- Document 9:Status of Slavery 1
NIGERIA DOWNING STREET
NO. 573 4th May, 1936.
GOVERNOR SIR BERNARD BOURDILLON, K.C.M.G., K.B.E
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch No. 50 of the 17th of January, enclosing a memorandum on the subject of slavery in Nigeria. This report has been read with interest and a copy has been forwarded to the League of Nations for the information of the Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery.
2. I observe that although the legal status of slavery does not exist in the Protectorate or in the Cameroons, the distinction drawn in Chapter 83 of the Laws between persons in the Southern Provinces and in the Cameroons and those in the Northern Provinces remains, and that it is still the policy of your Government not to interfere with the relation of master and slave so long as the relation is voluntarily maintained by both parties in districts which recognise Moslem law and are the jurisdiction of Moslem Courts.
3. I have no doubt that there was ample justification for that policy in the past when the adoption of too precipitate action would have resulted in large numbers of “ex slaves” being thrown on the labour market with unfortunate consequences to the whole social framework. With the passage of time, however, and when the number of “slaves” now remaining must be comparatively small, the continuation of this policy is open to question. In the memorandum enclosed in your despatch it is stated that these people are well aware that they can assert their freedom if they choose and that their position bears no relation to slavery in the ordinary sense of the term. If this is in fact the case, then there would appear to be [End Page 203] no adequate reason why the persons concerned should continue to be denied the status of “free” persons.
4. I have accordingly to request that you will carefully consider whether the time has not now arrived for the legislation relating to slavery in Nigeria to be amended so as to include in the declaration of freedom contained in Section 3 of Chapter 83 all persons in the Northern Provinces and not only those “born in or brought within” those Provinces after the 31st March, 1901.
5. It is not unlikely that this matter will be raised in the near future by the League of Nations Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery. I should therefore be obliged if you would furnish me with a reply to this despatch as soon as possible.
I have, etc.,
(Sgd.) J. H. THOMAS
20th June, 1936
From: THE DISTRICT OFFICER To: THE RESIDENT
I/C GWANDU DIVISION SOKOTO PROVINCE
BIRNIN KEBBI SOKOTO.
Slavery - Status of
With reference to your endorsement No. 4277/4 of the 9th of June, 1936, the Emir and Council are unanimously of the opinion that the freeing, by administrative decree, of all slaves would meet with no difficulties.
2. Even now it is the rule for the near relations and not the master, of a slave to inherit a deceased slave’s property. The master only inherits when there are no close relatives. Any doubtful case would be referred for decision to a competent Court, but it is thought that this would be a rare occurrence and that no special regulations are required on this point.
i/c Gwandu Division. [End Page 204]
FROM THE SECRETARY, NORTHERN PROVINCES No. 20216/92
THE HON. THE CHIEF SECRETARY, LAGOS 25 June, 1936.
Slavery - Status of
With further reference to your endorsement No. 11799/371 of the 28th of May and to my memorandum No. 20216/371 of the 6th of June, I am directed by the Acting Chief Commissioner to inform you that Residents and Native Authorities in general see no great objection to the proposed amendment of the law and think that it would have little effect in the territories with which they are concerned.
2. Certain objections however have been put forward on various grounds. The Resident, Kano Province, states the relationship of slave to master...