The Niger Coast

2/03/2012     Niger

The Niger Coast Protectorate was a British protectorate in the Oil Rivers area of present-day Nigeria, originally established as the Oil Rivers Protectorate (named after the palm oil found in the region) in 1885, but it was not until 1891 that steps were taken to set up an administration with a consul-general at Old Calabar and vice-consuls at some of the river ports, The consulate-general at Old Calabar and the vice consulates at Benin, Bonny, Brass, Forcados, and Opobo acted as collection and distribution centres for mail from November 1891, but were not recognised as Post Offices until July 1892. For a few months from July 1892, local administrative hand stamps were in use as cancellers, and can be found on GB stamps mainly from the 1887 Jubilee series.

The main post office was established at Old Calabar in November 1891; sub-offices existed at Benin, Bonny, Brass, Opobo, and Warri, and in July 1892 GB stamps were overprinted with "BRITISH / PROTECTORATE / OIL / RIVERS". A need for halfpenny values in mid-1893 resulted in a variety of surcharges on 2p and 2 1/2p stamps. While most simply read "HALF / PENNY", with a horizontal bar to obliterate the old value, some were overprinted "1/2 d" twice, with the intent that they be bisected diagonally to produce two 1/2p stamps.

The Niger Company Territories was established following the development of trade along the Niger, and British interests formed theUnited African company in 1879 which became the National African Company in 1882, and the Royal Niger Company in 1886. A charter was granted to the company in the same year to administer Territory along the rivers Niger and Benue over which a British Protectorate had been proclaimed in June 1885. The company's territories extended to the Niger delta to provide access to the interior. The postal services were established in 1887, and GB stamps were issued for use at the Company's post offices, and cancelled by Company handstamps at Abutshi, Akassa, Burutu, and Lokoja.

At the Berlin Conference the area was renamed The Niger Coast Protectorate on 12 May 1893. The name change occurred just as new stamps were being prepared, and so the first issue of the Niger Coast Protectorate, featuring a 3/4 portrait of Queen Victoria, was inscribed "OIL RIVERS" but obliterated and overprinted "NIGER COAST". Available in November 1893, they were superseded the following May by stamps in a new design and the correct inscription. These stamps continued for the remainder of the protectorate's existence and merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company on 1 January 1900 to form the colony of Southern Nigeria.

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