Setting the record straight
This news article confirms that similar actions had also been carried out against the following:
- Punitive expedition action against Nupe;
- Punitive expedition against Nana on the same river (Niger River);
- Punitive expedition against the natives of the Brass River;
- Punitive expedition against the Chief of Okrika , on the Bonny River;
- The ill-fated expedition to Benin which resulted in the Benin Massacres, and
- Followed very swiftly by the Benin Punitive Expedition.
Clearly, the actions were taken to bring the whole of Southern part of the Niger Coast Protectorate areas under the control of the British in order that, ‘all suggest that this part of Africa is likely hence-forward to play a more prominent part than it has hitherto played.’; in making Britain the most successful super power the world has ever known.
As evidenced in this news article, the prime reason for the invasion of Benin was not due to the King of Benin engaging in human sacrifices or blood spilling orgies but for the Royal Niger Company to acquire and control the vast riches of the country which included rubber, palm kernels, palm oil, rubber and ivory. Punitive actions were taken against Kings, chiefs and local business men who were considered obstructions or who breached any term of the Royal Niger Protectorate Treaties. They were mostly stripped of any business controls and local influence and power and were exiled to foreign countries. Punitive expeditions involving use of a combination of the Royal Niger Protective armed steamers and the protectorate forces made up of Lagos and Hausa soldiers were supported by the Royal Navy gun boats to destroy local systems forever.
Consequences in the Southern Protectorate areas were that imports mostly textiles and spirits were squeezed out, and the Royal Niger Company could enjoy a monopoly over exports of palm oil, palm kernels and rubber. These products were used as ingredients in manufacturing margarine and soap. These were new inventions at the time and over time they began to be used in most foods and cosmetics. Rubber was used for making tyres.
The Royal Niger Company was in 1886 formed from the United African Company founded by Sir George Goldie. It became very profitable due to his business sense, calculated ruthlessness and City and political connections which supported him immensely. Between 1886 and 1899 the company forcefully advanced and defended British interests beyond the boundaries of the Lagos Protectorate. The company’s operations on the shores of lower Niger and Benue Rivers simultaneously extended the power of Britain and delivered attractive (6 – 8 percent) returns to its shareholders. ¹
Whilst Mr Goldie and the shareholders of the Royal Niger Company became very rich back in Britain, the punitive expeditions took their toll on the people’s lives and their riches in the Southern Protectorate areas of West Africa.
¹ This was high by contemporary standards; British railway companies yielded only 2 – 4 per cent. [ ₁ ]
1) Bacon, R. H. Benin City of Blood, 1897
2) Boisragon A, The Benin Massacre, 1897
3) James, L. Empires in the Sun, The Struggle for the Mastery of Africa: 1830 – 1990, 2016, p94 [ ₁ ]
6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2HHWsr3A2M Accessed: 9 January 2017
7)Publication:Guardian 1821 - 2000; date; Jan 23,1897; Section: None; page 7