The abolition of the slave trade and the rise of the legitimate trade, subsequently led to the gradual encroachment on the territories of various African states by European powers. For instance in Nigeria, the British misled local rulers into signing “protective treaties”, which, in reality, were for surrendering their powers to the British. As part of an anti-slavery campaign and a pretext for making inroads into Lagos, the town was bombarded by the British in November 1851, the pro-slavery Oba Kosoko was deposed and the newly installed Oba Akintoye was more cooperative. He signed a treaty with the British which led to the annexation of Lagos as a Crown Colony in 1861. The British Colonial Office in London ultimately governed the Colony. By signing the Lagos treaty of cessation in 1880, the British Government and traders invalidated the Maria Theresa dollar, to the annoyance of its local holders, in favour of the pound. In 1891, the African Banking Corporation founded the Bank of British West Africa in Lagos.

After the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, Britain announced formation of Oil Rivers Protectorate, which included the Niger Delta and extended eastward to Calabar, where the British Consulate General was relocated from Fernando Po. The protectorate was organized to control and develop trade coming down the Niger. Vice Consuls were assigned to ports that already had concluded treaties of cooperation with the Foreign Office.

Local rulers continued to administer their territories, but consular authorities assumed control for the equity courts established earlier by the foreign trading communities. A constabulary force was raised and used to pacify the coastal area.

In 1894, the territory was re-designated the Niger Coast Protectorate and was expanded to include the region from Calabar to Lagos Colony and Protectorate, including the hinterland and northward up the Niger River as far as Lokoja, the headquarters of the Royal Niger Company. As a protectorate, it did not have the status of a colony, so its officials were appointed by the Foreign Office and not by the Colonial Office.

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