HC Deb 05 August 1907 vol 179 cc1534-6
MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has any announcement to make with regard to railways in Northern Nigeria?


Yes, Sir. It has been decided to authorise the immediate construction of a pioneer railway of 3 feet 6 inches gauge 400 miles long from Baro, which is the highest convenient point on the perennially navigable reaches of the Niger, to Bida, by Zungeru, and thence to Zaria and Kano. The work of construction, which will occupy four years, will be begun under the general supervision of Sir Percy Girouard, whose experience in building the desert railway in the Soudan is well known. Full estimates based on regular surveys place the cost of such a line at £3,000 a mile, or £1,230,000 in all. In view of the fact that the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria is approved in principle, and will probably be accomplished in the next few years, the money will be raised as a loan by Southern Nigeria, and will form part of the debt of that Colony. The rapidly expanding revenues of Southern Nigeria and its excellent financial position will in the opinion of the Secretary of State enable that Colony to assume this burden without embarrassment, and Sir Walter Egerton, the Governor of Southern Nigeria, fully concurs. But as an off-set the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed that the annual contribution of £70,000 now exacted from Southern Nigeria in aid of the finances of Northern Nigeria shall be reduced in any year by a sum equal to whatever interest charge may in respect of this loan be defrayed by Southern Nigeria, and, further, in order that the Colony may obtain its money on the most favourable terms the Treasury have consented that the loan should be made out of the Local Loans Fund in the same way as the loan to Jamaica on account of the earthquake is to be made. His Majesty's Government have been led to this decision by three distinct sets of considerations. First, the enormous administrative and military difficulties of continuing to hold so great an extent of territory as Northern Nigeria without any central line of rapid communication; secondly, the obvious financial disadvantages of paying a grant-in-aid of nearly £300,000 a year for a province whose commercial development is completely arrested for want of such communication; and, thirdly, the immense importance of enabling British enterprise to reach the extensive cotton growing areas of Northern Nigeria, and thus vary and multiply the sources of the supply of so vital a raw material. I should add that the intention to construct the Baro-Kano railway will in no way be allowed to arrest or delay the progress of the Lagos railway, which will be steadily continued till it crosses the Niger at Jebba and ultimately effects a junction with the northern line at or in the neighbourhood of Zungeru. It would not be possible to enter upon argument in answer to a Question, but Papers will be shortly laid before both Houses containing the fullest information both as regards policy and method.

MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

asked whether, in view of the suggested amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria, the Government would keep a watchful eve on the drink traffic in that part of Africa, and prevent its making further strides in that direction.


replied that Lord Elgin was thoroughly alive to the importance of the question.