'The facts stated do not seem to be true': The Contested Process of Repatriation in British Colonial Nigeria

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This article will examine requests for repatriation submitted by Nigerian subjects in the last decade of colonial rule in Nigeria. Requests for repatriation from this time provide insights into the motives, outcomes and impact of a growing trend among Nigerians to travel abroad for work, studies, pilgrimages and adventure. This mobility reflected both easier access to the means to travel and the empowerment of Nigerians to realise their economic, social and cultural aspirations beyond the borders of Nigeria. Once abroad, many became destitute and unable to pay for their return back home, and requests for their repatriation were then made to the colonial administration in Nigeria. A review of the files regarding the process of repatriation exposes divergent perceptions between colonisers and colonised of the rights and obligations structuring the colonial relationship. It will be seen that a very limited range of options was available to the British administration in Nigeria in dealing with those who defied, ignored or reinterpreted rules aimed at monitoring and regulating the identities and movement of Africans. Thus, the history of repatriations reveals both the impotence of the colonial regime in imposing limits on the mobility of its African subjects, and the various ways in which Africans imposed their own notions of flexibility and ambiguity in response to colonial policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-152
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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