Urhobo Historical Society


Maps of Colonial Nigeria Showing Major Ethnic Groups and Minority Ethnic Areas

Historical Notes

By Peter Ekeh

In the course of the agitation for the independence of Nigeria from British colonial rule, it became apparent that Nigerian political arrangements would be heavily weighted in favour of three groups that dominated the three colonial Regions - North, East, and West -- into which the British imperial Government had divided Nigeria. In the North, the Fulani, allied with the Hausa whom they had ruled for a century before the onset of British colonialism in 1903, dominated the affairs of the Region and persecuted the Tiv and several other minorities. In the east, the Igbo maltreated the Ibibio and other minorities. In the West, the Yoruba captured power and showed great hostilities towards the Urhobo and Benin especially. Consequently, there were widespread fears expressed by such demographically smaller groups, who became political minorities as a consequence of the 1954 federal arrangements in Nigeria. They feared that they would become politically endangered as minority groups following political independence from Great Britain.

The British Imperial Government appointed a Minorities Commission in 1957 to look into such fears by minorities in Northern, Eastern, and Western Regions of Nigeria and to recommend measures for lessening them. In the course of its work, the Willink Commission, named after its Chairman, produced some important maps. These five maps have historic value. They are the last important maps left behind by the departing British colonial authorities. It should be noted that Western Cameroon was at that time still part of Nigeria and appears in some of these maps as part of Nigeria. The Willink Minorities Commission made its report in 1958.

Map of Nigeria Showing Major Ethnic Groups and Other Groups in Northern and Southern Nigeria
Map of Northern Nigeria Showing Provinces and Problematic Ethnic Zones
Map Showing Yoruba (Ilorin and Kabba) Areas of Northern Nigeria