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Colonial Nigeria was the area of West Africa that later evolved into modern-day Nigeria, during the time of British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries. British influence in the region began with the prohibition of slave trade to British subjects in 1807. Britain annexed Lagos in 1861 and established the Oil River Protectorate in 1884. British influence in the Niger area increased gradually over the 19th century, but Britain did not effectively occupy the area until 1885. Other European powers acknowledged Britain's dominance over the area in the 1885 Berlin Conference .
From 1886 to 1899, much of the country was ruled by the Royal Niger Company , authorised by charter, and governed by George Taubman Goldie . In 1900, the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate passed from company hands to the Crown. At the urging of Governor Frederick Lugard , the two territories were amalgamated as the
Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria , while maintaining considerable regional autonomy among the three major regions. Progressive constitutions after World War II provided for increasing representation and electoral government by Nigerians. The colonial period proper in Nigeria lasted from 1900 to 1960, after which Nigeria gained its independence
Through a progressive sequence of regimes the British imposed Crown Colony government on the area of West Africa which came to be known as Nigeria, a form of rule which was both autocratic and bureaucratic . After initially adopting an indirect rule approach, in 1906 the British merged the small Lagos Colony and the
Southern Nigeria Protectorate into a new Colony of Southern Nigeria, and in 1914 that was combined with the Northern Nigeria Protectorate to form the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.  Administration and military control of the territory was conducted primarily by white Britons, both in London and in Nigeria. 
Following military conquest, the British imposed an economic system designed to profit from African labour. The essential basis of this system was a money economy —specifically the British pound sterling —which could be demanded through taxation, paid to cooperative natives, and levied as a fine. 
The amalgamation of different ethnic and religious groups into one federation created internal tension which persists in Nigeria to the present day.