ILLORIN, a province of British West Africa in the protectorate of Nigeria. It has an area of 6300 m., with an estimated population of about 250,000. Its inhabitants are of various tribes, among which the Yoruba now predominate. There are two minor emirates, Shonga and Lafiagi in this province, and a number of semi-independent towns of which the chief are Awton, Ajassa, Offa and Patiji. Under British administration the province is divided into three divisions, Illorin (central), Offa (southern) and Patiji (northern). The province is rich in agricultural and sylvan products. Among the former are tobacco, cotton, rice, peppers, ground-nuts and kolas. The latter include great quantities of shea as well as palm-oil and rubber. The capital is a town of the same name as the province. It is 160 m. in a direct line N.N.E. of Lagos, and 50 m. S.S.W. of Jebba, a port on the Niger, being connected with both places by railway. The town is surrounded by a mud wall partly in ruins, which has a circuit of some 10 m. Illorin is a great trading centre, Hausa caravans bringing goods from central Africa, and merchandise from the coasts of the Mediterranean, which is distributed from Illorin to Dahomey, Benin and the Lagos hinterland, while from the Guinea coast the trade is in the hands of the Yoruba and comes chiefly through Lagos. A variety of manufactures are carried on, including the making of leather goods, carved wooden vessels, finely plaited mats, embroidered work, shoes of yellow and red leather and pottery of various kinds. Before the establishment of British administration traders from the south, with a few selected exceptions, were prohibited from entering the city. Illorin middlemen transacted all business between the traders from the north, who were not allowed to pass to the south, and those from the south. Since the establishment of British authority the town has been thrown open, crowds of petty traders from Lagos have flocked into Illorin, and between 4000 and 5000 trade licences are issued yearly. The British resident estimated in 1904 that at least 3000 loads of British cotton goods, which he valued at £5 a load, were imported. The population of the town is estimated at from 60,000 to 70,000. The chief buildings are the palace of the emir and the houses of the baloguns (war chiefs). From the centre of the town roads radiate like spokes of a wheel to the various gates. Baobabs and other shade trees are numerous. There are a number of mosques in the town, and the Mahommedans are the dominant power, but the Yoruba, who constitute the bulk of the people, are pagans.
The town of Illorin was founded, towards the close of the 18th century, by Yoruba, and rose to be the capital of one of the Yoruba kingdoms. About 1825 the kingdom, which had come under Mahommedan influence, ceased its connexion with the Yoruba states and became an emirate of the Sokoto empire. The Fula, however, maintained the Yoruba system of government, which places the chief power in a council of elders. In 1897 Illorin was occupied by the forces of the Royal Niger Company, and the emir placed himself “entirely under the protection and power of the company.” After the assumption of authority by the British government in 1900, Illorin was organized for administration on the same system as the remainder of northern Nigeria. The emir took the oath of allegiance to the sovereign of Great Britain. A resident was placed at his court. Courts of justice have been established and British garrisons quartered at various places in the province. (See also Nigeria and Lagos.)