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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Slave Trade in Nigeria – The True History (Explained)

So many people know little or nothing about slave trade in Nigeria. Guess what, I am also in the same shoes.

Just because my curiosity needs to be satisfied, I took it upon myself to carry out somee findings about the history of slave trade in Nigeria.

If you read this post to the end I’m sure you’ll also find your curiosity satisfied.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “slave”? Please feel free to comment on the section provided below, we want to hear from you.

Literally, it’s an unjust treatment on some persons irrespective of the gender in one hand, while it’s a way of punishing some persons on the other hand.

But for the sake of our dear readers, I will take us through few definitions of slave from different sources.

Who Is a Slave?

“A person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey”,

A person who is wholly subject to the will of another, one who has no freedom of action, but whose person or services are wholly under the control of another”.

“One who is under the power of a master, and who belongs to him; so that the master may sell and dispose of his person, and of his labor, without being able to do anything, have anything, or acquire anything, but must belong to his master.

Those are quite deep definitions right?

With the above definitions in mind, join me as I take us through the history of slavery as a trade in Nigeria.

Slave Trade History

The act of slavery is as old as mankind itself.

The history of slave trade dates back to the past, been accepted by the cultural set up of the people of the West African coasts.

slavery in africa

Nigeria was no exception as the traditional setting slave trade had been part and parcel of their lives.

Treatments of slaves cannot be compared to that of the Europeans, especially the gruesome and cruel treatment from these Europeans.

The European needed more hands to work on their sugar, tobacco and cotton plantation; slaves were the best option for labor.

The question is what was Slave Trade like in Nigeria back then? In the course of this article, you will see learn more about the history of slave trade in Nigeria and causes.

However, there were different forms of acquiring slaves back then, below are some ways;

  • Through inter-tribal and communal warfare;
  • Kings fighting their neighbors and extensively raid and subdue prisoners. These prisoners automatically assume the status of slaves;
  • Internal occasional raids, like in the market places, along the pathway leading to the streams and other places within the community;
  • Selling of people as slaves, in the case of some children, relations and community members been sold as result of so much burden to bear.
Conflict and causes of slave trade in Nigeria
inter-tribal and communal warfare; Leading to slavery

How sad that can be! Some were even captured and preserved to serve the royal family or the community at large, or sold to boost other community’s economic prowess.

These slaves are all made to work and contribute manual labor on farms, agricultural fields, used as domestic servants or even reserved for sacrifices during festivals.

All these capturing were thus done by the kings and traditional chieftains who were well groomed in the aspect of capturing, raiding, preserving and selling of humans as slaves.

These led to what was called the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, where millions of Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to America.


The Europeans needed more manual man-power labor to execute work in their home country on their plantation.

These slaves were bought from west coast of Africa by the European slave traders away from their homelands to work rigorously on farmlands.

This reminds me of a popular marching song that goes thus;

Oh my home, oh my home,

When shall I see my home?

When shall I see my native land?

I will never forget my home.

My father at home, my mother at home,

When shall I see my home?

When shall I see my native land I will never forget my home?

Did you know that this song was actually sang by the victims of the Trans-Atlantic slaves taken away from home while working on these Europeans plantation?

African Slave Trade – When Did Slavery Start In Africa?

Prior to the start of the Trans-Atlantic slavery in Africa, slavery was reported to have been occurring in almost every society.

There had been business transactions of consumable goods on-going between the local people and the European traders.

slave trade in africa

Some items such as guns, gunpowder, mirrors, and fabrics among others were brought in by these Europeans which the local people back then found very appealing.

Now these European traders would drop these above mentioned items and step backward while the African traders represented by the then chieftains drop theirs and step backward as well.

That process in time calls in for proper negotiation; when both parties become satisfied, they pick items in exchange and solely depart.

This process had been on-going because the two parties had been able to build trust between each other.

Overtime the trade relationship graduated to exchange of humans and exchange of Africans for the purchase of European items. Too bad!!!

This gave leverage for some kings and chieftains to acquire fellow people and exchange them for peanut benefits.

We can then say these African kings, chieftains, prominent and wealthy ones co-operated with the Europeans in capturing fellow Africans and sold them into slavery.

Once the chieftains have done their part, Trans-Atlantic slave trader merchants came with intentions of buying of slaves from Africa.

The exchange of gifts for the valuable things in place of incomparable lives of African as slaves

History of Slave Trade in Nigeria and Causes Pdf

Nigeria was not left out in the world’s history of slave trading.

The kings and chieftains were the custodians of tradition and gatekeepers of some significant events in the history of the people they preside over.

Somewhat, there is a link of slavery and slave trade relating to the palaces of these traditional rulers.

Where some work within the palaces as domestic servants, some were imprisoned and reserved for sacrifices during festive periods or probably when something happens to the king and there’s need for atonement.

There is something attached to the number of slaves you have in your custody, as high accumulation of slaves became a status of symbol.

Slaves were thus confined for domestic use both on farms and household environs.

Back then, in the history of Nigeria, it is common among the kings, chiefs, the wealthy and prominent members of the society, that the number of slaves you have in your custody tells how rich you are.

Sadly, the female slaves were playing the roles of mistresses or serving as domestic helpers while the good looking able-bodied men were sometimes castrated.

So, slave trading was a good business and source of revenue for the kings and the wealthy in the society as humans are been stocked up readily for purchase to the slave merchants.

Notable places in the history of slave trade in Nigeria were Badagry and Lagos.

slave market in badagry

In the past during the slave trade era, Badagry region due to the large expanse of water, serves as a place for the Europeans to harbor their slave ships.

In Lagos, slave trade was in vogue where wealth and power was significant not in ownership of landed physical properties but rather, in the control of human beings as slaves.

Lagos was a slave port, where buying and selling of people as slaves was carried out, this is funny, as if its perishable goods they are selling.

There’s a slave market where bargaining is done, also a buildings located at different areas within the slave-dealing quarters where slaves are kept until they are been transported.

These slaves confined, are made to walk a two kilometer path to a spot known as  ”a point of no return” just because these ones have met bargaining power and awaits to be shipped out.

Imagine humans treated cruelly, oppressed, taking away forcefully from their families, and so on.

european merchants and Nigerian slaves

Let’s take a look at the causes of Slave Trade in Nigeria;

  • for rigorous manual labor,
  • greed, to acquire more appealing items,
  • sheer human wickedness,

More Photos of Slave Trade in Nigeria

slave trade photos

slaves in sugar plantation

Who Stopped Slave Trade in Nigeria?

History as it that some enslaved captives fought endlessly for the stop of slave trade in Nigeria.

The likes of Olaudah Equiano, Ottabah Cugoano and others publicly demanded for the abolition of slaves alongside the British abolitionists.

Thus the UK parliament passed a bill in 1807 to abolish slave trading, whereas that was not well received by some and they didn’t heed to such bill.

And their fight led to the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act passed in the UK. The act was to press on others to stop their own slave trading.

William Wilberforce was the leader of the British Campaign to abolish slave trade.

Effects of Slave Trade in Nigeria

It is without doubt to note from the beginning the bad effects slave trade in Nigeria must have had on the human race.

Even though I was not born then, reading about the events that unfolds brought tears to my eyes.

The effects had left a bad and long-lasting impression on the minds of the captives; leading to erosion of their inter-personal relationship and attitudes.

The ill-treatment experienced which left an indelible mark on captives is the physical assaults experienced.

The use of hot iron to brand the captives to avoid mix-up while they are been transported, as if they are not humans, would have been unbearable.

What about the cohorts, the people who collaborated with these European slave merchants?

Definitely, it would be unforgivable to let go of such hurt. So many lives were lost while journeying by sea.

Slave trade in Nigeria, destroyed a lot of families, ruined the Nigerian economy, decentralized societies at large and hunger and famine was not left out.

Slavery in Nigeria (Summary)

Taken together, all evidence presented shows that slave trade in Nigeria had adverse effects on the captives and also on the society at large.

Unfortunately, some individuals still nurse the bad effects of the experiences they had during the slave trade era.

However, slavery in Nigeria can be said to have ended unlike how it was back then, but do you know there is what is called self-imposed slavery happening still in Nigeria; remember the Libya case?

With the deep definitions shared earlier, slave trade in Nigeria is one history that brings tears to my eyes each time I imagine the torture victims underwent.

Let’s endeavor to get acquainted with this history not just for us but also for the unborn generation.

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  1. What about the Islamic slave trade for 1,200 years from Africa? Not a peep on this. One-sided racist post.

  2. Brandon Vaught I absolutely disagree with you. The slave trade could not have happened without the assistance, cooperation, willingness of our own people. That doesn’t sound much like Oasdom is saying “poor black people” to me. Our very own ancestors played a huge role in destroying our culture as we knew it. But in-spite of the exploitation by our own people, by Europeans, by Spaniards, and of course by Americans etc. we are still here.
    Brandon, you’re right about one thing it’s time we know the FULL truth.

  3. I think this is a very fair account. I certainly don’t see it as ‘bash the white’. It mentions the endemic nature of slavery in the region of Nigeria and accurately describes its relationship with the transatlantic slave trade. It does not sound like the typical left wing rant you hear in Britain. Thank you for this article

  4. This only talks about the slave trade with Europeans. It just scratches over the slave trade prior to Europeans and post slave abolishment. Also doesnt go into the slave trade going on today. This seems like just another bash the white man and poor black ppl article. I want to learn the brutal reality and history not an opinionated fluff piece saying poor black people. The really sad part is that young people are buying into stuff like this and all its doing is perpetuating the victim mentally the black community holds toward itself. You might think this kind of thing helps but it does the very opposite.

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