Sir George Goldie and the Making of Nigeria

By John E. Flint; Gerald S. Graham | Go to book overview

5
Administration and the Liverpool Opposition

DURING the long months of negotiations for the charter the National Company had not been inactive on the Niger. As the representative of Great Britain on the river, authorized to hoist the British flag where it could show valid title, the company made the most of its rather anomalous position and tried to 'administer' the Niger and Benue without a charter. Its claims to do so rested on its treaties with African rulers, so that during the months between the end of the Berlin Conference early in 1885 and the issue of the charter in July 1886, most of the company's efforts were concentrated on making treaties. The treaties were not made haphazardly but according to a definite plan, the object of which was to control the banks of the Niger and Benue as far as they were navigable, so as to exclude all competitors from the rivers. By the end of 1884 most of the lower Niger below Onitsha had been fairly thoroughly covered with treaties. During the next eighteen months efforts were concentrated on the middle Niger where it flowed through Nupe, and on the Benue up to Yola. In these areas the company had great difficulty in making valid treaties. For the most part the river banks were ruled by powerful Muslim Emirs, not at all inclined to sign away their rights to a group of infidel traders. This was particularly the case in Nupe, where the Emir had, since the days of Masaba, regarded himself as the 'protector' of the traders, and could see no reason why the roles should now be reversed. When asked to sign a treaty he refused, and the

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