Thursday 12 May 2022

Letter To The Prime Minister of Britain On Behalf of Yoruba Nation

12 July 2021

Mr Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister

10 Downing Street



Dear Mr Johnson,

I write to respectfully ask that you confirm that the British incorporation of Yorubaland into Nigeria in 1914 was illegitimate and void.

The London Gazette of 5 January 1900 identified two British ‘territories’ in Yorubaland - Colony of Lagos and Lagos Protectorate. But Lugard in his 1920 report to parliament wrote: ‘I found that no one - neither the Colonial Office nor the Chief Justice - had any clear idea as to what jurisdiction could legally be exercised by the crown, or what executive powers were, under the Treaties, vested in the Colonial Government, in these important districts lying astride the railway which is the main artery of Nigeria… [the report by the Chief Justice] may be accurately described as a pronouncement that the whole question of jurisdiction was in a chaotic state, and that the administration of the Colonial Government in the past was full of anomalies. Even the boundaries of the Colony proper had never been defined.’

In other words, before and at the point on 1 January 1914 when Lugard pronounced his Amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, Britain did not have jurisdiction over the whole of Yorubaland. In 1894, the power of the British Governor did not extend more than 50 miles inland from the coast. In 1914, Britain merged Yorubaland, a territory that was not her own, with territories that belonged to her. Thus, the British amalgamation of Yorubaland with their Northern and Southern Protectorates was fraudulent and illegitimate. Since Yorubaland did not legally belong to Britain to amalgamate with others, it could not legally belong to Britain after amalgamation. This is a very important legal point. Resolution of the Bakassi dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon confirms the relevance of jurisdictional issues long steeped in colonial history.

There is a further important legal point. Lugard in the 1920 report to parliament said that he amalgamated northern and southern Nigeria for two reasons 1) Finance - to use southern surplus to bail out northern deficit and 2) Railways - to ensure for the north ‘the development of its trade and to secure its Custom duties’. In other words, amalgamation was an economic merger not a political union. On 1 January 1914, after oaths of office had been taken in Lagos and Zungeru, the regional capitals, Lugard celebrated Amalgamation with northern rulers with a Durbar in Kano. No celebrations were held in the south thus confirming that Amalgamation was indeed a purely economic acquisition intended exclusively for the benefit of the north. Titles of office holders are irrelevant in these circumstances. It is the subject matter that is relevant.

The 1914 Amalgamation was, and still is, Nigeria’s founding constitution and incorporating jurisdiction. There was no other legal instrument creating the geographical entity that we know as Nigeria. Without Amalgamation, there was no Nigeria. Nigeria was the Amalgamation’s copyright. Name and purpose were inextricably and permanently linked. The Amalgamation thus was an entrenched constitution like England’s Magna Carta. Indeed, Britain did not revise or supersede it so that any subsequent constitution that Britain made for Nigeria between 1914 and 1960 that did not derive its authority directly from the 1914 Amalgamation was fraudulent and illegitimate. Thus, as long as the name Nigeria was retained, that country had no legitimacy other than as an economic merger.

In 1865, the British parliament accepted their Select Committee recommendation to withdraw from all settlements including Lagos and not to annexe new territories. The parliament decided:

‘That all further extensions of territory or assumption of government or new treaties offering protection to native tribes will be inexpedient, and that the object of our policy should be to encourage in the native the exercise of those qualities that may render it possible for us more and more to transfer to them the administration of all the government, with a view to our ultimate withdrawal from all except probably Sierra Leone.

That this policy of non-extension admits to no exception as regards new settlements, but cannot amount to an absolute prohibition of measures which in a peculiar case may be necessary for the more efficient and economical administration of the settlement we already possess.’

The Colonial government on the ground ignored that very clear and unambiguous parliamentary decision. In other words, from 1865, the acquisition of Yorubaland was against the wishes of the British parliament.  Commercial pressures, in particular by the Berlin 1884 conference’s ‘Scramble for Africa’ and the 1893/4 friction with France, caused British officials on the ground to change course and champion the cause of the Niger Company and declare protectorates. In 1899, Britain bought out the Charter of the company. The post-1865 approach towards Nigeria was effected by means of a series of Letters of Patent and Orders in Council directed at perfecting one legal imperfection after another, and designed to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.

A Letters Patent was a legal instrument, a published written order, giving exclusive rights and privileges to representatives of the Crown. An Order-in-Council made under the Royal prerogative was an order issued to give legal effect to a decision of the cabinet and the executive that they deemed not to require approval by parliament. Lord Mansfield in Campbell v Hall (1774) 1Cowp 204, saying that ‘the king has a right to a legislative authority over a conquered country’, confirmed the legal authority for the prerogative. The general judicial attitude in Britain nevertheless was that the right to make law (legislative right) was different from legislation (ie law passed by parliament). A colonial law, under the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, was valid only if it was lawful. The subject matter determined validity in law not the source. Amalgamation was an abuse of executive power because it took from the south to give to the north without a quid quo pro. British consular rule during the establishment of the Southern Protectorate was autocratic, characterised by gunboat diplomacy, brutality, dishonesty, flagrant disregard for treaty rights, and frequently exceeding instructions or acting without any.

As you know, the Yoruba are agitating for a homeland of their own out of Nigeria. All the aforesaid provide legal justification for that agitation.

Yours sincerely

Chief (Dr) Olusola Oni


(Baasegun Alabe of Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria)

For and on Behalf of Yoruba Descendants

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.


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