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Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies

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Colonies -- Africa -- History, Segregation -- Africa


The policy of segregation is undoubtedly a resented feature of colonial rule in Africa. However, discussions of the residential racial segregation policy of the British colonial administration in Africa invariably focus on “settler colonies” of South, Central, and East Africa. British colonial West Africa hardly features in such discussions since it is widely believed that these areas, which had no large-scale European settler populations, had no experience relevant to any meaningful discussion of multi-racial colonial relationships. Some studies even deny the existence of racially segregated areas in places other than the settler colonies. Despite evidence that residential racial segregation formed one of the principles that facilitated the implementation of British colonial policy in Nigeria, the Nigerian experience has not been given a fully coherent treatment. This paper examines Nigeria’s experience of officially directed residential segregation. It argues that while residential segregation policies were justified along policies related to health, sanitation, and disease prevention, the motive also derived from the demonstration of racial supremacy and civilization, which was the ideological justification for empires in Africa. It also argues that Lugard may have been impacted by the execution of this policy in India, where he left to become Governor of Nigeria in 1913. While the settler colonies had important dimensions in this inter-racial relationship, colonial Nigeria was not spared the experience of such racially motivated segregation, as the indigenes took to petitions and other means to protest this racial policy. Although Nigeria cannot claim the same intensity of deprivation as was associated with this policy in many British colonies, the pattern that emerged endured throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods.


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