Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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was now stronger than Sokoto.

At a later period it was thought well to assimilate
the system of appointment, and the emirs and chiefs
of the Protectorate have been divided into chiefs of the
first and second grade, and minor chiefs of the third and
fourth grades. The rank of a chief of the first grade
is reserved for the Shehu of Bornu and the great Fulani
emirs, such as Sokoto, Kano, Gando, &c. ; the rank of
chief of the second grade is for the lesser emirs, such
as Katagum, Hadeija, Lapai, &c., and the chiefs of the
principal pagan communities, such as Argungu, Kiama,
Boussa, &c. The ranks of third and fourth grade are
for district headmen and pagan chiefs of less importance,
but having executive authority. The formal recognition
of all chiefs, whatever their grade, is accompanied by the
presentation of a "staff of office," and the staff varies
according to the importance of the office conferred. Chiefs
of the first grade have a long staff surmounted by a
silver headpiece, chiefs of the second grade have also a
long staff, but it is surmounted by a brass headpiece. In
the case of the third and fourth grades the staves are
short and of plainer design. For the Shehu of Bornu
and the Emir of Sokoto special staves have been designed
as a mark of honour in recognition of their ancient
positions of supreme importance. There are only these
four symbols of executive authority. Below the rank of
fourth grade chief, certificates of office are given, but
without a staff, to certain graded headmen, &c.

The oath of allegiance, which is taken on receiving
the staff of office, has also been brought into regular form,
and for Moslems is as follows : — " I swear, in the name
of Allah and of Mohammed his prophet, to serve well and
truly his Majesty King Edward VII., and his representa-


tive, the High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria, to
obey the laws of the Protectorate and the lawful commands
of the High Commissioner, and of the Resident, provided
that they are not contrary to my religion. And if they
are so contrary I will at once inform the Resident for
the information of the High Commissioner. I will cherish
in my heart no treachery or disloyalty, and I will rule
my people with justice, and without partiality. And as
I carry out this oath, so may Allah judge me." To
pagans, the substance of the same oath is administered
in whatever form is most binding on their conscience.

To all the chiefs it is explained that it is no part of the
British policy to lessen their influence or authority — that,
on the contrary, it is the desire of the British Government
to rule with them, and through them.

Residents are instructed strictly to observe the
etiquette of proper ceremonial in their dealings with the
chiefs. It is recognised that, the Fulani chiefs being aliens
who have won their position by conquest, it would not
be surprising if the bulk of the people, seeing that the
Fulani power has been broken by the British, were no
longer to accord to the chiefs their accustomed obedience
and respect. The desire of the British Government is
to counteract this tendency in every possible way, and
Residents are instructed that "the privileges and in-
fluence of the chiefs can best be upheld by letting the
peasantry see that Government itself treats them as an
integral part of the machinery of the administration — that
there are not two sets of rulers, one British and one
native, working either separately or in co-operation, but
a single Government, in which the native chiefs have
clearly defined duties, and an acknowledged status equally
with British officials." It is, however, considered neces-
sary at present, and probably for some time to come, to
retain the means of enforcing order — namely, the mili-
tary and police force — solely under the British Govern-
ment. The emir's orders must be enforced by the native
courts. In the last resort it may, of course, become


necessary for the British Government to compel obedi-
ence, but this emergency is as far as possible to be

The powers of native chiefs are defined, as are the
powers of the native courts, for which warrants are now
issued in all the Mohammedan emirates, and it is interest-
ing to observe that in the elaboration of the details of
this system the opinions and advice of the emirs and their
leading native counsellors have been sought and willingly
given. In many discussions British officers have been
struck by the acuteness and ability with which the weak or
distasteful point of a proposal is discerned, and arguments
in favour of a preferred alternative sustained. The readi-
ness of the emirs to co-operate in the construction of
a new system of government has been extremely help-
ful, and where it has been possible their wishes have been
gladly deferred to.



The position of the Fulani chiefs was, however, in the
first instance, profoundly modified by a condition which
was of the very essence of British administration. A
large part of their revenue had consisted of tribute
paid in slaves, and, in some cases, of the tithe levied on
the produce of slave-raids, which they conducted either
in person or by the medium of the commander of their
troops. But under British government, the slave-raid and
the slave-trade were abolished, and all dealing in slaves
became illegal. It was not made illegal for a native to
own slaves, but by the abolition of the legal status of
slavery, every slave who chose to do so could assert his
freedom, while the decree making all children free who
were born in the Protectorate after April i, 1901, was a
decree of general emancipation of the coming generation.

The fact has to be faced by the administrator in
Mohammedan Africa, that the abolition of slavery is not
a straightforward task of beneficence. It carries with it
grave and undeniable disadvantages to the slaves as well
as to their owners, and the objections urged against it
by the local rulers and employers are not by any means
without foundation.

Property in slaves, whatever may be thought of it
by the enlightened conscience of Europe, is as real to the
Mohammedan as any other form of property. Slavery
is an institution sanctioned by the law of Islam, and to
abolish it without compensation to the Mohammedan
slave-owners would be an act of injustice amounting to
nothing less than wholesale confiscation.

It has to be remembered, also, that in countries



where all industries are based on slave labour, slave
power takes the place which steam and electric power
take in the West. It cannot be suddenly abolished
without a universal dislocation of industrial life. Slaxcry
is at present the only form of labour contract known
in many districts of Northern Nigeria, and before it can
be done away with, time is needed for other forms of
labour contract to be substituted. My husband, whose
opinions I am quoting in regard to the whole of this
important subject, and who, as his early career has
publicly proclaimed, is among the most convinced op-
ponents of slavery, has pointed out, in memoranda
intended for the instruction of the Residents, that a
substantial return is given by the master for the work of
the slave. The slave is protected, housed, clothed, and
fed. In many cases he is allowed to employ a portion
of his time for his own exclusive benefit, and his rights
are carefully protected by Koranic law. It is not wise to
encourage a reckless rejection of these present advantages
without full consideration of his possible future position.

The slaves of Northern Nigeria may be divided into
two classes, household slaves, and farm slaves.^ The
household slaves are domestic slaves in the sense usually
understood, though they frequently rise to positions of
great responsibility and independence. The status of
farm slaves differs from that of household slaves, and is
rather that of serfs attached to the soil, than of slaves
in the common sense of the term. They are inalienable
from the land. They cannot legally be sold. They
have certain rights as regards produce, the houses they
live in, the land which they are allowed to cultivate for
themselves, and the time which is allotted to them for
their own use. They form, in fact, the body of the agri-
cultural population, and any sudden change which should
lead these people to abandon the land and flock into the
towns would manifestly be disastrous. The slaves of

1 See the description given by Hume of the slaves of England under
the Saxons.


Northern Nigeria, by the universal testimony of the
British Residents now stationed in every province, are
generally happy and contented.

This condition of affairs is sometimes made the basis
of an argument in favour of the permanent toleration of
domestic slavery, which, under proper supervision, is
thought by some people to be an institution suited to
the present condition of Africa. In opposition to such
a view there is the simple logic of the fact that slavery
cannot be maintained without a supply of slaves acquired
under all the horrors of slave-raids, and transported with
great suffering and loss of life from their original homes.
The evils of this system, whether they are considered
from a humane, or simply from an economic and adminis-
trative point of view, do not need to be insisted on.
For this reason alone slavery must stand condemned in
any society which aspires to civilisation. But there is
also a second aspect in which slavery as an institution is
opposed to the march of progress. It keeps a very large
portion of the population in a state of tutelage, in which
the individual is not held responsible for his acts. This, in
my husband's opinion, is the reason why Mohammedan
Africa, which readily reaches a higher stage of civilisation
than the black pagan territories, does not progress beyond
a certain point. It is too heavily weighted by the irre-
sponsible multitudes who are not concerned with, and do
not directly contribute towards public life. This from
the administrative point of view is very undesirable.

It is the British tradition that slavery is not tolerated
in any country which has been annexed to the Crown,
and has become a colony under the British flag, but that
in countries which are only in that partially dependent
condition which is known by the name of a Protectorate,
and are still governed by their own laws, it is not pos-
sible to forbid the institution of domestic slavery where
it exists. In all British Protectorates the step is now
taken to abolish the legal status of slavery.

In Northern Nigeria the value of the immediate


abolition of slave-raiding and slave-trading need not be
discussed. There is no voice that would be raised in
humane society in favour of the maintenance of these
institutions. The abolition of the legal status of slavery
has an effect in two ways. It is different from the aboli-
tion of slavery. It means only that the law as adminis-
tered in British courts does not recognise the existence
of slaves, and that property in persons as slaves is not
admitted. It is not forbidden to a native to hold slaves
so long as the master and slave are mutually satisfied,
but the slave can at any time assert his freedom if he
wishes to do so. Under this system emancipation is
gradual, and the value of it is that, without dislocating
the whole machinery of labour in the Protectorate, it
gives to the individual slave the power to change his
condition if he pleases. This is the first and obvious
use. The second effect is no less useful. It tends to
lessen the value of property in slaves by the fact that
no one is a slave any longer than he chooses to remain
one, and that property in slaves is not property in the
eyes of British law. This, combined with the increasing
difficulty and expense of obtaining slaves in consequence
of the abolition of the slave-trade and slave-raid, will have
the natural economic effect of preventing the investment
of money in slave property. Thus, by pressure of cir-
cumstance, without abolition, and without compensation,
the slave-owner will gradually cease to exist.

Having set the machinery of freedom in motion
towards an inevitable end, it is not to the interest of
the administration to hasten its operation. On the con-
trary, it is evidently to be desired in the interests of the
country that it should work slowly.

While the stream of investment is being diverted
from its old employment, and a free generation of children
born after the advent of British administration is growing
up, a process of education is going on of both classes,
upper and servile, to the conception of a free labour con-
tract and the respective responsibilities under it of master


and servant. To this end Residents are instructed to
direct the attention of chiefs and employers of labour
to the inevitable nature of the approaching change, and
in order to encourage a gradual adaptation of the social
system to the new conditions, they are specially to point
out the practical advantages of the employment of free
labour under the British administration. These are, in
fact, very real, since, if an employer's slaves choose
to desert him, the British courts cannot force them to
return, while, if he employs free labour, he has the full
assistance of the administration in enforcing his contract.
It is hoped that the example of Government, in employ-
ing gangs of free labour for public works, may serve
to illustrate the nature of a free contract, and be gra-
dually adopted by the native chiefs. The more intelli-
gent among them have shown a great willingness to
accept the necessary transition, recognising themselves
that, since their raiding grounds are closed, the present
system must come to an end. Already, from different
parts of the Protectorate, interesting accounts have been
received of experiments which have been tried by native
employers in free labour. They have generally taken
the form of piecework — plots of land being divided into
the equivalent of pennyworths of cultivation, which are
paid for in cowries. The experiments reported upon
have been successful, and accentuate the value which will
attach in this connection to the introduction of a cash
currency in which labour can be paid. The develop-
ment of a system of direct individual taxation will also
tend to teach the peasant his responsibilty to the State,
and his personal interest in and obligation to it. The
conception of individual responsibility has to be taught
to the slave, and respect for this individuality has to be
learned by the master, in the transition period through
which both are passing.

The transition period has its own difficulties. One
of these consists in the numbers of runaway and freed
slaves, for whom, though the practice of running away is


as far as possible discouraoed, some provision lias tu be
made. This difficulty is met in part by the establishment
of freed slave homes for the women and children, tiie
larger number of runaways being women whose cases are
more properly cases of divorce. Men are expected to
support themselves. Another difficulty of the transition
period which has to be taken notice of, is the master's
difficulty of obtaining labour for necessary industries as
the bond of the existing labour contract is loosened.
This would certainly become grave were runaway slaves
provided for on any large scale in a condition of idleness.
In tropical Africa the ground is so fertile, and the wants
of the primitive native so few, that a family may be easily
supported for a year on the produce of a few weeks' work.
Dr. Barth says that, in Northern Nigeria, a family could
live comfortably for a year on produce of which the equi-
valent value in English money would be ^5. Beyond
the satisfaction of these simple requirements there is no
need for the native to work. As a free agent he may
therefore prefer to be idle. But he has, in slavery, the
habit of work, the country can only be developed and
made prosperous by labour, and it would be retrogression,
not progress, if a race now fairly laborious were, by a
too sudden alteration of the social system, to be rendered
idle and vagrant.

There is no need that this should happen in Nigeria,
where, as we have seen from Dr. Barth's description, the
pagans whom the Bornuese raided for slaves were in their
free state extremely industrious. Two conditions appear
to be of value in preventing such an unsatisfactory result.
One, which is the first essential of all social progress, is
that each man should feel himself secure in the possession
of the fruits of his labour ; the other, which seems at first
sight like a contradiction in terms, is that he should be
obliged to contribute his share towards the expenses of
the State. The apparent contradiction is accepted by all
civilised societies, and takes the form of security from
confiscation accompanied by regular taxation.

2 G



The necessity to contribute to the maintenance of the
state is no more a new proposition to the African who
has Hved under Mohammedan rule, than is the habit of
labour. He has been accustomed to arbitrary levies for
the purpose. What the British Administration hopes to
effect is the introduction of order and moderation in the
claims which are made upon him in regard both to labour
and to taxes. It is right that, as a free man, he should
work for the maintenance of the State as well as for the
maintenance of his own family, and it becomes essential
that, contemporaneously with the introduction of liberty,
there should be established a regular and equitable system
of direct taxation.

This brings us to the subject from which we started :
of compensation to the emirs and fief-holders of the
Protectorate for the loss of revenue which they were
likely to suffer as a consequence of British intervention
in the slavery question, and also of the abolition of ex-
cessive tolls on trade.

On the assumption of sovereignty in the southern
emirates it became immediately necessary to secure to
the emirs some revenue which would enable them to meet
the expenses of their position, and this was done by allow-
ing them to collect their taxes under the protection of
the British Government. But in the quick succession of
events it was understood that all arrangements were
temporary. It was not until after the fall of Sokoto
that full attention could be given to the subject. When
the submission of the northern emirates had placed the

permanence of British rule beyond a doubt, the natives



of the Protectorate, well aware that no govcrnmeiu could
be carried on without a revenue, looked for an early
declaration on a subject which was to them of supreme

Northern Nigeria, it has been said, has no seaboard.
Internal fiscal frontiers were abolished when its territories
were transferred to the Crown. The fruitful source of
customs is, therefore, under present arrangements, cut off
from its fiscal possibilities. It must look to direct taxa-
tion for its resources. Direct taxation is also that to which
the natives have been accustomed. The broad system on
which the country was taxed under native administration
has been already alluded to, and it has been seen that the
burden was heavy. Under it the revenue of the emirs and
the principal fief-holders from the quite legitimate sources
of land, cattle, duties on crops, trades, &c., should have
been considerable. But in the decadence of Fulani rule,
the disorders which prevailed, the chronic rebellion of
tributary states, and the abuses of tax - gatherers, pre-
vented these revenues from flowing as they should have
done to the public treasury. While the dynasties were
detested for their arbitrary exactions, the emirs were
generally poor.

The advent of the British and the overthrow of Fulani
rule were at first hailed by the peasantry as an excuse
to repudiate all obligations to pay taxes, and even in the
well-organised province of Kano the revenue could not
be collected. It was evident that, if the policy of ruling
through the Fulani was to be maintained, the first duty
of the British Administration was to provide for the
peaceable collection of the taxes ; and since the conquered
emirs had been deprived of the power to raise troops
or police in their territories, it was necessary that British
force should even be applied in case of need to compel

The recognition of this obligation had the good effect
of enlisting the sympathy and goodwill of the ruling classes,
and of carrying to their minds some conviction of the truth


of the assurances contained in the British declaration that
the native chiefs were themselves henceforward to form
an integral part of the administration. But it followed
that, unless the British Administration were to allow itself
to be made the instrument of misrule, it had to assure
itself that the taxes were fair, and that the method of
collection did not involve oppression and cruelty.

From this situation a result was evolved so important
to the future administration of the country, that I will
ask the reader to take patience if I describe it at what
may seem to be undue length.

The emirs and councillors of the different states placed
their knowledge heartily at the disposal of the British
Administration. In many cases it was found that their
experience was nil, and that abuses which the name of
their government had covered were wholly unknown to
them, having been perpetrated by the often worthless
favourites who had been allowed to over-ride the proper
officials. But they had intelligence and knowledge of
native custom, and by the cordial working together of
the Native and British Administrations, a system of re-
formed taxation was elaborated, of which the Imperial
Government has in principle signified its approval.

Under this system the aim in the Mohammedan states
has been to retain the ancient and legitimate taxes based
upon Koranic law, while relief has been given to the
peasantry by the abolition of those modern impositions
which had been multiplied by the caprice of successive

The principal taxes recognised by the law were, first,
the " Zakka," or tithe in corn, which was limited to the two
staple crops of the country, dhourra and gero. In theory
it was due from Moslems and not from pagans, and should
have been devoted to purposes of charity and religion.
In practice it had lost its special character, and in all
the provinces except Sokoto it was levied on Moslems
and pagans alike. Second, the " Kurdin Kasa," a land
tax, which, in exact opposition to the Zakka, was in theory


levied only upon conquered pagans. In practice it was
arbitrarily levied, and was subject to purely capricious in-
crease. Third, the plantation tax was a tax levied u[)on all
crops other than the two which paid Zakka. Fourth, there
was the " Jangali " or cattle tax : it was originally a tithe,
and was levied only on cattle, and not on Hocks, Fifth,
the Sokoto Gaisua was a varying sum paid by all sub-
ordinate emirates to Sokoto and Gando : in theory it was
a tax upon the rich, and represented an acknowledgment
of suzerainty, having its counterpart in the present usually
made upon appointment by lesser chiefs to their superiors.
In practice it became a levy made by emirs upon all their
subordinate chiefs, and consequently through them upon
the peasantry. The emirs retained a portion of it for
their own benefit, and sent a portion to Sokoto. Before
the British occupation many emirates had ceased to send
their contribution to Sokoto, and when British suzerainty
was substituted for that of Sokoto they took the oppor-
tunity to discontinue it. In Sokoto, which was a Moslem
province, no taxes were levied except the Zakka. Con-
sequently Sokoto was at first deprived of revenue. Sixth,
the " Kurdin Sarauta " was an accession duty paid by
every chief or holder of office on appointment. The
abuse of this tax had led to the sale of offices to the
highest bidder, and put a premium on the dispossession
of holders of office in order that vacancies might be
created. Seventh, there was a tax on handicrafts, under
which head fresh impositions were perpetually devised.

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 37 of 41)