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

. (page 38 of 41)
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 38 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Eiofhth, there was a tax on traders, under which head
merchants, brokers, shop-keepers or common vendors
in the market, all paid their contributions to tiie re-
venue. Caravan tolls were apart from these, and ought
perhaps to constitute a separate heading. Ninth, there
was Gado or death duties, complete enough to satisfy the
most Radical of European reformers, under which, when
there was no direct heir, whole estates lapsed to the
emirs. Tenth, there were fines, court bribes, presents,
arbitrary collections made on special occasions, and forced


labour, of which slavery was, of course, the base. In
addition to these there were almost countless special taxes,
such as those on date palms, honey, dancing girls, pros-
titutes, gamblers, &c., which can only be classed as
various, and were imposed almost at will. In Bornu the
traditional taxes, of which a careful separate study was
made by the Resident, Mr. Hewby, were found to be
the orthodox Zakka, Jangali, and Gado, with another
called the " Haku Binirum," which was of the nature of
a graduated tax on property, whether represented by
land or other forms of wealth.

Upon the assumption of British rule the Residents of
every province were instructed to study and report upon
the existing system, its uses and abuses. As a result of
their reports, combined with the advice and help given
by the native administrations, the following reformed
system has been compiled.

All agricultural taxes, with the exception of the Sokoto
Gaisua, and its provincial counterpart, the Kurdin Sarauta,
are to be merged in a general assessment which will be
paid as heretofore, but under a reformed system of collec-
tion, to the Native Administration, and of which it is
proposed to allot a definite proportion to the uses of the
Native and the British Governments. It will be a matter
of arrangement what expenses shall be borne by each.

The Sokoto Gaisua and the Kurdin Sarauta will be
retained as a traditional recognition of suzerainty, but
will be much reduced in amount. The reduced Sokoto
tribute will henceforth be paid to the British Government,
from whom investiture is now received, but it will be in
every case deducted from the amount due on other counts
to the British Government, and a portion of it will be
given by the British Government to Sokoto to be used
for charitable and religious purposes, in acknowledgment
of the special position of the Emir of Sokoto as religious
head of the church of the Soudan. The Kurdin Sarauta,
or appointment tax, will be paid as before to the local
chiefs, but it will be nominal in amount, and the chief


who receives it will pay half to the British Government
in acknowledgment of the authority under which he makes
the appointment. As no appointment will be made in
future without the concurrence of the Resident, the old
abuse of perpetual re-appointments for the sake of collect-
ing more tax will be abolished. Gado, or death duties,
will not be interfered with, and will be paid as before to
the Native Administration. Legitimate industrial taxes will
be maintained as before, but their proceeds will be merged
in the general assessment. Caravan tolls, which are being
used as a road tax, at present form a monopoly of the
British Government, but it is proposed to merge them
also before long in the general assessment. All other
forms of taxation — forced labour, fines, bribes, arbitrary
impositions upon industry, &c. — are to be abolished.

Thus we get in the Mohammedan areas a general
assessment covering all the old legitimate taxes upon
agriculture and industry, an accession duty, nominal in
amount, paid in accordance with traditional custom as
a recognition of suzerainty, and the old Gado, or death
duties, left undisturbed. The old system of tax-gatherers
will be abolished, and the general assessment tax will
be collected by the reformed Native Administration under
British supervision. A proper proportion of the proceeds
of this tax will then be paid by the Native Administration
to the British Government, and will constitute the revenue
drawn for Imperial purposes from the country.

In workingf out the details of the reformed scheme it
is felt that a certain safeguard has been secured by the
co-operation of the emirs and native authorities ; but it
is not to be expected that a long-established system of
taxation can be suddenly reformed without friction, or
even entirely without unintentional injustice, which may
be found in practice to press unfairly upon some special
section of the people. The new system must, in its
nature, be regarded as tentative for some time to come.
If the reports of the provincial Residents are to be
trusted, it promises to meet with cordial acceptance


from the emirs and chiefs, who fully understand and
appreciate the dignity and security of the position which
it proposes to confer upon them, while it is in accordance
with native tradition to pay taxes in the form of tribute
to a superior government. The obvious difficulty of
the scheme lies, first, in a just assessment of the people,
and, secondly, in a regulation of the amount paid to the
British Government.

The assessment has been the principal work carried
out under the supervision of the British political staff of
each province during the past year. To indicate the
manner in which it has been done, and the effect which
it is likely to have upon that amalgamation of the Native
and British Administration which it is the desire of the
Government to effect, I would like to quote from the
report of Dr. Cargill, the Resident of Kano.

It was his duty to make the assessment of the district
of Gaiya, of which the Waziri of Kajio, son of the emir,
had, under the old system, been the fief-holder. He
accordingly went to Gaiya, accompanied by the Waziri.
On arrival at Gaiya, the Seriki, or local chief, was inter-
viewed in the presence of the Waziri, and the business
of assessment and reform of the system of collection
explained. The local chief proved intelligent, and ren-
dered all the assistance in his power. The local tax-
collectors, or Mayungwas, twelve in number, who collect
the taxes from the people in the town, were summoned,
and each brought with him the farmers of his quarter.
Each Mayungwa was asked how much he collected from
his district under each head of taxation. Each individual
farmer was then separately summoned, and was asked
what he had paid, and what was his trade, and the number
of people in his house. "In this way," says Dr. Cargill,
" I completed the assessment and census of Gaiya town
within two days. I then turned the work over to two
of my own clerks and to two mallams (native scribes)
brought by the Waziri, and told the chief of the town
to call in all the tax-collectors from the district outside


the town to inform the clerks of the amounts they collected
from their respective quarters." While this was beinj^
done, the Resident and Waziri travelled throui^h eii^dit
more towns. On their return to Gaiya at the end of
three days the clerks were found to have finished their
work. One of the Waziri's scribes, assisted by one of the
chief of Gaiya's scribes, were then left to go round the
district, making a complete list of the names of the
farmers, the amounts they paid, their trade, and the
numbers of their households, as had been done by the
Resident in Gaiya. The Resident returned with his own
clerks and the Waziri to Kano. " The time actually
occupied by myself and staff," writes the Resident, "was
seven days at Gaiya and four days' travelling. The result
is map, census, and assessment of one district completed,
and one jakada (chief tax-gatherer) abolished. I calculate
that it will take me some months to complete the map
and the assessment of the whole of the Kano district.
In the same time I hope that the junior Residents
may be able to accomplish the same work in the other
emirates of this province. . . . The Waziri took a very
intelligent interest in this tour." He was present at
every interview, and he is soon "to try his own hand at
assessment." It is also the British Resident's opinion
that the more important fief-holders may turn out, after
some instruction and supervision, to be of real use to
the Government. *' As a class," he says, "they are men
of refinement and understanding, and existing abuses can
hardly be laid to their charge, as their offices have hitherto
been merely nominal, and their functions usurped by the
big slaves."

The process thus described is at work over the entire
area of the Mohammedan states, and under it the diffi-
culties attaching to assessment and the reform of the
system of collection, both of which are, of course, being
carried out upon one design throughout the whole of the
states, are rapidly disappearing.

The second difficulty of the new system — the decision


of the amount of the general assessment tax which is
to be apportioned to the Native Administration and to
the British Government — has, as a matter of fact, given
no trouble. The proportion which it has been proposed
to take for British purposes has so far been willingly-
accepted by the emirs, and it has been found in those
provinces where the system has been put in operation,
that, though the burden upon the peasantry has been
greatly reduced, the reformed system of collection, by
its regularity, and by the abolition which has been
effected of the army of tax-gathering middlemen, pro-
mises to place the emirs in a secure financial position,
which will amply compensate for the loss of slave tribute
and of the excessive tolls on trade which were previously

In connection with the payment of a share of the
assessment to the British Administration, the extended
use of cash currency is urgently desirable. The assess-
ment will be subject to periodical revision, and it should,
as the country develops, show a steady increase. Sums
now small may become considerable, and even now the
difficulty of payment in kind is obvious.

The satisfactory promise of the new system has of
course helped substantially towards the amalgamation of
the native with the British rule, and tends happily to
remove a cause of discontent which might have placed
difficulties in the way of the enforcement of the laws
against slave-dealing and slave-raiding. These, under
present circumstances, have been loyally accepted by
the emirs, and are now in practical application in every
province. The slave-trade has been abolished, and the
rulers and fief-holders who profited most by it have a
fair prospect of enjoying, under the system which has
abolished it, more regular incomes than they possessed
under the old system. It is proposed that a portion of
the general assessment retained by the Native Adminis-
tration shall be assigned to the fief-holders, and their
advantage, like that of the emirs, will be intimately


associated with the prosperity of the country. There
will remain, of course, a body of slave-traders who, until
their commercial capital has been diverted to more leorj-
timate trade, will be discontented, and will naturally be
disposed to foment any ill-feeling to which the new dis-
tribution of taxes may unwittingly give rise. There is
always the danger, in writing of a generally popular
reform, of describing it too confidently as a universal
cure for evils which are inherent to society. Reform is
not usually an unmixed benefit, but unfortunately brings
with it its own drawbacks. Experience will discern these
in the new scheme of taxation, and their appearance may
be the cause of troubles which will have to be dealt with
as they arise.

For the moment, however, the reorganisation of native
finance would seem to have been satisfactory, and it has
been so important a factor in promoting the speedy and
peaceable settlement of the Protectorate that, after the
abolition of slavery, it must be held to take the first
place. It is easy to imagine how the relief of the peas-
antry on the one side, and the satisfaction of the rulers
on the other, affect the whole relations of government



But if conquest is best when it is speedy, the work of
reorganisation must in its nature be always slow. The
campaign of 1903 placed Northern Nigeria definitely
under the British Crown. It will tax the energies of
many generations of Englishmen to develop the terri-
tories thus acquired, and to bring them, with the widely
varying populations which they carry, to the full realisa-
tion of their own best possibilities. In the meantime
the work of the existing administration is to carry for-
ward to the best of its ability the extraordinarily inte-
resting work of organising the new fabric of government,
of which the elements have been placed in its hands.

I have spoken only of the taxation of Mohammedan
areas. These include, of course, the pagan peasantry
of those areas, and they also include pagan communities
under Mohammedan rule. There remain independent
pagan communities, and these are of two classes. States
which have histories as old and as respectable as those
of the Mohammedan states themselves, though they
have never attained to quite the same high stage of civi-
lisation, and which are governed by one chief. Among
these may be named Argungu and Jegga, within the
geographical limits of the province of Sokoto ; Gorgoram
in Western Bornu, possibly a modern development of
the old province of Gwangara, Wangara, or Ungara,
whose population migrated to this neighbourhood from
Ghana ; Kiama in Borgu ; and some of the Jukum cities
in Muri. These independent states will be treated,

according to their degree, more or less in the same way



as the Mohammedan states, their taxes being assessed
on the basis of tradition, and the result shared with the
British Government. The second class of independent
pagans are of very low type, and have hardly yet so
far advanced in civilisation as to have an organised
state, owing allegiance to a recognised chief. Their
chiefs are little more than elders or heads of families.
Upon these communities it is proposed to levy a very
light tax, payable direct to the British Government as
an acknowledgment of its suzerainty. The tax is to be
a communal tax, payable through the village elders,
and it will be the object of the administration gradu-
ally to group these villages together under a central
chief, in the hope of raising them to the higher social
plane of more civilised races. The obligation to pay
tribute to the power whose laws they recognise is well
understood by these tribes. It constitutes an acknow-
ledgment on their part of authority and submission to
a superior power which forbids brigandage on the
roads, &c. As they are often industrious, and rich in
flocks and herds, the burden is nominal, while the
moral to be enforced is of importance.

But though reform of taxation is as the bed-rock of
other reform, it is but a foundation upon which much else
must be raised before the substitution of a reign of law
for a reign of force can become permanently effective.

To give law a proper place in its literal sense, it
was necessary partly to create, and partly to restore and
reform the means of dispensing justice through the
Protectorate. The principle by which the Native Adminis-
tration has been incorporated as an integral part of one
executive with the British has been applied as far as
possible to the judicial system. This has as its machinery
three principal engines. There is first a Supreme Court,
which is the highest judicial tribunal in the country, and
is presided over by the Chief-Justice. To this court
there are affiliated local cantonment courts, presided over
by British cantonment magistrates, who are Commissioners


of the Supreme Court. There are also British provincial
courts, presided over by the Resident in charge, of which
one is situated in every province. All sentences of death
and punishments for serious offences awarded in these
courts must await confirmation by the High Commis-
sioner, who, of course, acts with the advice of his law
officers. A Resident has no judicial power outside his
own province. All other officers exercising civil judicial
powers in the province are Commissioners of the pro-
vincial court, and may hold courts in any district of the
province. Native courts, of which there may be an un-
limited number in every province, complete the judicial
system. They are constituted by warrant, and the extent
of their powers is laid down in the warrant appointing
them. No native court, except those of Kano and
Sokoto, to which the concession has lately been made,
has had power given to it to pass sentence of death,
and in these two courts the death sentence is subject
to the concurrence of the Resident. The Resident of
the province has access at all times to the native court,
and may transfer any case from it to the provincial
court. He thus exercises supervision over the native

In the native courts justice is administered by a
native judge called the Alkali or El Kadi. Under the
old native system he usually sat alone as judge, and the
emir or head chief also usually held a court dealing chiefly
with political cases. There was also usually a Limam,
who dealt with cases of probate and divorce.

As found at the time when British administration was
introduced, the powers and constitution of native courts
varied with every province, and, as has been mentioned
in a previous chapter, the system of justice had from
different causes greatly deteriorated.

The policy of the British Government is to interfere
as little as possible with these courts, but merely to re-
store them to the original purity of their jurisdiction,
subject to the abolition of punishments which modern


civilisation regards as inhuman, and to nmkc ihcm
effective instruments of justice. They are to be so far
supervised as to put an end to flagrant abuse. The
Alkalis are to be taught the principles of British justice,
and the elementary rules of evidence. The number of
the courts is to be increased so that justice may be
brought within easier reach of complainants.

In order to constitute a native court, a warrant is
issued which defines its powers, and confers legality on
its sentences. In practice, the jurisdiction of the native
courts is usually confined to civil actions. The number
of these courts is now rapidly increasing through all the
provinces. In the pagan districts, where courts consist
only of a council with judicial powers composed of the
chiefs or elders of contiguous villages, their action is still
uncertain and elementary, but in Mohammedan centres
they are in full activity, and the number of cases brought
to them for settlement is steadily increasing.

This peaceful development has not been wholly with-
out disturbance since the fall of Sokoto. Difficulties
have arisen, caused by the efforts of deposed emirs to
make good their pretensions to the thrones from which
they have been deposed, or from the recalcitrancy of
smaller independent chieftains who did not, in the first
instance, accept the submission of the northern states
as universal and complete. In some instances these
difficulties have been settled without fighting ; in others,
there has been occasion for the display of military force ;
but the conquest and death of the ex-Sultan of Sokoto,
and of the rebellious Magaji of Keffi, which took place
in an engagement near Burmi, on the western frontier of
Bornu, in July of 1903, practically put an end to any
further question of opposition to the supremacy of
British rule. This has been the only fighting of import-
ance since the fall of Sokoto.

It is, of course, to be expected that from time to time
disturbances will arise which will have to be repressed by
force. But for ordinary purposes of law and order, a


native police force has been organised under white officers,
of which detachments are stationed in every province,
thus Hberating" the troops of the West African Frontier
Force for more purely military duties. The troops are
now stationed in certain capitals, and chiefly at the head-
quarters of Zungeru, Kano, and Lokoja. There are also
garrisons at Maifoni and Dumjeri, the respective British
capitals of Western and Eastern Bornu, and in order to
preserve the northern states from the incursions of desert
tribes, a chain of frontier forts has been established and
garrisoned by mounted infantry, who have 170 miles to
patrol between each fort.

It has been essential that the organisation of the
British Administration, both central and provincial, should
as far as possible keep pace with the rapid development
of the Protectorate. There are now four classes of Resi-
dents, as well as police officers, charged with political
duties in the provinces. The rank of the Residents is
divided into first class, second class, third class, and
assistant, and though the roll is not yet complete, four
Residents have been generally allotted to each pro-
vince. Six out of the seventeen provinces into which
the Protectorate is divided have been formed into double
provinces, and placed under the charge of a first-class
Resident. The six which have been selected for the
first experiment are Sokoto and Gando, Kano and Kata-
gum. Eastern and Western Bornu, and the Residents
placed in charge as first-class Residents have, of course,
been chosen for their special ability and experience. It is
proposed to devolve upon these officers a large measure of
administrative control, and gradually to extend the system
of grouped provinces with a view to relieving the central
administration of the direct supervision of separate pro-
vincial units. Within each province the same system of
devolution will be adopted as a larger body of officers
having experience of the special kind of work is formed.

The duties of Residents are extraordinarily diversified,
ranging from those of political adviser to the native


sovereign, and head of the Provincial Court, to survey-
ing, map-making, and reporting on the economic, com-
mercial, and social conditions of the province. Each
Resident writes for the information of the Hicrh Com-
missioner a report upon his province, which has hitherto
been monthly, but which will, as conditions become more
normal, be submitted at longer intervals. Thus at head-
quarters a body of information respecting the entire
Protectorate is being gradually accumulated, while the
maps and descriptions of routes also sent in regularly by
the Residents form material for filling up the outline of
the Nigerian map. The prototype of the Resident of
Nigeria is probably to be found in the Deputy Com-
missioner of India, but the circumstances, though parallel,
are of course far from similar. Assistant Residents are
placed in charge of specified districts under the Resident,
and in consequence of the cordial co-operation and re-
markable administrative aptitudes of the Fulani, when
they once understand that oppression and tyranny are for-
bidden, the work of the provinces is being carried on
with a smaller number of white men than might have
been imagined possible.

There are now in all, counting non-commissioned
officers and civil subordinates, about 400 white men in the
Northern Nigerian service, which, allowing for one-third
absent on leave, as under the rules of West African
service they have a right to be, leaves about 270 on
duty. With this number the whole service of the Pro-
tectorate — military, legal, medical, and administrative — is
performed over an area which successive boundary con-
cessions have reduced to about 300,000 square miles.

The organisation of the Medical Service, with a system
of hospitals and white nurses at headquarters, doctors at
out-stations, and sanitary regulations, which are now being
carried generally into effect, has greatly reduced the
number of casualties from sickness, which at first sub-
tracted substantially from the list of white men avail-
able for service, and often threw the machinery of

2 II


work into confusion by the absolute necessity which it
created of providing, from an already short-handed staff, for
the performance of the duties of the invalided. The

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 38 of 41)