The British mosquito eradication campaign in colonial Lagos, 1902-1950
The impact of malaria on the demography of European settlers in Lagos from the mid-nineteenth century posed a serious threat to British imperialism in Nigeria. This prompted the British administration to take vigorous measures to address the unsanitary conditions within Lagos, a major causation of the disease. This paper examines the colonial programmes on the eradication of mosquitos in Lagos, the colonial capital of Nigeria. It highlights the political and economic implications of this programme, and the responses of African colonial subjects to the initiative. The government adopted divergent solutions, ranging from racial segregation to swamp reclamation. However, each of these had a downside. Segregation policies, at a time of growing nationalism among an increasingly politically conscious African educated class, would breed political unrest. Swamp reclamation, on the other hand, would require seizing privately owned land and depriving fishermen and wood collectors who earned a living by exploiting the resources of these swamps, critical for their survival and for the colony?s coffers. When the colonial administration finally settled on swamp reclamation, it faced the problem of cost that needed to be balanced with the sacrosanct principle that colonies should be self-sustaining economies and not be a burden to the metropolis. Existing studies have overlooked the resistance or reaction of Lagosians to swamp clearance and forest ordinance. The paper relies on a combination of primary, secondary and oral sources, including a body of archival documents and some interviews.