of London of the 8th of January 1897.

    A  tweet showing a scanned publication published by The Times that Flora Shaw coined the name Nigeria

    In addition, Nigeria’s Centenary Project published an article tagged: “Birth of the Nigerian Colony.” 

    The article stated that like so many modern African states, Nigeria is the creation of European imperialism. “Its very name – after the great Niger River, the country’s dominating physical feature – was suggested in the 1890s by British journalist Flora Shaw, who later became the wife of colonial governor Frederick Lugard. The completion of the British conquest in 1903 and the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914.”

    Evidence shows that the name suggested by Flora Shaw for the ‘Niger Area’ became a reality when “the Nigerian state emerged in 1914 after thousands of years of convergence of different ethnic groups in a geographical region subsequently coined’ Nigeria’ by Flora Shaw.”

    Two researchers, Uzoma Osuala and Obinna Muoh published an article on the Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, asserting that “certainly, the British merged the various ethno-linguistic groups within the geographical terrain to create a country – Nigeria.” This happened in 1914, being 17 years after Flora Shaw suggested the name in an article published in The Times of London. 

    Historian speaks

    A historian, Ozibo Ozibo, said historical evidence supports the claim that Flora Shaw suggested ‘Nigeria’ for the ‘Niger Area’ “in the early days of the British colonial adventurism.” 

    Ozibo, who is a doctoral student in African History at the Michigan State University, United States of America, said the name recommended by Flora Shaw was eventually imposed on the ‘Niger Area’ by the British Government during the amalgamation in 1914 of the different pre-colonial nationalities under one political umbrella. 

    “In the origin, concept and imposition of nation-states in Africa, the interests of the colonial masters remained paramount,” he said. While the word Niger was not coined by Flora Shaw, Nigeria (assembled from Niger Area) was coined by Flora Shaw.

    The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

Back to top button