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  • Document 6:Memorandum No. 22 The Condition of Slaves. And the Native Law Regarding Slavery in Northern Nigeria
  • Frederick D. Lugard, High Commissioner
1. The joint authors of the excellent little treatise, entitled “First steps in Muslim Jurisprudence,”1 point out that the Mohammedan law in operation on the West African Coast, as also over most of the North-West of the Continent, is almost universally founded on the doctrines of the school of Maliki. The Mohammedans of West Africa are exclusively Sunnis, and this sect is divided into four distinct schools or rites, viz., Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali. The Maliki School was founded by Malik of Medina, and a compedium (Mukhtasar) of its tenets is contained in the Risalah of Abu Zayd. Some parts of this have been translated in the little book I have alluded to, but unfortunately “all references to the institution of slavery have been omitted, as being without general utility at the present day in British Colonies or Protectorates.” (sic.) Pending a translation of the whole Risalah into English, I had intended to compile a few notes on the interpretation of the Law by the chief Jurists of the Protectorate, and I had hoped, with this end in view, to assemble a Conference of the leading Alkalis. The disturbances at Sokoto in the first place, and the subsequent termination of my own connection with Northern Nigeria in the second place, have frustrated this intention, to my great regret. In default of a more thorough exposition, I have put together in the following notes such rulings by Alkalis of acknowledged authority, as have reached me from Residents of different Provinces in reply to circular questions. This I have done rather as a basis for enquiry and verification by each Resident, than as an authoritative statement, since (as will be seen) the statement of two different Residents from the same Alkali are occasionally divergent, owing probably to inaccurate interpretation, and, as one reliable officer observes, “it is difficult to convince the informants that their information is not wanted in order to incriminate them under the Slavery Proclamation.” In consequence their statements may, perhaps, occasionally be guarded and incomplete. 1. The Mohammedan law on slavery in Nigeria
2. Captain Ruxton (Gando)2 supplies the following notes:-
“(a.) The Bawan Gandu is the slave of the highest rank, often of wealth and influence. He is the headman of his master’s other slaves, and has authority over them. He lives in his own house, and, as long as he retains his master’s favour, is not interfered with in any way. He enjoys, however, no greater rights than any other slave, his property is his master’s, his children by a woman given him by his master or procured by himself are not his own, but form part of his master’s estate at death; and if his children are by another master’s slave, they belong to that woman’s master. Such a slave would not be sold on being inherited by another master, except at his own request; he would then be deprived of all that he had, in much the same way as the estate of an office-holder reverts to the State on his death, in so far as the property was acquired by virtue of the perquisites and the influence that office had brought him. Slaves of this class in Jega do not seem to have special functions beyond those of supervising the work of the other slaves.
2. Classification of slaves.
In the Emir of Gando’s household, three of them are in charge of the stores and personal belongings of the Emir. A slave of this class might be appointed guardian to minors, should his master have died leaving no near blood relations.  
(b.) Bawan gida, “the slave of the house,” e.g., domestic slaves, consisting for the most part of women and children.  
(c.) Bawan gona, farm slaves; this class in Gando comprises almost the entire agricultural community. The farm slave is given a piece of his master’s land, from which it may be said in most cases he is by custom inalienable. If he has been manumitted, he...


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