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The political economy of railway construction in Nigeria: the Bornu railway extension

Tokunbo Aderemi Ayoola


In the late 1950s, it seemed clear that Britain would soon grant Nigeria her independence. However, to guarantee her economic and strategic interests in independent Nigeria, it sought to manipulate the decolonisation process. One key strategy employed was to side with the faction of the Nigerian petty bourgeoisie whose political, economic and class interests were in agreement with that of Britain, and this was the Northern Nigeria political elite. Unfortunately, the faction's economic base was weak. Although it was the largest and supposedly the most populated region, the North was also the poorest. Thus, the faction could not develop its region much less guarantee British interests—unless its economic base was further developed. One key sector of the economy that could be used for the purpose was agriculture. However, the greatest obstacle to further agricultural production was the inefficiency of the existing transport system, particularly the railway. From early 1950s, the Northern establishment began to pressurise the central colonial government into constructing a railway extension into the potentially agriculturally rich Bornu province. The pressure worked, and the Bornu Extension was adopted despite concern for its viability, and lack of finance for it. The 400-mile extension was eventually constructed and opened in 1964.

Lagos Historical Review Vol. 6, 2006: 148-170

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