Why Did Britain Colonize Nigeria?

Britain had several colonies in West Africa, and Nigeria was one of them. In 1901, Nigeria became a British protectorate, however, Britain had already colonized Nigeria as far back as 1884, and it lasted until 1960 when Nigeria gained its independence.

Why Did Britain Colonize Nigeria?

The reason for British colonization was their desire to safeguard their expanding trade interests in Nigeria. They wanted full control of the resources Nigeria had. They forced Nigeria to become a part of the colonies British controlled. The aim was to exploit Nigeria of minerals, raw materials, and crops, then use it all for Western industrial development.

1. Exportation

The tropical export crops in Nigeria were shipped to British factories that were in need of them for manufactured goods. Even though Britain built railroad networks and roads at an accelerating rate in Nigeria, it was all for their selfish interests to improve the transportation of Nigeria’s resources. Britain also introduced the pound Sterling as the universal medium of exchange, which gave them even more control because it was their currency and not ours.

Palm oil and Palm kennels were the principal commodities exported from Nigeria to Europe. They were used to make soap, and they were also used as lubricants for their machines (petroleum lubricants were not available then). It is estimated that Palm oil exports made Britain about £1 billion a year by 1840. Palm trees grew in abundance near the coast, so this was where they did the extraction. However, the high revenue gotten from Palm oils and Palm kennels didn’t make Britain abolish the slave trade, the trade increased as time went by. Slave trade started to dwindle when the trade became too hazardous for them, so most European traders switched to legitimate businesses.

Britain had superior military power within its colonies, including Nigeria. This was how they maintained economic hegemony over all the colonies. Their military prowess allowed them to form strategic alliances which increased their influence.

2. Exploration

Exploration can be pinpointed as another reason why the British colonized Nigeria, however, it’s a minor one. When Nigeria was colonized, British scientists started exploring the course and related settlements along the Niger River. The mouth of the great river was masked by the delta, and this was something Nigerians didn’t tell the Europeans.

However, the Europeans started their research in these areas, and in 1794, the African Association in Great Britain commissioned Mungo Park, who was a Scottish physician and naturalist, to research further. His mission was to search for the headwaters of the Niger. Afterward, he would follow the river downstream.

A year later, Mungo Park arrived at the upper Niger by traveling inland from the Gambia River. On the eastward flow of the Niger, he had to turn back because his equipment was lost due to some Muslim Arab slave traders. In 1805, he set out again on another expedition that was sponsored by the British Government. This time around, he was to follow the river Niger to the sea. However, his mission failed. It was through other explorers that Britain gained the information it wanted.

Effects of Colonization on Nigeria

We cannot deny the fact that Britain actually helped a bit in the advancement of Nigeria. However, it’s not enough to cleanse the wickedness they perpetuated on Nigerians for years. Nevertheless, we will list some of the effects colonization had on Nigeria—

1. Organized government system

The Europeans brought a new judicial system to Nigeria, and democracy was instilled in us. Besides, the Europeans helped in writing peace treaties amongst tribes which subsequently lead to a decrease in tribalism conflicts.

2. Technological advancement

The British brought about an agricultural and industrial boom in Nigeria. The tools we used back in the days became obsolete due to their low performance, especially when compared to the ones the British brought and developed in Nigeria.

3. Solutions to medical problems

Most of the diseases in Nigeria also affected the Europeans because they were exposed to them, so they had to find a way to solve these medical problems and treat them. When they came across these cures, they were provided to sick Nigerians too. Several European doctors visited the colonies just to treat people.

4. Educational impact

Education was introduced in Nigeria by Britain, and they built a lot of schools and institutions which served as centers of learning for both kids and adults. This can be said to be one of the reasons why we can communicate effectively with neighboring countries.


As you can see, the colonization of Nigeria by Britain was for their selfish interest. Even the developments they brought were for them to be able to shift us towards their way of thinking and living. They took these actions just to exploit Nigeria of its resources, and then transfer it to Britain for its development.

Leave a Comment