From Crime to Coercion: Policing Dissent in Abeokuta, Nigeria, 1900–1940
Indirect rule figured prominently in Nigeria’s colonial administration, but historians understand more about the abstract tenets of this administrative strategy than they do about its everyday implementation. This article investigates the early history of the Native Authority Police Force in the town of Abeokuta in order to trace a larger move towards coercive forms of administration in the early twentieth century. In this period the police in Abeokuta developed from a primarily civil force tasked with managing crime in the rapidly growing town, into a political implement of the colonial government. It became critical in preserving the authority of both the local traditional ruler and the colonial administration behind him. In Abeokuta, this transition was largely precipitated by the 1918 Adubi War and the period of increased surveillance that followed it. This created new responsibilities and powers for the police, expanding their role in Abeokuta’s administration and raising their stock in the colonial administrative hierarchy.
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