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HOW NIGERIA BECAME A COUNTRY - From Oil Palm Trade to Joint Venture Business

Updated: Nov 24, 2023



Do You know that the existence of Nigeria was a result of Britain`s commercial interest in West Africa?

History of "Madam Efuroye Tinubu Certificate of Occupancy" title- Know the history of the first and oldest land title covering a vast portion of Eti-osa (Ikoyi, Lekki, Victoria Island, Ajah, etc.).

The geographical region that is now modern-day Nigeria was once known as the slave coast but by 1870 that had changed. Britain had lost its appetite for slaves and preferred palm oil. In the 19th century, Britain was the first industrialized nation in the world and it needed palm oil as a lubricant for its machines.

Britain had a long history of producing textiles and raising sheep. In the 1800s, as the population grew and humans started making small machines which was the beginning of industrialization, Goods that had once been painstakingly crafted by hand started to be produced in mass quantities by machines, thanks to the introduction of new machines and textile techniques. Producing cloth became faster and required less time and far less human labor.

Following this industrial revolution, there was a spike in demand for palm oil as a machine lubricant. Britain knew it would have to battle other European powers (like the Portuguese who had gained influence amongst Edos who occupied the coastal areas, hinterland, and other southern Nigerian people), to gain monopoly access to the region's palm oil and other industrial raw materials, not only slaves. If the Greedy British Government was to ensure safe and efficient access of the region's resources fully to themselves alone, the slave trade fueled violence and instability would need to be brought to an end.

Breaking the established order, the new British strategy will now be firmly focused on keeping African labor within its shores as the continuous demand for slaves on the West African coastline was causing a serious labor shortage on the mainland which was hampering Britain's agricultural productivity. Britain was two steps ahead of other European countries. They got to work and quickly passed the anti-slavery laws and also established an anti-slavery navy squadron, which began intercepting slave ships in the region and returning the captives to shore so that they would have enough slaves for themselves.

However, the slave trade showed no signs of slowing down as it was simply too profitable for the local rulers and the mainly Portuguese slave traders that now dominated the market. Britain needed a more permanent solution.

Luckily for them, a long-standing rivalry between two Yoruba kings from present-day South West Nigeria presented them with the perfect opportunity. This information was given to the British by a great and successful slave trader, Madam Efuroye Tinubu. She was promised a handsome price by way of security protection, land, and business support if only she could make this feat successful.


In the 1840s, Oba Akintoye who had already been crowned king was forcefully removed by his cousin, Kosoko who crowned himself king, forcing Akitoye and his supporters into exile. Kosoko was vehemently anti-British and pro-slave trade and swore allegiance to the Oba of Benin who held sway control over the Atlantic slave coast thus the Atlantic Ocean was called BIGHT OF BENIN. The Edos and Awori had lived in this land for centuries even millennia. This would pose a problem to the British Government which developed more interest in the land than just business. The British Government identified this rift between Kosoko and exiled Akitoye. They reached out to Akitoye and promised to remove Kosoko and make Akitoye King if only he signed a Treaty. Akitoye signed the treaty.

This later became the first Land ownership act in the formation of the country Nigeria, it was called TREATY OF CESSION of 1861. Akitoye swore allegiance to Britain against the Oba, promised to ban the slave trade even though he previously had no moral objections to slavery, and granted the British missionaries and their merchant's exclusive access to land and rights to the region provided the British army would provide security cover for him. Following a battle referred to as "Ogun Agindigbi", Britain and Akitoye/Madam Efuroye Tinubu won, and Kosovo/Benin Lost. Oba Akitoye was reinstalled as King.

This was the beginning of Modern day slavery in Nigeria and later became the strategy for all other kingdoms to be subdued, hither lands. Madam Efuroye Tinubu was rewarded with the vast marshy land in the area now called Island/Eti-Osa where she still went about her slave trading having been an ally of the British.

The region that is Nigeria today had a lot of palm oil, the majority of it tucked in the lush vegetation of the Niger Delta which ironically has been polluted by another type of oil.

The demand for Nigeria's palm oil was huge. A man known as George Goldie would be an important figure in Nigeria's palm oil business. In 1879, he formed the United African Company (later renamed the National African Company).

There was a lack of structure in the palm oil business. Niger-Deltans sold to the highest bidder and Goldie was able to control the region of the Lower Niger River. In 1884 his business had boomed and he had 30 trading points along the Lower Niger essentially creating a monopoly for the British to capitalize on.

The Berlin Conference should be highlighted here. The conference gave the British access to the Lower Niger and left very little for the Germans and French. In 1886, George Goldie started moving inwards into River Niger and Benue, a clear violation of the gentleman's agreement he had made with the chiefs. It was initially agreed that the United African Company would not pass the coastal areas.

Also within the same year, the United African Company was changed to Royal Niger Company.

George Goldie's business operation was far from fair. His company tricked the native chiefs (including Jaja of Opobo) into signing agreements that gave them the exclusive rights to export palm oil after initially agreeing that free trade would not be obstructed. The Chiefs fell for the promise and signed the dubious contracts that were written in English.

When Jaja of Opobo wanted to export his own palm oil, he was accused of obstructing commerce and sent into exile. On his way back home in 1891, he was poisoned with a cup of tea.

The story of Jaja of Opobo made chiefs and rulers to be wary of their deals with the Royal Niger Company. Frederick William Koko Mingi VIII of Nembe popularly known as King Koko was one of such rulers. The born-again monarch who was formerly a school teacher detested the restriction on trading and did business with the Germans directly.

In 1894, after the Royal Niger Company introduced more restrictions, Koko Mingi VIII denounced Christianity and formed an alliance with the Bonny and Okpoma to take down the company. Unfortunately, the Bonny refused the alliance. This did not stop the rebellion. History has it that Koko Mingi VIII led an attack on the Royal Niger Company headquarters on January 29, 1895. The headquarters was at Akassa in Bayelsa.

The attack saw the king capture, 60 white men while losing forty of his soldiers. Using the 60 men as hostages, King Koko Mingi wanted the RNC to allow him to choose his trade partners. If the company granted his wish, he would release the men.

The Royal Niger Company did not yield. King Koko killed forty of the men he captured. As retaliation, Britain’s Royal Navy attacked Brass and leveled it completely on February 20, 1895.

Oil Palm Trade to Joint Venture Business

An uneasy calm was restored and the British had their way. King Koko was on the run. As punishment, the people of Brass were fined £500. Their weapons were taken from them too.

Meanwhile, the British Army had invaded Benin and waged a war against the Oba and EDO people, who had supreme control over the Trans-Atlantic trade. They defeated the Benins in 1897. News went around that the great Oba of Benin had been defeated and captured.

King Koko moved into exile after rejecting the terms of the British after the British Parliamentary Commission. He committed suicide as an outlaw in 1898.

The war was, however, a bad PR look for the Royal Niger Company. Even though Great Britain was the one behind the company, it revoked its charter in 1899.

The Royal Niger Company brought all these Treaties signed by the various traditional kings together into a Joint Venture partnership agreement and according to them though false,this JV Agreement gave them the full right to land ownership in Lower Niger(Southern Nigeria). The Royal Niger Company sold its territory (Nigeria) to the British government for £865,000. Lord Lugard thereafter ratified the land laws and made the LAND PROCLAMATION ORDINANCE of 1900. Land title ratification and modification were done under the British High Commissioner, annexing the vast mass of land in the area now called Eti-Osa to Madam Efuroye Tinubu, except for some areas later reclaimed and regularized over the years.

It took almost 15 years of day and night discussion, exchanges, meetings, and travels, to piece together all those parcels of land that came under those different Treaties. Whilst indigenous people of pre-colonial southern Nigeria(Edos, Lagos Colony, Itsekiris, Ijaws, Efik, etc) were going about their various lives, the British were tip-toeing over their heads, and in 1906, they merged the entire Southern territory to become THE PROTECTORATE OF SOUTHERN NIGERIA.

On the other side, there were foreigners too, who invaded northwards. They landed in Sokoto in 1804 and conquered and overran them. These were Fulani people, led by Uthman Dan Fodio in 1804. They met halfway on the Ilorin-Benue Axis. The Fulani caliphate came towards the ocean southwards, and The British went northwards to secure the balance of the land. After a short while confronting each other, it occurred to them that they were on the same mission. They decided to join forces in a JOINT VENTURE AGREEMENT which still exists in Nigerian archives to date, to annex what they had acquired, consolidate it, and share the benefits of having it permanently.

That was what became the AMALGAMATION.

The British or Fulanis never told anybody in Southern Nigeria that they were going to lump them together with some new people from Northern Nigeria. The discussion was strictly between the British and Fulani caliphate.

From 1906 to 1913, they began to merge the systems of two mortally opposed civilizations- FULANI CONQUERED SHARIA NORTH(Due to the Fulani Jihad) AND Southern Nigeria(BRITISH SOUTHERN PROTECTORATE). An illegal political union was formed.

Lord Lugard was the governor of both the Northern and Southern protectorates. The name Nigeria was formulated by his wife, a British journalist Flora Shaw who later got married to Lord Frederick Lugard. It was coined from a Latin word given to its longest river, River Niger. The word "NIGER", "NIGGER" or "NIGGA" means black in Latin and "Area".Thus The region was initially called "Niger Area", coined from its longest river, River Niger.

Over the course of time, the word Niger Area transformed into Nigeria. And this has been in use ever since.



In 1914, the Southern protectorate and Northern protectorate were amalgamated by Lord Lugard.

Royal Niger Company changed its name to The Niger Company Ltd. It was later absorbed by UNILEVER which still operates in Nigeria today.

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