Nigerian Armed Forces During the Pre-Colonial and Colonial Periods

Posted by on 10/27/2002 2:45:40 PM
Post Comment Nigerian Armed Forces During the Pre-Colonial and Colonial Periods Nigeria

Before the arrival of the Europeans in the area now known as Nigeria, all the subgroupings had their own military establishments generally suited to meet the challenges of their time and particular area. Each establishment provided relative security for the Europeans during their first contact with the indigenous people especially their trading in gold, ivory and slaves. However, those forces made little or no contribution to the development of the modem Nigerian Armed Forces because they were later used by the various subgroups to resist and fight European colonialists, as a result of which they were defeated and subsequently dismantled.

Great Britain is credited with the establishment of the modern type army in Nigeria. British interests, both political and economic, needed to be protected and Britain, through her colonial government, raised several local forces which were often called constabularies. The use of these constabularies to attain and subsequently preserve mainly British political interests remained an important responsibility of the colonial administration up to the attainment of independence in 1960.

Whenever the need arose, as in the 1891 conquest of Ijebu land, the colonial government resorted to the use of the West Indian regiment garrisoned in Lagos. With slave trade abolished and the appointment of John Beecroft in 1849 as Consul with powers of administration over the trading areas, a step was taken towards the use of military force to further maintain administrative control in parts of the country. ln l861, Lagos was annexed by Britain, an act which brought the full weight of providing security and administration of the colony and its immediate hinterland on the British government.

At this early stage, the Imperial British military presence was made effective mainly through a detachment of a West Indian regiment garrisoned in Lagos. Later, the British populace, who were in favour of the recruitment of the locals into the regiment as a result of the heavy toll that was exacted on the West Indians by the climate and malaria, pressurised the British government into considering an indigenous military force.

Though called constabularies, these local forces were trained along military lines equipped with artillery and used to fight colonial wars. They were also used to carry out several expeditions within British colonial territory such as the Expedition of 1863, Kumasi expedition of 1873 - 74, the Akunas peacekeeping operations of 1894, Brass River operation of 1895, the Benin campaign of 1897, Bida/llorin expedition of 1897 as well as the expeditions to Yola, Kontagora, Bauchi, Sokoto, Kano and Arochukwu between 1902 and 1903.

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