Definition of Indirect Rule
Indirect Rule, also known as Indirect Control, can be defined as a system of administration used by the British colonial government to direct the affairs of Nigeria, using existing local power structures and trade networks.
Simply put, Indirect rule was a way Britain ruled Nigeria through local rulers who were themselves controlled and supervised by the British advisors.
The father of indirect rule in Nigeria is Frederick Lugard who instituted a system in Northern Nigeria whereby external, military, and tax control was operated by the British, while every other aspect of life was left to local pre-British aristocracies who may have sided with the British during or after their conquest.
Features of Indirect Rules
- Local Authority – The chiefs were the rulers, but real power stayed with the governor employed by the British government.
- Local Treasury – The chiefs had the responsibility for both raising and spending taxes. A certain proportion of all revenue was passed on to the colonial government for spending on those services considered best provided by Europeans; health and railways for example.
- A Governor – This was the British representative. He was the highest political figure and responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies in the colony.
- Local Court – The courts comprised the chiefs and their elders who were supervised and guided by District Commissioners (Whites). The main function of the Native Court was to ensure the administration of proper justice.
- Regional Commissioners – The colony was divided into regions for ease of administration and each region was headed by a Regional Commissioner.
- District Commissioners – Each region was further divided into Districts and each was headed by a District Commissioner. These District Commissioners were responsible for the implementation of official policies through the Chiefs at the local level.
Advantages of Indirect Rule in Nigeria
- It was the most economical system of government as it required little man power and resources
- Local institutions were preserved as they were needed to implement colonial policies
- The system helped eliminate bad or archaic traditional practices
- It afforded local rulers opportunity for growth and personal development
- There was recognition for traditional rulers
- It brought stability to the colony
Disadvantages of Indirect Rule in Nigeria
- Real power remained with the colonial masters as local chiefs were figureheads
- Most local rulers became power drunk, using their privilege to oppress fellow citizens
- The educated elite were sidelined from the administration
- The system created conflict of interest for the chiefs, as it became difficult to please the people and the British who often had different interests
- Rights of citizens were abused