The Sokoto Caliphate in 19th century

The British Conquest of Sokoto Caliphate was a time when the British Colonial forces gradually defeated and subjugated the Emirates under the Caliphate in 1903. The Sokoto Caliphate was replaced with the Northern Nigerian Protectorate under the British Colonial administration.

Background to British Conquest of Sokoto Caliphate

The Sokoto Caliphate was an Islamic Caliphate in West Africa that spanned into some parts of the modern day Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Burkina Faso, and the Central African Republic. The Caliphate was founded in 1804 by the renowned Islamic reformer Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio who fought and subjugated the Hausa States. The Sokoto Caliphate replaced the Hausa States as a loose confederate state whereby the defeated Hausa States became new emirates under the Caliphate.

Before the British Conquest of Sokoto Caliphate, many European explorers visited different many Emirates under the Caliphate. Since, the early 19th century, explorers such as the Hugh Clapperton, Heinrich Barth, Dixon Denham, and others visited the Sokoto Caliphate. For example, Clapperton visited Kano Emirate and Sokoto in 1823. The actual mission of these explorers was to explore and cleared the way the for the British Conquest of Sokoto Caliphate. Because, the explorers finds informations for their countries.

As part of its aim of establishing colonial rule, in 1879 the British Government granted a charter to a mercantile company called United Africa Company (UAC) in order to establish a commercial activities in the upper River Niger area. A man called George Goldie led the UAC in establishing many commercial agreements with many towns around the River Niger area.

In 1886, the UAC was renamed Royal Niger Company (RNC). Prior to the renaming, an international conference called Berlin Conference was held in Berlin between 1884 to 1885. During the Conference, different European countries attended, and the African continent was shared among them. The territory of the Sokoto Caliphate fall under the share of the Great Britain. Therefore, the British Government ordered the Royal Niger Company to extend its activities into the interior of the Sokoto Caliphate. The company conquered many parts of the Sokoto Caliphate since 1886 until 1899.

In January 1900, the British Government took over from the Royal Niger Company all of the conquered territories. The British Imperial Government appointed a person called Frederick Lugard as a Governor-General of the Northern Nigerian Protectorate whose mission was to complete the conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate and established the British Colonial rule in Northern Nigeria.

The Conquest and the Resistance of some Emirates

Since before 1900, different Emirates in the Sokoto Caliphate resisted the British Colonial conquest. However, most of the Emirates were eventually subjugated. Only powerful Emirates of Kano and the Capital city of Sokoto that resisted the conquest. Before, Lugard began carrying his task by founding his base in Lokoja along the which is probably in the middle of Nigeria.

Throughout 1900, Governor Lugard prepared and arranged how he would subjugated the Emirates of the Sokoto Caliphate. By 1901, the British soldiers under the command of Lugard began the conquest of the interior. In 1901, the Emirates of Bida, Kontagora, and Yola were conquered. In the February 1902, Bauchi, Gombe and Misau Emirates were successfully subjugated under the British Colonial rule. Later, in the late 1902, the British soldiers successfully conquered the Zazzau (Zaria) Emirate.


The Emir of Kano Alu was known as the hater of the British and their activities in the Sokoto Caliphate. He publicly declared his intention of fighting the British as long as they set in their foot in his Emirate. On their part, the British Colonial Government considered Kano Emirate as the most important part of the Sokoto Caliphate to be conquered. Therefore, Governor Lugard declared his intention of subjugating Kano.

On 29 January, 1903, Governor Lugard appointed Colonel Morland to led war on Kano. In the same day, Colonel Morland and his battalion approached Kano. However, on the other hand, the Emir of Kano Alu unknowingly together with his thousand retinues embarked on a travelling to Sokoto, the capital of the Caliphate. In February, Colonel Morland and his battalion arrived at one of the Kano City western gates, probably around the Kofar Dukawuya or Kabuga gates. The soldiers broke the gate, and entered the city. When the soldiers entered city all of the people ran for their lives. When the British soldiers reached the Kano Emirate Palace, a short battle was fought with the Kano Warriors led by Sallaman Kano Jatau. Eventually, the British soldiers won the battle which marked the fall of Kano Emirate. On 4 March, 1903, Governor Lugard arrived in Kano and officially declared the British Colonial rule.


On 7 March, 1903, Lugard and Captain Abardie left Kano with a large battalion of over 600 soldiers to Sokoto. On 19 March, Lugard and his soldiers arrived in Sokoto. However, the Sultan Attahiru fled with his thousands of warriors. After a minor battle, the British soldiers successfully captured Sokoto the Capital city of the Sokoto Caliphate.

On the other hand, Lugard ordered his soldiers to chased Sultan Attahiru and the Emir of Kano Alu. Therefore, Sultan Attahiru was stopped at a town called Burmi (now Bajoga) in Gombe where a minor battle was fought and the Sultan was killed. While, the Emir of Kano Alu was captured and exiled to Lokoja where he died in 1926.

In short, the fall of the Kano Emirate and the capture of the capital city of Sokoto marked the fall of Sokoto Caliphate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *