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lesson Note
Subject: Government
Topic: Colonial Administration in West Africa.
Lesson Objectives: by the end of the Lesson, the learners should be able to:

  1. Say the meaning of colonial administration;
  2. State the Role of Traditional Rulers in British Colonial Administration;
  3. State the Roles of Colonial Governor in British West Africa.

Lesson Summary/ Discussion


Colonial administration referred to the pattern used to govern a community or country by foreign power. Colonialism is a situation whereby economic and political affairs of a particular country are dominated and appropriated by a foreign power.
The history of colonialism in Africa and West Africa in particular is
traceable to the famous Berlin conference of 1884/85 held in Germany. In the conference, African continent was partitioned among European countries Iike Britain, France, Portugal and Germany.

Structure of Colonial Administration in West Africa

The colonial Administration in the colonies was headed by the governors. The governors were appointed by the Secretary of state for the colonies who also had the power to remove them. For example, in the case of Nigeria which was colonized by the British, the governor superintended over the affairs of the entire colony and was directly accountable to the imperial government through the secretary of state. The colonial governor was also the head of legislative and executive councils.

The legislative council comprises the governor, official and unofficial
members who make laws for the colony. The executive council was responsible for the formulation and implementation of colonial laws and policies. It should be noted that both the executive and legislative councils were totally controlled by the colonial governor as he could veto legislation and reject any advice of executive council which he found to be irrelevant.
Native administrative system was instituted at the protectorates, provinces and districts through the indirect rule system. The native
administration referred to the use of traditional political institution to administer the affairs of the people of the colony in the way that it was compatible to the customs and tradition and under the supervision of colonial officials.

Reasons for Colonial Adminstration

1. Economic reason: The Europeans were in search of new areas of legitimate trade.

2. Extension of cultural heritage: The French wanted to extend their so-called rich culture to Africans hence their policy of assimilation was introduced.

3. Humanitarian reason: It was a measure to finally end slave trade.
4. To create market for their manufactured goods.
5. Religious reason: Colonialism was introduced to enable the Europeans
propagate their religion among the people.
6. Search for raw materials for the European industries: The British, for
example exploited raw materials like cocoa, coffee, groundnut, rubber etc
from different parts of Nigeria.
7. To acquire more territories and busıness for their national prestige.

British System of Colonial Administration
After the Berlin Conference, by 1900 Britain had established political
influence in four of her colonies of Nigeria, the Gold Coast (Ghana) Sierra
Leone and Gambia in West African sub-region.

The laws made in Britain were applied to these colonies through the
secretary of state for the colonies and colonial governors. The headquarters of the countries under colonial rule were referred to as crown colonies and they were administered by the British white officials. They were: Lagos, Accra, Freetown and Bathurst.

The British used a combination of the threat and persuasion to silence
opposition and hindrances to their political and economic interest. The interior areas of the colonies were regarded as the protectorates and Indirect rule system of administration was used in all those places to govern the people.

The Roles of Colonial Governor in British West Africa
1. The colonial governor exercised executive functions.
2. He performed ceremonial functions such as conferment of honours and
reception of dignitaries.
3. He presided over both the legislative and executive councils.
4. He appointed members of the exceutive council and nominated the unoffical members of the legislative council.
5. He exercised veto and reserved powers over all issues.
6. He gave assent to bills before they become laws.

7. He had power to grant crown land.
8. He performed legislative functions e.g proclamation, certification, ratification, etc.
9. He appointed, disciplined and promoted public servants in his
10. He recommended changes in the constitution to the colonial office.

11. He exercised the power of installation and deposition of chiefs.
12. He exercised the power of prerogative of mercy.
13. He exercised all the powers of head of government on behalf of the British e.g. declaration of a state of emergency.

Role of Traditional Rulers in British Colonial Administralion

1. The traditional rulers helped in the maintenance of peace and security
through the use of native authority police.
2. The traditional rulers helped to settle minor disputes in matters relating to native laws, custom and tradition.
3. The traditional rulers helped in the collection of taxes.
4. The chiefs acted as a link between the people and colonial government.
5. They helped to explain government policies and mobilize their subjects to
support govemment policics and programmes.
6. They helped to raise labour force for colonial administration.
7. They participated in the recruitment of soldiers.
8. They advised the British government on the needs of their subjects.

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Take a quick test for this lesson!

  1. What is the meaning of colonial administration?
  2. State the Role of Traditional Rulers in British Colonial Administration.
  3. What are the Roles of Colonial Governor in British West Africa?

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