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The court case won by an Idejo white cap Chief in Lagos in 1921 proved not only to be a landmark verdict, but it re-emphasized the right which citizens of pre-colonial Nigeria should have over the land which they have inhabited long before the colonial masters arrived the shores of Nigeria.

The land in dispute which Chief Oluwa struggled to take back from the possession of the British was situated at Apapa. There were also other portions of land situated on Lagos mainland and within the Colony of Southern Nigeria which were on the verge of being robbed off the local chief. Chief Oluwa himself was a powerful scion who had already begun to rise through the ranks of resistance to British occupation and Draconian policies in the Lagos of the early 20th century.

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The case which was instituted against the secretary to the government of Southern Nigeria was a watershed event in 1921 where ownership of lands in Lagos was decided in favour of the natives of Lagos. Amodu Tijani, was a Lagos chief with influence extending to several villages and towns in the Lagos area in the early 20th Century.

The British Government had relied on a Treaty of Cession with King Dosunmu of Lagos in 1861 wherein he ceded all Lagos land to the British Crown after the British successfully bombarded Lagos. The cession included and transferred all rights to the port and island of Lagos alongside the territories, appurtenances and profits thereto accruing from those lands. The Lagos monarchy would soon realize that that treaty was a bad move for their future and that of their people.

Around the time that the Eleko, Oba Eshugbayi, was having tussles with the British masters, foremost politician, Herbert Macaulay, was also becoming more acquainted with Chief Amodu Oluwa whom he was rooting for to win back his land rights.

After his flamboyant arrival in London specifically designed to embarrass the British Crown with propaganda; Herbert Macaulay, the fast-rising Lagosian and Nationalist who had taken up Oluwa’s case, was able to create a robust buzz on the land matter which has now been brought to the Privy Council – the senior court in the British Empire and highest court of appeal for colonies. Macaulay had published an essay in London in which he reminded the imperial powers in London of its moral obligation to uphold the Lagos monarchical structure and native customs. They finally won the appeal at the Privy Council in London in 1921.

Consequently, with the far-reaching effects of winning a case against the British colonialists, coupled with his standing among the Lagos aristocratic class, Amodu was able to make substantial input in the formation of more nationalist movements in Nigeria. The National Council of British West Africa (NCBWA), which Chief Oluwa was a founding member, was one of the organizations which once demanded increased representation of natives in African affairs in its March 1920 inaugural meeting.

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This singular daring act cemented the place of Chief Oluwa as one of the earliest backers and scions of Nigerian nationalism.

However, not only did winning against the British government return the customary rights of Chief Oluwa, other local chiefs and landowners in Lagos and Southern Nigeria; the victory further cemented the ideal place of the colonial masters in their administration of the entire provinces and territories in pre-colonial Nigeria.



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This article was first published on 9th January 2020 and updated on January 10th, 2020 at 12:19 am


Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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