Royal Niger Company
The Royal Niger Company was a mercantile company chartered by the British government in the nineteenth century. It was formed in 1879 as the United African Company and renamed to National African Company in 1881 and to Royal Niger Company in 1886.
The company existed for a comparatively short time (1879–1900) but was instrumental in the formation of Colonial Nigeria, as it enabled the British Empire to establish control over the lower Niger against the German competition led by Bismarck during the 1890s. In 1900, the company-controlled territories became the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, which was in turn united with the Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914 (which eventually gained independence within the same borders as the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1960).
United African Company
Sir George Taubman Goldie conceived the idea of adding to the British Empire the then little-known regions of the lower and middle Niger River, and for over twenty years his efforts were devoted to the realization of this conception. The method by which he determined to work was the revival of government by chartered companies within the empire, a method contemporaries supposed to have been buried with the British East India Company's demise. The first step was to combine all British commercial interests in the Niger, and this he accomplished in 1879 when the United African Company was formed. In 1881 Goldie sought a charter from Gladstone's government but his attempts failed.
National African Company and the Berlin Conference
At this time French traders, encouraged by Léon Gambetta, established themselves on the lower river, thus rendering it difficult for the company to obtain territorial rights; but the Frenchmen were bought out in 1884, so that at the Berlin Conference on West Africa in 1885, Goldie, present as an expert on matters relating to the river, was able to announce that on the lower Niger the British flag alone flew. Meantime the Niger coast line had been placed under British protection. Over 400 political treaties drawn up by Goldie were made with the chiefs of the lower Niger and the Hausa states.
Royal Niger Company
The scruples of the British government being overcome, a charter was at length granted (July 1886), the National African Company becoming The Royal Niger Company Chartered and Limited (normally shortened to the Royal Niger Company), with Lord Aberdare as governor and Goldie as vice-governor.
The Niger Company
It was, however, evidently impossible for a chartered company to hold its own against the state-supported protectorates of France and Germany, and in consequence its charter was revoked in 1899 and, on 1 January 1900, the Royal Niger Company transferred its territories to the British Government for the sum of £865,000. The ceded territory together with the small Niger Coast Protectorate, already under imperial control, was formed into the two protectorates of northern and southern Nigeria.
The company changed its name to The Niger Company Ltd and in 1929 became part of the United Africa Company. The United Africa Company came under the control of Unilever in the 1930s and continued to exist as a subsidiary of Unilever until 1987, when it was absorbed into the parent company.
References and sources
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- Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie, [http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/l2/sir_frederick_john_dealtry_lugard.html Sir Frederick John Dealtry Lugard in Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition