Colonial Policies: A Focus On British Colonial Policy Concerning The Lucrative Palm Oil Industry In Nigeria

4753 words - 19 pages

IntroductionPrior to the institution of British colonial administration among the Isoko, Urhobo populace of the Western Delta region of Nigeria, the people had established an financial system which not only made fairly satisfactory provisions for their needs, but also for those of their immediate neighbours such as the Itsekiri, Ijo and Kwale. The most essential moneymaking activity of the people was collecting palm nut from which oil and kernel were extracted. Palm-nut gathering was a seasonal act. The periods of collecting extend from January to June and it was guarded by a council of elders in each village community, whose duty was to officially declare the palm bush open or closed for collection. Oil extraction from the palm-nut was a process that lasts for approximately 21 days, and it involves the cooperation of the man, his wife and children, and in some cases, members of the extended family.The reason for individual involvement in the processing of palm oil in the pre-colonial period stemmed from the person, whether man or woman, who stood to gain from the exercise. Because of its economic value, the oil palm is a traditional source of revenue for the people. For most men, palm oil was processed partly to meet domestic consumption needs and partly for satisfying social obligations such as payment of dowries, purchasing essential articles item such as salt or luxury items like gin and gunpowder. It is important to add that the entire processing of palm oil and kernel was carried out using locally manufactured goods. In addition to the climbing ropes, locally made cutlasses bought from itinerant Awka smiths were used in the harvesting of fruits. The earthen pot was used for boiling palm fruits especially during the production of soft oil. Other items used were the calabash spoon locally called Unuo. The mortar was used for pounding boiled fruits, while a wooden spade was used to scoop pounded pulp into the trough.Palm oil made immense contribution towards meeting the socio- economic needs of pre-colonial Isoko-Urhobo people of the Western Delta.BRITISH COLONIAL MANAGEMENT AND THE OIL PALM INDUSTRY: 1900-1923The opening decade of this century marked a turning point in the fortitude of Britain, along with other colonial European nations, to successfully occupy the African continent. For Britain, it meant a redefinition, and consolidation of her imperial strategies. The Isoko-Urhobo people of the Western Delta had been in contact with the Europeans for a number of centuries, but it was not until 1900 that Britain decided to penetrate into the hinterland of the Western Delta. The intention of Britain was to establish Pax Britannica, in order for trade and commerce to thrive to her glory. Thus, between 1905-1911, the whole of the Western Delta was brought under British sovereignty after a spirited resistance by the people. Having subdued the region, it was indeed necessary to exploit the local resources, particularly the oil palm. The growth of...

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