George V Nigerian Chief’s Staff, circa 1920
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Length: 143.5cm (56.5in)
Officially awarded staff of office of a Native Chief (3rd Class), the malacca shaft mounted with a flared brass finial surmounted by a King’s Crown, and terminating in a tapered ferrule
In 1900 the soldier/explorer turned colonial administrator Frederick Lugard (1858-1945) introduced a cost-effective policy of indirect rule known as the ‘native authorities’ system. With a strict hierarchy of chiefs classified by grades and class, this structure allowed for effective control of territory acquired under stiff competition from France and Germany without deploying a large number of colonial officers. Such was the success of Lord Lugard’s dual mandate, that he later extended indirect rule from Northern to Southern Nigeria, strengthening the powers of some chiefs and creating new chiefs where none existed. The chiefs retained legal powers, authority over land allocation and local taxation, thereby maintaining some degree of autonomy. However it has been argued that the powers of some rulers grew beyond the limits traditionally assigned to them, becoming the source of arbitrariness and corruption, which the British later used as excuses for dethronment or other punishment. For their troubles, well over a hundred chiefs fell victim to the uncomfortable sounding process of ‘destoolment’ at the hands of the colonial administration between 1904 and 1926.