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8.3d NNAK Ilorinprof 17/1 NAC/30/c.1, Local Government Reform in the Metropolitan Districts of Ilorin Emirate (except Ballah and Afon Districts).

This is a transcription of a photocopy of a typescript containing a letter, dated 18 August 1955, and the report on local government reform in the Metropolitan Districts, with the exception of Ballah and Afon. Page 4 of the typescript (containing paragraphs 15-19 of the report) is missing. Various additional documents referred to in the text of the letter and the report are also missing. Transcriber’s note: I have transcribed as exactly as I can, although the words and figures in the documents are not always easily readable.

No. 6569/Vol.II/294,

Ilorin, 18th August, 1955.

[To] The Permanent Secretary,

Ministry for Local Government,

Northern Region,


Local Government Reform: Ilorin

Division: “Metropolitan


Referring to paragraph 3 of my letter No.6570/Vol.II/107 of the 10th of August I 

now submit my comments on the last of the local government inquiries in Ilorin Division—that in respect of the eight “metropolitan” Districts in the North of the Emirate. A copy of the covering reports of the committee which undertook the inquiry, together with a summary of the statistics compiled and full details of their report on Jebba are enclosed with this letter. [Only two pages, “Summary of Population Trends, Attendances at Meetings and Destination of Absentees” and “Summary of the Approximate distribution of Religious Beliefs” follow the report and recommendations.]

2. The population of the eight Districts, as recorded in the 1955 tax census, is 151,000. The population of Jebba Town, which provides the main local government problem in the area, is not at present known with any exactitude but is probably between six and eight thousand.

3. The findings and conclusions which emerge from the Committee’s report can, with advantage, be expressed as comparisons with the conditions obtaining in the Igbomina and Ekiti areas. In the latter areas the people form large homogeneous masses which retain their indigenous institutions and, above all, their comparatively vigorous and democratic traditional village councils. It was the vigour of these councils which, in the 1930s, caused the collapse of the centralised District Headship system imposed on them between 1912 and 1918. In the northern “metropolitan” Districts on the other hand the indigenous (Old Oyo) Yorubas were largely replaced by the slaves and dependents of the Fulani and Hausa fiefholders and the indigenous institutions and social structure have been eliminated. There has resulted an unorganised proletariat, resistant to modern ideas and showing, as yet, little of the vigour and initiative of the more homogeneous indigenous groups of Igbominas and Ekitis. They have even resisted the infiltration of Islam in some Districts with some success. Forty five percent of the population of Ejidogari District and forty four percent of the people of Oloru District, for example, claim to be animists. There are of course exceptions to the rule but, on the whole, these people are far less ready or able to assume serious local government responsibilities than the people in the other parts of the Emirate.

4. There also emerges from the Committee’s report a clear picture of the difficult local government problem which the town and village area of Jebba present. The problem is to reconcile the local government aspirations of the comparatively sophisticated immigrant population with the needs of the less experienced people of the village area whose loyalties centre on the Native Authority.

5. The recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry will be found in paragraphs 24 and 25 of the covering report. The Ilorin Native Authority, in full session, approved all of the Committee’s recommendations but recorded the following riders:–

(a)The Jebba Village Area Council (including the representatives from Jebba Town) must remain subordinate to the Lanwa District Council:

(b)District Heads must not attend meetings of Village Area Councils either as observers or as members unless they are invited by the Village Area Councils to do so.

6. The first rider stems from the fear that there may arise a demand for an “independent” Town Council at Jebba. It also indicates the anxiety of the Council to preserve intact the District of Lanwa. Lanwa District was never divided into fiefs but was retained by the Emirs of Ilorin as their personal property. Since the British occupation the District Head has therefore always been a close relative of the Emir.

7. The second rider is a compromise between the traditional Councillors and the elected councillors and reflects the determination of the latter to resist what they choose to regard as interference by District Heads in the affairs of democratically elected councils.

8. I support the recommendations of the Committee of inquiry in so far as they are not at variance with the draft instruments for establishing District and Village Area Councils forwarded to you under cover of my letter No.6089/S.2/98 of the 18th of July or with the draft electoral rules forwarded to me under cover of your letter No. MLG.542/S.42/iii of the 29th of July.

9. The purpose of this letter is to acquaint the Premier and Minister for Local Government with the wishes of the Native Authority in these matters and to seek his approval of the recommendations in general terms.

C.W.M .[handwritten initials, standing for

C.W. Michie]

Resident, Ilorin Province.


26th April, 1955.

The Resident,

Ilorin Province,


Local Government Reform in the Metropolitan

Districts of Ilorin Emirate (except Ballah and Afon Districts).

In accordance with your instructions I and the five members of the Local Government Committee appointed by the Ilorin Native Authority have undertaken and completed an enquiry into the local government organisation in the Metropolitan Districts of Ilorin Emirate, excluding the Bala and Afon Districts which have already been made the subject of a separate report.

2. The area covered comprises the following eight Districts: Onire, Paiye, Malete, Oloru, Ejidongari, Lanwa, Igporin and Akanbi. They contain in all 92 Village Areas varying in size from Jeje, in Ejidongari District, with 51 Adult male Taxpayers, to Oke Oyi in Igporin with 954, and Jebba in Lanwa District with 1505. We held in all 29 meetings at centres convenient for two or three villages in each case, and these meetings were attended by a total of 9,808 people. For reasons which will be explained later we calculate that this figure represents a proportion of about 60% of those adult male taxpayers who [were] men residing in their villages at the time of our visits. A considerable part of the remainder were reported to be sick, and cases of guinea worm seemed very numerous.

3. As in the previous enquiries carried out in Ilorin Emirate we were guided largely by the directions given in the speech prepared by the Minister for Local Government and Community Development and delivered on his behalf to the Ilorin N.A. Council at the end of November 1953, and by the provisions of the North Region Native Authority Law, 1954. Accordingly two of our major objectives have been to provide all Local Government Councils in the area with a majority of elected members, and to recommend such devolution of authority to these bodies as is within their present competence.

4. The most important characteristic of the districts visited, which has given rise to the fact that they, together with the Afon and Bala districts, are generally known as the Metropolitan Districts, may be rapidly appreciated from a glance at the map. All are comparatively elongated in shape and radiate like the spokes of a wheel with Ilorin town as its centre, and all reach within a mile or two of the boundaries of Ilorin Town, separated only by a narrow belt of Akanbi District which almost encircles the town. They form the agricultural hinterland of Ilorin. Both their boundaries and the method of appointment of the District Heads is derived from the former fief-holding system of land-tenure, dating back to the period following the Fulani conquest, when large tracts of land were distributed by the first Emirs, some to their followers and others to the most important of the Yoruba title-holders whose support they wished to retain.

5. Before the advent of the British, these districts were administered entirely from Ilorin and mainly through the hands of the fief-holding families. Often their fiefs were scattered here and there over different areas, but when the British insisted on division into districts, to be administered by resident District Heads, it was found possible in the majority of cases to appoint a District Head from the family “owning” the bulk of the land, and the boundaries were drawn so as to follow as far as possible the pattern of the former holdings.

6. The system of fief-hold has left its influence up to the present day, mainly in the custom of the payment of annual tribute known as Isakole, by each farmer. It amounts usually to about six or eight yams and a small bundle of guinea corn each year. The vast majority of the Village Areas in the metropolitan Districts comprises only one fief-hold, and the Isakole is usually paid to the Village Head, who is either related to, or granted subsidiary rights by the original fief-holder. The Village Head then keeps a proportion, varying from a quarter to a half of the total contributions, for himself and his family, and sends the rest to the original fief-holder, who in many cases is in fact the District Head. In these instances, therefore, there is no conflict between this system and the structure of the present day administration.

7. On the other hand there are some areas, mostly near to Ilorin and notably Akanbi and parts of Igporin District, when the Village Head has not got this traditional backing to his executive authority. In these areas the land is split up into a large number of small holdings belonging to various minor title-holders in Ilorin. Here it sometimes happens that a prosperous farmer who expands onto new land pays Isakole to two, three or even more different fief-holders in Ilorin.

8. We are satisfied that those former fief-holders who are not now associated with the district and village administration, do not interfere in local affairs except over the matter of allocation of farm land, which remains in their hands and not in those of the Village or District Heads. When a dispute arises between the occupiers of lands “owned” by different fief-holders it is referred to the Emir for settlement.

9. The payment of Isakole does not appear to be oppressive, nor is it resented by the average farmer. In view of the decision of the Ilorin N.A. Council when the previous Local Government Reports were considered, we refrain from any recommendation that Isakole should be abolished.

10. A  comparison of the population figures given by the 1954-55 Tax count is given in the summary of Population Trends in Appendix A: comparing, District by District with the figures shown by Tax Re-assessments which were carried out in 1923 and 1924. These assessments were made in each District under the supervision of an Assistant District Officer, and it was recorded at the time that they were believed to have achieved a fairly high standard of accuracy. These figures show an actual increase of population over the thirty year period of 23%, but a decrease of 5% in the number of tax-paying adult males. As a result it can be seen that whereas in 1924 there was a proportion of one taxpayer to every three and a half person [sic], in 1954 this proportion had decreased to one taxpayer to between four and a half and five of the total populations.

In Paiye District the proportion  was very nearly one to six, and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that in this district a number of adult males have avoided having their names inscribed on the register, and will therefore be unable to take part in elections to their local Village Area Councils.

11. As in other parts of Ilorin Emirate we made enquiries in each village as to the number of taxpayers absent for short or long periods in Lagos or Western Region. Only in two districts, Igporin and Akanbi, did we find that a significant proportion of the taxpayers had gone to the Western Region in search of work and to earn money. Elsewhere the small number who were absent had gone only for short visits, often only for a few days, and the great majority for periods of less than one year. Only two people were reported as having travelled as far a-field as the Gold Coast.

12. On the other hand almost everywhere in the Metropolitan Districts we found a large and constant flow of population taking place between the rural areas and Ilorin Town. The inhabitants of these districts are closely connected with the people living in Ilorin town, and throughout the dry season large numbers of them flock into Ilorin to work as labourers or to perform customary duties end [sic] ceremonies. The majority belong to families whose heads are living in Ilorin, or are descended from slaves of important people in Ilorin, and we commonly came across whole villages of twenty or thirty taxpayers, all of whom were absent in Ilorin for a marriage ceremony or rendering their customary duties of re-building or re-roofing the family houses in Ilorin. In all no less than 31% of the taxpayers were in fact in Ilorin at the time we held our meetings.

13. This large scale absence of the taxpaying population raises the problem of how best to ensure, by suitable timing of the elections, that as many as possible of the taxpayers shall be able to take part in the elections for their Village Area Councils, when these are held. The majority of the people, in almost every village which are [sic] visited, expressed the view that the best time for the elections would be immediately after the Salla Laya, the Festival of ID.el.Kabir, when the majority of taxpayers return to their homes. Obviously it will be administratively impossible for all elections to be held at the same time in every village but we recommend that as many as possible should be held at this time, and the remainder, when practicable, during the rainy season when the majority will be at home in order to work on their farms.

14. It has long been accepted that the population of the Metropolitan Districts is predominantly Yoruba, and this was confirmed by our enquiries. Nearly half of this substantial Yoruba majority claimed to be of Old Oyo origin: the remainder described themselves simply as Yoruba proper of Ilorin origin. This, however, included a considerable number descended from slaves of the Fulani and other war-lords, who were sent out from Ilorin to settle and work in the land granted as fiefs to their principal assistants by the early Emirs. The ultimate tribal origin of these slaves is obscure, but they are now thoroughly assimilated in language and customs to the Yorubas with whom they settled.

[Page 4 of the typescript (containing paragraphs 15-19 of the report) is missing.] 

20. Another feature of the traditional order in the Igbomina and Ekiti areas which is largely absent in the Metropolitan Districts is the traditional form of Ilu or local village council of large numbers of elders and title holders. Although the majority of the people have only adopted Islam as their religion in comparatively recent years, they have for long been administered under close control from Ilorin by District and Village Heads and before then by prominent land-holders in Ilorin, who were and are all Moslem. Here and there traces of the old form of Ilu are to be found, notably in Shao which is still predominantly pagan, and in some villages in Igporin District. In a few places some of the traditional title-holders have been absorbed into the more common type of village council, found everywhere except in Jebba, which consists of the Village Head and three or four of the most senior and important compound or hamlet heads in the Village Area. These councils assist the Village Head in the exercises of his authority, when required, and settle disputes about local customs. They do not meet regularly, and their composition is not a matter of fixed tradition: the Village Head simply invites anyone whom he considers sufficiently senior, influential or wealthy. An interesting illustration of these came to light in Lanwa District, when the Committee visited four Village Areas during December 1953, before proceeding to start the enquiry in Offa Town. When we came to visit the rest of Lanwa District in January 1955 the notes on these earlier meetings could not be found, and further meetings were held with the people of the same four villages. Subsequently the relevant notes were discovered, and it was found that in all four villages the names of their Ilu quoted in January 1955 were quite different from those which had been given only a year earlier. Usually one or two members out of five or six were the same on both occasions, the rest being different. In our reports on these village areas we have included the later versions of the Ilus, but have incorporated some notes made on the occasion of the previous visits.

21. In general it was clear that this type of semi-traditional, semi-arbitrary village Council cannot be representative of the population of the various village areas. We found everywhere a welcome for the suggestion that the majority of Councils should consist of popularly elected members representing all parts of the 

Village Area. There remains however a strong and widespread respect for the compound heads and traditional elders, and we recommend that approximately one third of the membership of each council should be made up of such people, nominated by the Native Authority. At each meeting the people were asked who they wished to have as nominated members; usually, after being given an interval for consideration, they chose some of those they had already named as members of their existing Ilu, but in some cases they showed their dissatisfaction with the present arrangement by rejecting the present members of the Ilu and nominating other senior and respected people, usually heads of the large hamlets or compounds.

22. As regards the elected members, there exists no simple method of dividing each village area into smaller units for electoral purposes, and we have therefore adopted the same method as in the reports on other parts of Ilorin Emirate, and grouped the various hamlets and compounds listed in the tax register into electoral areas of convenient size. The taxpayers concerned agreed in every case with these arrangements, but we recommend that if and when proposals are accepted lists of the groupings should be sent to each Village Head for the information of the electors in his area.

23. Conclusions. In general we can say that our investigations throughout the Metropolitan Districts reinforced the conclusions drawn in the previous report on the enquiry carried out in the Afon and Bala Districts. The view expressed in paragraph 25 of that report regarding the attitude of the Village and District Heads, and the future potentialities of the Village and District Councils applies to all the other districts now dealt with, and the recommendations that follow correspond very closely to the recommendations contained in the Afon and Bala Report.

24. Recommendations.

(1)Each Village Area to be divided into electoral areas as shown in the individual village area reports.

(2)The composition of each Village Area Council to be as shown in the individual Village Area Reports.

(3)Ex-Officio or nominated members to be appointed by the Native Authority.

(4)The Village Area Head to be appointed by the N.A. to be ex-officio chairman of each village area council.

(5)The Register of Electors to be the current tax register. We understand that instructions have been issued by the Ministry of Local Government that no one under the age of 21 years shall be eligible to vote in local elections. We recommend that effect should be given to this instruction simply by empowering the Returning Officer at any election [to] reject anyone under this age who presents himself to vote. We do not consider it necessary for a special register of voters to be prepared as distinct from the tax register. (See, however, special note on voting qualifications in the report on Jebba village Area. [The appendices on individual village areas, listed in paragraph 26 below, are missing from this copy of the report.]

(6)The Elections to be held in accordance with the arrangements to be prescribed in the Ilorin N.A. (Elections to subordinate Councils) Rules.

(7)Village Area Councillors to be elected for three year term of office, and to be eligible for re-election at the end of this period.

(8)Elections to be held as far as possible about the time of the Salla Laya, or Festival of Id-el-Kabir.

(9)We have noted in the various village area reports the number of members of the council recommended to form a quorum; these numbers tend to be a high proportion of the membership of the council, and we understand that the Minister of Local Government has commented on the previous reports that the quorums suggested were too high. We therefore recommend that the quorum for each council should be laid down by the Native Authority, in accordance with the following table:

Total membership of council   Quorum

     (including Chairman)













        17       9

        18         10

        19         10

        20         11

We are aware that some theoretical authorities favour even lower quorums, but we consider that until the principle of elected councils is more generally understood and accepted the protection to the position of the elected members, which is afforded by a fairly high quorum, is necessary.

(10)The Native Authority to prescribe simple standing orders for the orderly conduct of Village Area Councils, laying down, inter alia, that meetings shall take place at least quarterly and that minutes shall be kept when possible. 

(11)Village Area Councils to be advisory to their District Councils on the following matters:

(a)The declaration and modification of native law and custom.

(b)The advisability or otherwise of ordering a stranger to leave the area which the council represents.

(c)The construction and maintenance of local roads.

(d)The opening and maintenance of markets.

(e)The need to levy a rate for any specific purpose.

(f)The use of communal labour for purposes recognised by native law and custom.

(g)Any other matter which the District Council may refer to it.

(12)Village Area Councils to have the following duties:

(a)To elect the members of the District Council, other than ex-officio or nominated members.

(b)To apportion general tax.

(c)To control the granting of the right to use communal lands and trees in 

accordance with native law and custom.

(d)To maintain law and order in the area under their jurisdiction.

(13)The council in Jebba Village Area to have the constitution and functions described in greater detail in paragraph 25, below, and in the Report on Jebba Village Area.

(14)District Councils to be established in each District, with the composition shown [in] the tables given in the Appendices dealing with each District. [The appendices on individual village areas, listed in paragraph 26 below, are missing from this copy of the report.] The elected members to be chosen by the members of the Village Area Councils in numbers approximately proportionate to the population of the respective village areas. In some cases certain small village areas have been grouped together for the purpose of electing members to their District Councils. These groupings should be regarded as provisional and the village area councils concerned, after they have been elected, should be asked to confirm the arrangements. When the groupings are accepted the village councils concerned should meet in joint session to choose their representative.

(15)Members of the District Councils to be elected for a period of three years, after which they would be eligible for re-election. Elections to District Councils to be held as soon as may conveniently be arranged after the village council elections.

(16)The Quorums of each District Council to be decided from the table given in sub-para. (9) above.

(17)The District Council to be advisory to the Native Authority on any matter which the latter may refer to it or which the District Council may raise of its own initiative, including the levying of rates for specific local purposes.

(18)It shall be the duty of the District Council:

(a)to hear appeals from administrative  decisions by Village Area Councils regarding the use of communal land and trees.

(b)to hear appeals from administrative decisions by Village Area Councils regarding the apportionment of general tax.

(c)to elect members to the Native Authority Council.

(d)to maintain law and order in the area under its jurisdiction.

(e)to submit to the Native Authority annually its proposals for spending District Council Funds in the coming financial year.

(f)to co-ordinate and submit to the Native Authority Council proposals for levying specific rates made by Village Area Councils.

(g)to supervise the expenditure of District Council funds and rates on local projects included in the approved Native Authority Treasury Estimates.

(h)to authorise the use of communal labour for purposes recognised by native law and custom.

(19)The Native Authority to consider delegating to each District Council the following addition[al] duties (the numbers refer to Sections of the Native Authority Law, 1954.)

(a)Power to establish markets (32(a))

(b)Power to order a stranger to leave its area (47)

(c)Power to authorise the construction of local roads.

(20)Rating to be introduced as soon as possible in all districts.

(21)Consideration to be given to redefining the duties and responsibilities of all District and Village Area Heads, as indicated in paragraph 25 of the Report on Afon and Ballah Districts.

[It appears that the paragraph immediately above marks the end of the very long paragraph 24, which contains many sub-paragraphs, so that the paragraph immediately below is correctly styled as paragraph 25.]

(25)As indicated in paragraph 24(13) above, we wish to include a further explanation of our proposals for Jebba Village Area, which presents certain features different from those of other Village Areas, and which have produced the pattern of Village and District Councils indicated in our recommendations. These differences are due to the cosmopolitan nature of the town, which in its turn is due partly to the large number of people employed by the Nigerian Railway, mostly st[r]angers, and partly to the situation of the town at the focal point for all trade and communications between North and South of the River Niger. On the other hand, traditionally, before the arrival of the railway and the construction of the bridge over the Niger, it was not an important place. Its situation had given it brief prominence in the early days of the British occupation, first with a Royal Niger Company Fort on Jebba Island, and later as the temporary seat of the government of the Northern Region. But these events had much less effect on the inhabitants of what had been only a small village than did the arrival of the railway. It therefore became our primary concern to consider how best to integrate the railway influence into a satisfactory system of local government, since this influence is, in proportion to the number of inhabitants, so much greater than in other large railway depots such as Offa. There were also to be considered the position of certain outlying hamlets, traditionally part of Jebba Village Area. It was necessary to reconcile their clear demand to remain administratively associated with Jebba, with the request of those actually living in Jebba for a Town Council. After due consideration of all the factors involved, we have concluded that Jebba Town by itself would be too small a unit to make the sort of progress in future which its inhabitants would like to see. We therefore recommend the inclusion under one Council of the whole of Jebba Village Area, subject to certain provisions. These provisions, together with full details of our recommendations, are set out in the Report on Jebba Village Area, under  Appendix ‘G’, Lanwa District. [missing from this copy of the report]

(26)The following are attached as appendices to this report [only Appendix A is included].

Appendix A:General Statistics

Appendix B:Onire District

Appendix C:Paiye District

Appendix D:Malete District

Appendix E:Oloru District

Appendix F:Ejidogari District

Appendix G:Lanwa District

Appendix H:Igporin District

Each appendix except Appendix A contains statistics for the District and a table showing the proposed composition of the District Council, followed by the detailed reports on each Village Area, containing specific recommendations for each Village Area Council.

(Sgd.) M.H. Orde.

M.H Orde, District Officer.

(Sgd.) Beluko.

Balogun Alanamu, Ilorin.

(Sgd.) M. Saidu Alao.

District Head Ballah.

(Sgd.) Aliu

Olupo of Ajasse.

(Sgd.) Oba Iloffa.

Oba of Iloffa.

(Sgd.) Agboola Aponbi.

for Oloffa of Offa.

[Transcriber’s note: This page and the following page constitute Appendix A. In the typed copy, it was presented on one foolscap-size page. For reasons of practicality, I have separated it into two parts. Readers may wish to check the totals.]

Summary of Population Trends, Attendances at Meetings and Destination of Absentees in the Metropolitan Districts of Ilorin Emirate


District1923/24 Tax Count   1954 Tax Count

Total Adult Male TotalAdult Male













Percentages  — ——100%


Percentages  — —23% 5%

change sinceIncreaseDecrease



Summary of Population Trends, Attendances at Meetings and Destination of Absentees in the Metropolitan Districts of Ilorin Emirate

[Appendix A continued]


District   1954-5: No. of Adult Male TaxpayersPercentages


DistrictPresent atAbsent in Absent in    Percentage

MeetingLagos orother parts

Westernof Ilorin















Percentages  — ———

change since



Proportion: Adult Male Taxpayers : Total Population

1923/24–1 : 3½

1954–1 : 4½

Summary of the Approximate distribution of Religious Beliefs in the Metropolitan Districts of Ilorin Emirate

[Transcriber’s note: readers may wish to check the totals]


DistrictsNo. of AdultApproximate No. of adherents of

Male TaxpayersIslamAnimism     Christianity

1954 Tax count

Onire4,4233,1531,256      16

Paiye2,5371,818493      20

Malete2,2052,05[3?]2173      –

Oloru4,3102,3791,876      55

Ejidogari3,4811,3631,581      37

Lanwa4,8442,8631,663      318

Igporin6,4396,6241,703      112

Akanbi2,6252,560226      39


Totals30,86621,2928,971      803


Percentages100%69%29%      2%


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