why did Britain adopt the policy of Indirect Rule?




Indirect rule was a system of administration whereby the Britain governed theirAfrican colonies through their traditional rulers and their traditional institution under the supervision of BrifiSh Officials.

In this system, the British recognised existing local rulers and where such traditional authorities were absent, the British appointed what was called warrant chiefs. The function of the traditional or local authorities included maintenance of law and order, the collection of taxes. Recruitment of labour for public work, construction of roads and the trial of offenders in the traditional courts.


why did Britain adopt this policy of Indirect Rule?




In West Africa, indirect rule was first introduced in Northern Nigeria by Lord Lugard the then High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria Protectorate. Lugard had witnessed the system of indirect rule in India and Uganda where he had served as a colonial officer. In India, the British allowed large part of the country to be ruled by India Princes and in Uganda, the British ruled the Buganda through their traditional ruler the Kabaka of Buganda.

After his retirement from colonial service in 1919, Lagard put his practical experiences of indirect rule into a book. “The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa” published in 1922. This book caught the admiration of the British government and indirect rule was rapidly spread to other British African colonies. This system was practiced because of several reasons.

  1. Shortage of Staff: There was an acute shortage of trained European staff to help run the vast territories Britain was therefore forced to,rely on the services of the local rulers. This shortage of staff was made worse because the Britain were involved with the Angio-Boer War. Again service in Africa was very unpopular because of the high mortality rate caused by the tropical climate and diseases among Europeans.
  2. Shortage of Funds: Secondly, the funds or money available were too meagre to finance
    large —scale direct administration. Hence the shortage of funds forced the British to adopted the Policy of Indirect Rule.

Lack of Roads: The British could. not easily reach most parts of its’ colonies because the colonies were vast with bad roads and lack of the means of communication. Hence local rule were empowered to rule for them.

  1. Fear of Hostilities and Revolts: It was also the fear of revolts that the British avoided direct contact with African people as much as possible. Through indirect rule Britain preserved direct traditional institutions.
  2. The Existence of a well Established traditional Administration. :n many areas of Africa such as Northern Nigeria, the British found well established traditional institutions under the Muslim rulers that were easily adaptable to a system of indirect rule. Moreover, the Moslem rulers such as the Lamidos had a lot of power and influence on their people. Therefore, Britain came to believe that before any British administration could succeed in Africa, the Africans traditional rulers must be brought in. The High Illiterate Population: Some communities were illiterale communities where the people could not readily learn through the radio and press about government activities. Therefore the British used indirect rule in order to pass government policies through to the people.
  • There was the Influence of Lord Lugard: He introduced Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria because it had succeeded in India and Uganda where he had worked as a colonial administrator.
  • The existence of Powerful Traditional Rulers: Like Emirs and Lamidors. Therefore, the British believed that for any administration to succeed, she must collaborate with these powerful rulers.
  1. Pressure Traditional Institution: Britain wanted to reserve the traditional Institution of the people.
  2. Britain believed that all people prefer self rule to ‘alien rule.
  3. British Racial Arrogance: The British were very proud and arrogant and so did not want to mingle with the natives.


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