1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lagos (province)

LAGOS, the western province of Southern Nigeria, a British colony and protectorate in West Africa. The province consists of three divisions: (1) the coast region, including Lagos Island, being the former colony of Lagos; (2) small native states adjacent to the colony; and (3) the Yoruba country, farther inland. The total area is some 27,000 sq. m., or about the size of Scotland. The province is bounded S. by the Gulf of Guinea, (from 2° 46′ 55″ to 4° 30′ E.); W. by the French colony of Dahomey; N. and E. by other provinces of Nigeria.

Physical Features.—The coast is low, marshy and malarious, and all along the shore the great Atlantic billows cause a dangerous surf. Behind the coast-line stretches a series of lagoons, in which are small islands, that of Lagos having an area of 33/4 sq. m. Beyond the lagoons and mangrove swamps is a broad zone of dense primeval forest—“the bush”—which completely separates the arable lands from the coast lagoons. The water-parting of the streams flowing north to the Niger, and south to the Gulf of Guinea, is the main physical feature. The general level of Yorubaland is under 2000 ft. But towards the east, about the upper course of the river Oshun, the elevation is higher. Southward from the divide the land, which is intersected by the nearly parallel courses of the rivers Ogun, Omi, Oshun, Oni and Oluwa, falls in continuous undulations to the coast, the open cultivated ground gradually giving place to forest tracts, where the most characteristic tree is the oil-palm. Flowering trees, certain kinds of rubber vines, and shrubs are plentiful. In the northern regions the shea-butter tree is found. The fauna resembles that of the other regions of the Guinea coast, but large game is becoming scarce. Leopards, antelopes and monkeys are common, and alligators infest the rivers.

The lagoons, lying between the outer surf-beaten beach and the inner shore line, form a navigable highway of still waters, many miles in extent. They are almost entirely free from rock, though they are often shallow, with numerous mud banks. The most extensive are Lekki in the east, and Ikoradu (Lagos) in the west. At its N.W. extremity the Lagos lagoon receives the Ogun, the largest river in Yorubaland, whose current is strong enough to keep the seaward channel open throughout the year. Hence the importance of the port of Lagos, which lies in smooth water at the northern end of this channel. The outer entrance is obstructed by a dangerous sand bar.

Climate and Health.—The climate is unhealthy, especially for Europeans. The rainfall has not been ascertained in the interior. In the northern districts it is probably considerably less than at Lagos, where it is about 70 in. a year. The variation is, however, very great. In 1901 the rainfall was 112 in., in 1902 but 47, these figures being respectively the highest and lowest recorded in a period of seventeen years. The mean temperature at Lagos is 82.5° F., the range being from 68° to 91°. At certain seasons sudden heavy squalls of wind and rain that last for a few hours are common. The hurricane and typhoon are unknown. The principal diseases are malarial fever, smallpox, rheumatism, peripheral neuritis, dysentery, chest diseases and guinea-worm. Fever not unfrequently assumes the dangerous form known as “black-water fever.” The frequency of smallpox is being much diminished outside the larger towns in the interior, in which vaccination is neglected. The absence of plague, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid fever and scarlatina is noteworthy. A mild form of yaws is endemic.

Inhabitants.—The population is estimated at 1,750,000. The Yoruba people, a Negro race divided into many tribes, form the majority of the inhabitants. Notwithstanding their political feuds and their proved capacity as fighting men, the Yoruba are distinguished above all the surrounding races for their generally peaceful disposition, industry, friendliness, courtesy and hospitality towards strangers. They are also intensely patriotic. Physically they resemble closely their Ewe and Dahomey neighbours, but are of somewhat lighter complexion, taller and of less pronounced Negro features. They exhibit high administrative ability, possess a marked capacity for trade, and have made remarkable progress in the industrial arts. The different tribes are distinguished by tattoo markings, usually some simple pattern of two or more parallel lines, disposed horizontally or vertically on the cheeks or other parts of the face. The feeling for religion is deeply implanted among the Yoruba. The majority are pagans, or dominated by pagan beliefs, but Islam has made great progress since the cessation of the Fula wars, while Protestant and Roman Catholic missions have been at work since 1848 at Abeokuta, Oyo, Ibadan and other large towns. Samuel Crowther, the first Negro bishop in the Anglican church, who was distinguished as an explorer, geographer and linguist, was a native of Yorubaland, rescued (1822) by the English from slavery and educated at Sierra Leone (see Yorubas).

Towns.—Besides Lagos (q.v.), pop. about 50,000, the chief towns in the colony proper are Epe, pop. 16,000, on the northern side of the lagoons, and Badagry (a notorious place during the slave-trade period) and Lekki, both on the coast. Inland the chief towns are Abeokuta (q.v.), pop. about 60,000, and Ibadan (q.v.), pop. estimated at 150,000.

Agriculture and Trade.—The chief wealth of the country consists in forest produce, the staple industries being the collection of palm-kernels and palm oil. Besides the oil-palm forests large areas are covered with timber trees, the wood chiefly cut for commercial purposes being a kind of mahogany. The destruction of immature trees and the fluctuations in price render this a very uncertain trade. The rubber industry was started in 1894, and in 1896 the rubber exported was valued at £347,000. In 1899, owing to reckless methods of tapping the vines, 75% of the rubber plants died. Precautions were then taken to preserve the remainder and allow young plants to grow. The collection of rubber recommenced in 1904 and the industry again became one of importance. A considerable area is devoted to cocoa plantations, all owned by native cultivators. Coffee and tobacco of good quality are cultivated and shea-butter is largely used as an illuminant. The Yoruba country is the greatest agricultural centre in West Africa. For home consumption the Yoruba grow yams, maize and millet, the chief articles of food, cassava, sweet potatoes, sesame and beans. Model farms have been established for experimental culture and for the tuition of the natives. A palatable wine is obtained from the Raphia vinifera and native beers are also brewed. Imported spirits are largely consumed. There are no manufactures on a large scale save the making of “country cloths” (from cotton grown, spun and woven in the country) and mats. Pottery and agricultural implements are made, and tanning, dyeing and forging practised in the towns, and along the rivers and lagoons boats and canoes are built. Fishing is extensively engaged in, the fish being dried and sent up country. Except iron there are no valuable minerals in the country.

The cotton plant from which the “country cloths” are made is native to the country, the soil of which is capable of producing the very finest grades of cotton. The Egba branch of the Yoruba have always grown the plant. In 1869 the cotton exported was valued at £76,957, but owing to low prices the natives ceased to grow cotton for export, so that in 1879 the value of exported cotton was only £526. In 1902 planting for export was recommenced by the Egba on scientific lines, and was started in the Abeokuta district with encouraging results.

The Yoruba profess to be unable to alienate land in perpetuity, but native custom does not preclude leasing, and land concessions have been taken up by Europeans on long leases. Some concessions are only for cutting and removing timber; others permit of cultivation. The northern parts of the protectorate are specially suitable for stock raising and poultry culture.

The chief exports are palm-kernels, palm-oil, timber, rubber and cocoa. Palm-kernels alone constitute more than a half in value of the total exports, and with palm-oil over three-fourths. The trade in these products is practically confined to Great Britain and Germany, the share of the first-named being 25% to Germany’s 75%. Minor exports are coffee, “country cloths,” maize, shea-butter and ivory.

Cotton goods are the most important of the imports, spirits coming next, followed by building material, haberdashery and hardware and tobacco. Over 90% of the cotton goods are imported from Great Britain, whilst nearly the same proportion of the spirit imports come from Germany. Nearly all the liquors consist of “Trade Spirits,” chiefly gin, rum and a concoction called “alcohol,” introduced (1901) to meet the growing taste of the people for stronger liquor. This stuff contained 90% of pure alcohol and sometimes over 4% of fusel oil. To hinder the sale of this noxious compound legislation was passed in 1903 prohibiting the import of liquor containing more than 1/2% of fusel oil, whilst the states of Abeokuta and Ibadan prohibited the importation of liquor stronger than proof. The total trade of the country in 1905 was valued at £2,224,754, the imports slightly exceeding the exports. There is a large transit trade with Dahomey.

Communications.—Lagos is well supplied with means of communication. A 3 ft. 6 in. gauge railway starts from Iddo Island, and extends past Abeokuta, 64 m. from Lagos, Ibadan (123 m.), Oshogbo (175 m.), to Illorin (247 m.) in Northern Nigeria, whence the line is continued to Jebba and Zunguru (see Nigeria). Abeokuta is served by a branch line, 11/2 m. long, from Aro on the main line. Railway bridges connect Iddo Island both with the mainland and with Lagos Island (see Lagos, town). This line was begun in 1896 and opened to Ibadan in 1901. In 1905 the building of the section Ibadan-Illorin was undertaken. The railway was built by the government and cost about £7000 per mile. The lagoons offer convenient channels for numerous small craft, which, with the exception of steam-launches, are almost entirely native-built canoes. Branch steamers run between the Forcados mouth of the Niger and Lagos, and also between Lagos and Porto Novo, in French territory, and do a large transit trade. Various roads through the bush have been made by the government. There is telegraphic communication with Europe, Northern Nigeria and South Africa, and steamships ply regularly between Lagos and Liverpool, and Lagos and Hamburg (see Lagos, town).

Administration, Justice, Education, &c.—The small part of the province which constitutes “the colony of Southern Nigeria” is governed as a crown colony. Elsewhere the native governments are retained, the chiefs and councils of elders receiving the advice and support of British commissioners. There is also an advisory native central council which meets at Lagos. The great majority of the civil servants are natives of the country, some of whom have been educated in England. The legal status of slavery is not recognized by the law courts and dealing in slaves is suppressed. As an institution slavery is dying out, and only exists in a domestic form.

The cost of administration is met, mainly, by customs, largely derived from the duties on imported spirits. From the railways, a government monopoly, a considerable net profit is earned. Expenditure is mainly under the heads of railway administration, other public works, military and police, health, and education. The revenue increased in the ten years 1895–1905 from £142,049 to £410,250. In the same period the expenditure rose from £144,484 to £354,254.

The defence of the province is entrusted to the Lagos battalion of the West African Frontier Force, a body under the control of the Colonial Office in London and composed of Hausa (four-fifths) and Yoruba. It is officered from the British army.

The judicial system in the colony proper is based on that of England. The colonial supreme court, by agreement with the rulers of Abeokuta, Ibadan and other states in the protectorate, tries, with the aid of native assessors, all cases of importance in those countries. Other cases are tried by mixed courts, or, where Yoruba alone are concerned, by native courts.

There is a government board of education which maintains a few schools and supervises those voluntarily established. These are chiefly those of various missionary societies, who, besides primary schools, have a few secondary schools. The Mahommedans have their own schools. Grants from public funds are made to the voluntary schools. Considerable attention is paid to manual training, the laws of health and the teaching of English, which is spoken by about one-fourth of the native population.

History.—Lagos Island was so named by the Portuguese explorers of the 15th century, because of the numerous lagoons or lakes on this part of the coast. The Portuguese, and after them the French, had settlements here at various points. In the 18th century Lagos Lagoon became the chief resort of slavers frequenting the Bight of Benin, this portion of the Gulf of Guinea becoming known pre-eminently as the Slave Coast. British traders established themselves at Badagry, 40 m. W. of Lagos, where in 1851 they were attacked by Kosoko, the Yoruba king of Lagos Island. As a result a British naval force seized Lagos after a sharp fight and deposed the king, placing his cousin, Akitoye, on the throne. A treaty was concluded under which Akitoye bound himself to put down the slave trade. This treaty was not adhered to, and in 1861 Akitoye’s son and successor, King Docemo, was induced to give up his territorial jurisdiction and accept a pension of 1200 bags of cowries, afterwards commuted to £1000 a year, which pension he drew until his death in 1885. Immediately after the proclamation of the British annexation, a steady current of immigration from the mainland set in, and a flourishing town arose on Lagos Island. Iddo Island was acquired at the same time as Lagos Island, and from 1862 to 1894 various additions by purchase or cession were made to the colony. In 1879 the small kingdom of Kotonu was placed under British protection. Kotonu lies south and east of the Denham Lagoon (see Dahomey). In 1889 it was exchanged with the French for the kingdom of Pokra which is to the north of Badagry. In the early years of the colony Sir John Glover, R.N., who was twice governor (1864–1866 and 1871–1872), did much pioneer work and earned the confidence of the natives to a remarkable degree. Later Sir C. A. Moloney (governor 1886–1890) opened up relations with the Yoruba and other tribes in the hinterland. He despatched two commissioners whose duty it was to conclude commercial treaties and use British influence to put a stop to inter-tribal fighting and the closing of the trade routes. In 1892 the Jebu, who acted as middlemen between the colony and the Yoruba, closed several trade routes. An expedition sent against them resulted in their subjugation and the annexation of part of their country. An order in council issued in 1899 extended the protectorate over Yorubaland. The tribes of the hinterland have largely welcomed the British protectorate and military expeditions have been few and unimportant. (For the history of the Yoruba states see Yorubas.)

Lagos was made a separate government in 1863; in 1866 it was placed in political dependence upon Sierra Leone; in 1874 it became (politically) an integral part of the Gold Coast Colony, whilst in 1886 it was again made a separate government, administered as a crown colony. In Sir William Macgregor, M.D., formerly administrator of British New Guinea, governor 1899–1904, the colony found an enlightened ruler. He inaugurated the railway system, and drew much closer the friendly ties between the British and the tribes of the protectorate. Meantime, since 1884, the whole of the Niger delta, lying immediately east of Lagos, as well as the Hausa states and Bornu, had been acquired by Great Britain. Unification of the British possessions in Nigeria being desirable, the delta regions and Lagos were formed in 1906 into one government (see Nigeria).

See C. P. Lucas, Historical Geography of the British Colonies, vol. iii. West Africa (Oxford, 1896); the annual Reports issued by the Colonial Office, London; A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking Peoples (London, 1894); Lady Glover, The Life of Sir John Hawley Glover (London, 1897). Consult also the works cited under Nigeria and Dahomey.