Indirect rule refers to the method of governing societies through the use of traditional institutions and personnel. The British adopted this strategy in the management of the affairs of Northern Region. There were many reasons for the adoption of this strategy. The major reason was the high cost of European officials’ salaries, home leave, and retirement benefits. Even a relatively small number of white officials consumed half of Nigeria’s revenue in salaries and pensions. They also consumed much of her foreign exchange. The challenges posed by lack of sufficient resources forces British colonial officials to work through traditional rulers. Indirect rule introduced a new form of alliance between the British and the traditional rulers. This was why the British often refused to admit of the shortcomings of those they appointed to rule, on their behalf. Indirect rule became an attractive concept of administration. It became the practice to protect not only unsatisfactory rulers, but also the system itself, from every attempt to criticize it.

The Colonial Civil Service, staffed by British and Africans and known as British Native Staff, centrally administered the protectorate. In the Political Department of the Civil Service, were Residents and District Officers, responsible for overseeing operations in each region. The Resident also oversaw a Provincial Court at the emirate’s capital. Each emirate also had a Native Authority, staffed by the local people, and possessing a Native Treasury. The traditional rulers, Emirs in the north and their District Heads, who oversaw a larger number of Village Heads, headed the Native Authority which was responsible for police, hospitals, public works and local courts.

The Indirect rule system facilitated British colonial administration in Northern Nigeria. This was an arrangement in which the colonial government used local African rulers and institutions to conduct its affairs. This method was adopted for economic reasons. It was meant to save costs of governance. It was considered desirable to discharge the affairs of government through legitimate institutions of the local communities.

However, even in areas where small-scale political organisations prevailed, and there were no elaborate traditional institutions and personnel to use, the British created certain offices through which they governed societies. Example was the appointment of “Warrant Chiefs” in South-Eastern Nigeria.



There was no record of direct rule by the British in the administration of any part of Nigeria during its colonization. However, this was not an indication of any limitation of the power of the British but an evidence of the scarcity of human and material resources available on their part.

Direct rule, was the name given, during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, to the administration of Northern Ireland directly by the Government of the United Kingdom. The most recent period of direct rule came to an end on 8th May 2007 when power was restored to the Northern Ireland Assembly, following April elections and a power-sharing agreement among major parties.

Although everyday matters under direct rule were handled by government departments within Northern Ireland itself, major policy was determined by the British Government’s Northern Ireland Office, under the direction of the Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland; and legislation was introduced, amended or repealed by means of Order in Council.

Direct rule did not mean that the people of Northern Ireland had no democratic say in how they were governed; like other parts of the United Kingdom, they elected members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to which the Northern Ireland Office is responsible. But it did result in the existence of an administration specific to Northern Ireland, which did not have a specifically Northern Irish mandate.

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