HL Deb 11 March 1925 vol 60 cc454-8

LORD RAGLAN had the following Notice on the Paper:—

To ask His Majesty's Government—

  1. 1. What is the system of promotion for British officials in Nigeria; and whether officials are shown their confidential reports.
  2. 2. In what respects the Native Administration is cheaper than British Administration; and how the salaries and perquisites of the Emirs compare with those of the senior British officials.
  3. 3. Whether grave charges brought by successive Residents against the late Emir of Sokoto were ignored; in what circumstances the Emir of Zaria was deposed in 1920; how many native officials have been discharged during the last five years on the recommendation of British Political Officers.
  4. 4. Who selects the Judges of the Native Courts; what qualifications are required; whether the Government is satisfied that there are no grounds for complaint on the score of corruption and injustice.
  5. 5. Whether the Government bribes the Emirs and Chiefs to compel their subjects to work "voluntarily" on the railways, and whether the mortality among these labourers is high;
and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I ventured, last December, to draw attention to an article by Captain Fitzpatrick on the Administration of Nigeria and to give my reasons for thinking that a case had been made out for inquiry. However, the Secretary of State has decided not to hold an inquiry, and therefore I have put down these Questions. The real gravamen of the charges brought by Captain Fitzpatrick and others seems to me to be this: If a political officer is content to do nothing whatever, except to report at frequent intervals that all is for the best in the best of all possible administrations, his career is assured. If, however, he endeavours to check abuses he is at once accused of stirring up trouble and is liable to be passed over for promotion.

It is only upon one of these Questions that I want to say a word—that referring to Sokoto. I had an opportunity of going further into this case, and I understand that it is not accurate to say that the charges were ignored. What appears to have happened is this. The official who made the charges was removed with disgrace without being allowed to bring forward any evidence, and an inquiry of some sort was held after he had gone. I have put down a Motion for Papers, but as my noble friend Lord Onslow, with customary diligence and courtesy, has made every endeavour to obtain the information, I shall not move for Papers. I simply ask my Questions.


My Lords, my noble friend has put down a number of Questions, and I will endeavour to answer them. The answer to the first Question is that the system of promotion which obtains in Nigeria is the same as elsewhere in the Colonial service. It is laid down in the Regulations that all claims of candidates for promotion are considered in order of seniority, but a selection is mainly decided by regard to official qualifications. The service, according to the Colonial Office List, contains ten senior residents, twenty-nine residents and 291 district officers, assistant district officers and cadets. I believe the full strength is 320. In the List for 1924 there are 291 actual appointments filled. In this last-named grade all the 291 officers advance automatically, subject to passing certain efficiency bars. This grade, which now is a single one, used to be divided into three, and as persons passed from one to the other in three grades it was possible to obtain accelerated promotion much earlier than it is now.

Now, of course, it is not possible to obtain accelerated promotion until the rise from district officer to resident. I should say that a certain number of officers have received accelerated promotion, but no one has been selected unless there have been very definite reasons for making that accelerated promotion and after the claims of all the senior officers have been considered carefully. It may happen that a post falls vacant for which, owing to linguistic knowledge, a rather junior officer may be selected. Every officer, of course, does know one language, as he is bound to do. In the north that language is usually Haussa, but many officers know also Arabic, and other West African languages. It may happen that one of the languages not usually taken is necessary as a qualification for a particular post, and it is possible therefore that a junior officer may be selected for that post owing to his knowledge of that particular language.

My noble friend asks me about confidential reports. I will give him the Regulation. It is the Nigerian General Order No. 433, and it runs as follows:— If the report is to the effect that in the opinion of the head of his Department, an officer has been guilty of a fault, amendment of which may reasonably be supposed to lie within his power, it is reasonable that the fact that such report has been made and the nature of the fault should be communicated to the officer. In any case, therefore, in which a head of Department or a Lieutenant-Governor considers that a report of such nature should be communicated to an officer a recommendation to that effect, together with the reasons therefor, should be made at the time of furnishing the report. The Governor is not bound to show officers more than this, but he has discretion to do so if he thinks proper.


Is it not usual for the officer to be shown the report, whether favourable or not?


I have read the Regulation and that is the practice which obtains now. As regards the second Question, I think it must be obvious that the employment of native Africans must be much less expensive than the employment of Europeans. Under the system of indirect rule a Province like Kano, which has a population of 3,500,000, can be efficiently governed with a staff of about a dozen Europeans. With regard to the salaries of Emirs and Europeans, a comparison is somewhat difficult. The noble Lord is probably aware that, although the Emirs are dismissable officials, they are selected with a view to their administrative capacity from the original reigning families, and their emoluments are more in the nature of a Civil List than of a salary. They have to maintain a certain position which is founded on native tradition and custom, and they require means in order to maintain that position.


Can the noble Earl give me any figures?


What sort of figures does the noble Lord ask for?




I have not got particulars with me, but I have no doubt they can be obtained and I will try to get them. I expect the salaries of the officials are in the Colonial Office List. As regards the third Question of the noble Lord, only one officer brought charges against the Sultan of Sokoto, and that gentleman was the officer who was acting Resident-in-Charge. He brought certain matters before the Lieutenant-Governor and the Governor. As a result of his representations, the matter was fully investigated by Mr. Palmer, one of the most experienced Residents in Nigeria and a man who has an exceptional knowledge of the natives. It was clearly proved to the satisfaction of Mr. Palmer and the Governor that the charges made against the Sultan originated from an intrigue against him by a member of his household. It was substantiated that no blame attached to the Sultan.

As regards the Emir of Zaria I would refer the noble Lord to the Governor's address to the Council in 1923. It is a long address, and I will read only the salient features of it:— I was compelled with much regret to approve the deposition of the Emir Aliyu of Zaria. I took this stop with the utmost reluctance, as Aliyu had been consistently loyal to the Government. I entertain no doubt that some of the charges preferred against him were fabricated; but it was abundantly proved, in the opinion of myself and of my principal legal and other advisers, that the Emir had been personally responsible for at least one very serious miscarriage of justice in the Court over which he presided With regard to the last part of the Question, as to the number of native officers discharged, it would not be possible, without inflicting considerable trouble on the Nigerian Government, to obtain these figures, and the Secretary of State does not think he would be justified in putting them to that trouble.

With regard to the noble Lord's fourth Question—the selection of Judges—the Judges of the Native Courts in the Emirates are selected by the Emir with the approval of the British Political Officer, and the qualifications are knowledge of Moslem law and good character. The answer to the second part of that Question is in the affirmative, and I should add that persons who are convicted in criminal cases have a right of appeal to the Political Officer, who scrutinises the returns of all such cases. With regard to the last Question, I do not think I need say any more than that the answer is in the negative. Labourers, who are, of course, all paid, are obtained through the agency of the local chiefs and men are never required to work outside the Province in which they live. As regards the number of deaths during the last three years among natives employed on the construction of the Nigerian Eastern Railway, the figures are as follows:—In 1921–22 there were 27 deaths, or 22 per thousand: in 1922–23 there were 88 deaths, or 7 per thousand; and in 1923–24, 236 deaths, or 14 per thousand. Of the 236 deaths in 1923–24, 131 were due to an epidemic of cerebro-spinal fever, dysentery and pneumonia. An inquiry has been made of the Lieutenant-Governor, who says that he has no information to lead him to believe that the mortality is higher among the labourers employed on the construction of the railway than of the labourers in the villages in which they live.


Can the noble Earl inform us whether Native Commissioners are appointed to look after the interests of the natives in order to see that there is no abuse in their employment on the railway?


I cannot tell the noble Lord offhand exactly the system that is followed, but if he will put down a Question on the point I shall be glad to give him a reply.


Why does not the noble Earl answer the Question of Lord Raglan as to whether an official who complains is received with disfavour by the Colonial Office here?


Because I do not know that it is the case, and I do not think it is the case.