Littoral Piracy in Colonial Nigeria The Lagos Lagoon in the Interwar Years

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Ayodeji Olukoju


The antiquity of piracy in Nigeria’s coastal waters has been traced to the precolonial period, especially the nineteenth century. However, the period of British colonial rule, specifically, the interwar years, has been neglected in the literature. This paper examines piracy on the Lagos Lagoon during the interwar years in the framework of concurrent concepts of piracy. It contributes to the literature on piracy by reclassifying piratical acts in association with specific water bodies. Hence, this case study of “littoral piracy” is situated in the geography, population movements, economic activities, and colonial policing in the Lagos Lagoon system. Several incidents reported between 1918 and 1937 highlight the incidence of piracy, the attendant human and material toll, the consequent police operations, and judicial adjudication of these incidents. The paper demonstrates how littoral piracy evolved as organized (state-backed) and haphazard (freelance) enterprises in changing contexts of contested and uncontested hegemonies during the nineteenth
and twentieth centuries.

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