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Reasons for the Adoption of the Indirect Rule System by the British in Nigeria

The ‘Indirect Rule’ system was the system used by the British official to colonize Nigeria particularly. It is a system whereby Nigerian political institutions were used to govern subjects under them for the British government (1).

The system of course left both positive and negative impacts on Nigerian society, as earlier examined in the ‘Features of Indirect Rule.

    The British did not just arrive at the people’s system of administration for governing them. This system had been successfully used in India, during the colonization of the country by Britain. Though the experience the father of indirect rule, Lord Lugard, had in India let him knew it was going to work in Nigeria. There were many reasons for the adoption of indirect rule and they would be examined subsequently.

One of the reasons for the adoption of the indirect rule system by British officials was the affordability of the system. Indirect rule was cheaper and easier for the European powers and, in particular, it required fewer administrators, but had several problems. (2)

The colonial government also lacked adequate personnel to effectively affect direct rule, therefore it used an indirect rule system instead. It could further be argued that inadequate personnel was the major factor that made the Britsh adopt the indirect rule system. Unlike France, her counterpart, some English men did not want to go down to Africa because of what they see as insalubrity of the environment. 

Furthermore, the language barrier was a noticeable factor responsible for the adoption of indirect rule. That is to say, to some extent, the British were liberal towards their subjects. The culture of the people was respected, and above all, English became the official language in the administration.

The colonial official relied on the offices of Native Authority to ease their tasks in the colonization of these people. The colonial masters used the institutions of the Obas in the southern part, the Caliphate in the north, and warrant chiefs in the east. The system in the north and south were to some extent successful while that of the east was a total failure because of the acephalic nature of the Igbo society.

Therefore, indirect was not a quick-reached development, but that was birthed out experience, economic factors, ethnic differences, and others.

Citation: T.O. Faforiji. Reasons for the Adoption of Indirect Rule System by the British in Nigeria. (April 2021) Retrieved from


1. Tadese Faforiji.  British Indirect Rule in Nigeria: Nature and Feature. . (April 18, 2021). Retrieved from

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.