Factors that undermined Indirect Rule in Southern Nigeria

the duties of the Emirs during Indirect rule in Northern Nigeria

  • Imposed and collected tax.
  • Tried cases in their Muslim courts and had their own prisons to jail those convicted.
  • Maintained law and Order.
  • Had to eliminate the practices that the British could not condone.




After the merger of northern and southern Nigeria in 1914, Lugard tried but failed to establish Indirect Rule in southern Nigeria

the factors that undermined Indirect Rule in Southern Nigeria

  • Southern Nigeria did not have a centralized government suitable for the application of Indirect rule.
  • The Igbo community resisted the introduction and payment of taxes.
  • The Mission-educated elites felt left out and opposed the practice of appointing illiterate traditional as chiefs in the administration of their country.




  • Unlike Northern Nigeria, southern Nigeria had many ethnic groups with diverse cultures, languages, and various political and religious systems, making it difficult to unite them under one ruler.
  • Lugard attempted but failed to appoint Igbo traditional chiefs with responsibilities like those of the Emirs in northern Nigeria.
  • The elders were offended further when Mission-educated young men were appointed to leadership.
  • Lugards attempt to give more power to Yoruba traditional leaders (the Obas) than what they were entitled to under their traditions could not work. The people despised the new authority of these leaders and became so discontented with them that the leaders had to give up.
  • While Hausa was the language of administration in the North, the southern elite used English while the rest used local languages.
  • Most Southern Nigerian societies had Village-Government systems (the councils of elders), which did not suit Indirect rule. Indirect Rule suited the Niger-Delta states, where traditional authorities were strong.




  • Misuse of power by the warrant chiefs, who even collected tax for their own good. This drew great opposition, characterized by riots e.g. those of 1918 and 1929.
  • There was a lot of communication breakdown since Southern Nigeria lacked a common language, which made it difficult to administer.

However, Lugard was so convinced of the general good of Indirect Rule that, where there were no chiefs, he created some to ease tax collection, labour recruitment, etc. among the Igbo, these chiefs were often attacked by discontented parties, which led to British study of traditional government among the Igbo and other Eastern Nigerian societies. Although the system was not changed, adjustments were made, which improved the situation.