Britain had long been interested in the Nigerian-Benue area. In 1849, they tried to limit the power of the slave trade in the Bights in Beni and Biafra by creating a consulate for the two Bights. Their power began to increase, both politically and economically. In 1885, they turned the coastal consulate and neighboring area into the Oil Rivers Protectorate; in 1893 it became the Niger Coast Protectorate. This segment of Nigeria became known as Eastern Nigeria.
In 1862, the British had taken over the Lagos Lagoon area and made it into a royal colony. Their reasoning was the same –they were ostensibly trying to limit the slave trade. However, it was clear that they were also interested in the lucrative trade route from Lagos down through other communities, ending in the Hausaland. By 1897 British influence had permeated all of Lagos and Yorubaland, which was made a protectorate of Lagos. This was Western Nigeria.
Northern Nigeria derived from the transformation of Greyne Goldie's National African Company to the Royal Niger Company. It controlled territory on both sides of the river as well as land that stretched from the sea to Lokoja. In 1914 all three of the regions were brought together under the Colonial Office. A body named the Nigerian Council was called once a year to listen to the Governor's address on the state of the colony and the Protectorate of Nigeria, but it had no legislative powers.
The colony was ruled indirectly; that is, the British preferred to work within existing systems rather than establish an entirely new administrative system. Some African leaders ruled parts of the colony, but they had the backing of the British. The British facilitated the building of railroads and the growing of cash crops, such as palm nuts, kernels, peanuts, cocoa, and more. Cities like Lagos and Kano became more urbanized and westernized, with a small western-educated African elite.
Stirrings of independence became heightened after World War II. Nationalism and calls for independence grew. The British implemented new constitutions that moved their colony towards self-government. On October 1st, 1954, Nigeria became the Federation of Nigeria. On October 27th, 1958 the British agreed to allow the Federation to become an independent state starting on October 1st, 1960. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the first Governor-General of a Federation of the three regions of the North, East, and West; the capital was at Lagos. On October 1st, 1963 Nigeria became a Federal Republic and ended all ties with Britain, although it remained in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Nigeria had a parliamentary government. The monarch remained head of state but the parliament had all of the legislative power, the prime minister and cabinet had all executive power, and there was a Federal Supreme Court to deal with judicial matters.