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 Aug 27, 2018 |  12:24 pm |  4934


Numerous works exist on pre-colonial markets in Igalaland and elsewhere. However the focus has often been on its history, structure and organization. This study focuses on the linkage between pre-colonial markets and economic development, especially in agriculture, traditional industries and transportation. Markets contributed immensely to the economic development of pre-colonial Igalaland. Therefore, there is the need to bring to limelight the significance of markets to the economy of pre-colonial Igalaland. However, it has been observed over time that the presence and emergence of traditional markets in Igalaland encouraged the people to participate in not only the exchange of goods, but also exchange of ideas through inter-group relations that encouraged innovations. This did not just increase the fortunes of the people, but delivered a high standard of living. Thus, promoting economic development in Igalaland. Therefore, this historical research is undertaken to link markets to economic development in pre-colonial Igalaland. The study relied on oral sources, relevant books and journals as well as internet materials. These were carefully studied and analyzed fomr the historical perspective.  




The Igalaland covers a territory of about 1,350 square meters (13,150square kilometers), and extends from about 7030N to 80N and 60 150E to 80N. The bulk of the territory lies within the lower Niger. It is bounded by the River Niger in the west, and the River Benue in the north. Along the Niger, Igalaland begins at Adamugu north of Onitsha, and continues up to the confluence from where it protrudes lineally north-east wards along the Benue terminating at Amagede in the Igala-Agatu boundary. Its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Idoma polities of Onyagede and Otukpa and northern Nsukka area of Eteh, Enugu-Ezike, Edem, Uvuru, Adan and Ogurugu along the banks of Anambra river.1

Pre-colonial Igala economy was mainly agrarian like every other pre-colonial African society. In every society, economic activities of the people have been greatly influenced by environment and climate. Of all human activities in Igalaland, agriculture remained the most prominent and indeed the mainstay of the economy. The well watered environment coupled with the rich alluvial soil gave rise to the farming of variety of crops, ensuring the availability of surplus that gradually helped in promoting trade and commercial activities in the land by which surpluses were disposed of. Trade and economic activities existed among African communities within and across regions and ecological zones from about 5000B.C.2

The surplus produce enabled some groups in Igalaland to divorce themselves from basic food production to other economic activities ranging from fishing, weaving, dyeing, canoe building and animal husbandry. Just as large numbers of people were farmers and craftsmen, so there were traders and merchants who were engaged in local and inter-communal trade thus promoting inter trade dependence among the various professions.3In addition, ecological differences meant that some commodities which would be produced in one zone may not thrive in another.4Thus, there was the need for trade and other commercial activities in Nigeria, and Igalaland in particular.

Therefore, this study examines the significant contributions of market to the economic development of pre-colonial Igalaland.


There are many literatures on the political, socio-cultural, economic and religious activities of many African communities, including Igalaland. Examples include T. Falola, "Trade and Markets in the Pre-colonial Economy", A. G. Hopkins, "An Economic History of West Africa", P. E. Okwoli, "A Short history of Igala" amongst others. These works have failed to link trade and markets to economic development in pre-colonial Igalaland. Therefore, this problem identified by the researcher was the basic factor that necessitated this research.


The study is aimed at linking trade and markets to economic development in pre-colonial Igalaland. It explains how trade and markets engendered economic development in Igalaland, by evaluating the significance of market to the economic development of pre-colonial Igalaland. It also examines the features, dynamics and interplay of trade and markets in the various sectors of pre-colonial economy of Igalaland.

This research also intends to correct certain Euro-centric misconceptions that seem to portray pre-colonial Igala economy as static and primitive and with available record to show how the Igala society were economically dynamic with contributions of market to its development through their various economic enterprises. The study is also being carried out to open further avenues for further researches on the pre-colonial economy of Igalaland, thereby enriching the literature on Igala economy.

It is the objective of this research to produce an academic document that will link economic development of pre-colonial Igalaland with trade and markets. It also contributes not only to the study of pre-colonial Igala history but also to knowledge.


This study tries to stress the importance of market to economic development in the pre-colonial Igalaland and to bring to lime light the economy of Igalaland which has been relatively neglected. This work could serve as a reference source for further historical investigation on the history of Igalaland and compliment other existing literatures of economic history of pre-colonial Igalaland.


This research work covers the pre-colonial period in Igalaland which refers to the period from the earliest time to 1900.Igalaland in this context includes areas such as Dekina, Ankpa, Idah, Ibaji, Lokoja, Olamaboro, Igalamela/Odolu and Omala.

In the process of carrying out the research work, there were some problems the researcher encountered which limited the research study. They include, paucity of literatures, which made it tasking for the researcher as the topic deals directly with the local history of the people during the pre-colonial period. Also some parts of thereof study was not covered resulting from a number of factors; inaccessibility of some areas at all times, for example the Ibaji area is inaccessible in the raining season, and also since the research deals with pre-colonial markets, only areas where this markets were located was researched with the exception of Gbagana market because of the crisis that was ongoing at the time of the research.



Primary and secondary sources were employed for the execution of the research. The primary sources are drawn from oral interviews conducted with key personalities and groups, reports from people engaged in trading activities such as market men and women to help  complement the few available written materials while the secondary sources include relevant books and journal articles, seminar papers, and the internet.

Both thematic and chronological method was employed in this research work. The thematic is to make the work more organized and easier  for people to understand while chronological method enables the researcher organize overtime the origin and development of the study.


In order to get a proper understanding of the history of markets and economic development in pre-colonial Igalaland, it is necessary to consult some works related to the topic under study. Literatures have been a great source of documenting history. The combined effects of the available information gathered by these literatures have proved altogether indispensable in the reconstruction of this work and would be relevant to historical studies and knowledge.

Some of the literatures include O .N. Njoku's 'Economic History of Nigeria in the 19th and 20th century'. The author articulated clearly that the different and diverse geographical locations were able to engage in mutual and at times hostile inter-group relations. The centrality of Nigeria’s economic history during the pre-colonial period was couched on agriculture, trade, indigenous arts and crafts, among others. The 20th century colonial period witnessed the institutionalization of colonial administrative policies, development of economic infrastructure like waterways, railways, road transport, air transport, currency, banking, among others. The work is found to be of great relevance to this study though much focus was not given to Igalaland but his highly critical reactions to aspects of Nigeria’s economic experiences have inspired some areas of this study.5

Walter Rodney in his book provided a general and analytical discussion of ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. The author debunked the notion that there was no meaningful development in Africa prior to the advent of European colonialism. He therefore, rested his argument by stating that development occurred at various stages in the history of a given society. Walter discussed extensively how the foundation of African economic, social, cultural and political systems were built, operated and functioned, colonial policies such as taxation, forced labor, imposition of warrant chiefs, introduction of alien currency, railways and marketing boards aided the thwarting, truncating and contributed greatly in the underdevelopment of Africa. This work, to a large extent, contributed greatly to this research work as it serves as an eye-opener to the fact that pre-colonial Igalaland was not economically dormant, there were economic activities which took place overtime and this led to the foundation of the present day economic development in Igalaland.6

In an examination of the economy of West Africa from the 15th century to the 20th century by A. G. Hopkins in his book ‘An Economic History of West Africa’ attempts to dispel myths and popular conceptions dominating West African economic history. The author studies the relationship between merchants, farmers and local villages to reveal how they relied on a vast network incorporating elaborate systems of debts, capital and forms of currency. Throughout his analysis, Hopkins dispels myths about primitive and backward economy providing a firm understanding of the indigenous structures of trade and production, dismissing the idea that colonial rulers started with a static, subsistence economy and brought about a transformation which was almost as impressive as that once achieved with the loaves and the fishes. His work successfully directs attention away from the adventures and triumphs of great leaders but fails to present the history through the perspective of majority of Africans. This work presents a positive starting point for this research work.7

In the words of G. O. Ogunremi, ‘No aspect of the economic history of West Africa can be properly understood without a grasp of the traditional economy in the pre-colonial era'. Thus agriculture was generally the mainstay of West African economic activity long before the coming of the Europeans. In other words, pre-colonial West African communities, Igalaland inclusive, were mainly engaged in agriculture as the basic economic activity of the people.8

Toyin Falola in his work 'Trade and Markets in pre-colonial Economy' stated that one remarkable feature of West African agricultural system was that, it operated far above the subsistence level, making the economy capable of generating surpluses. This partly explains why trade and markets formed integral parts of the West African indigenous economy. Thus, communities including Igalaland were interdependent on each other's economy be it a town, village, or a clan. Division of labor and specialization in economic functions encouraged the need for markets and trade. The farmers, tool makers and other professionals had to enter into inter group relationship, farmers needed the tools and tool makers needed food. The Indispensability of trade and markets encouraged the need to develop the institutions which could facilitate commerce.9

According to P. E. Okwoli in his work 'A short history of Igala',  the Igala kingdom had developed a self-sustaining productive economic system anchored upon agriculture and indigenous crafts such as blacksmithing, iron smelting, indigenous medical system coupled with inter-group relations with her neighbours. The locational and geographical differences led to market variations in the goods produced. Thus, economic development in pre-colonial period. This is however a milestone in exposing the history of pre-colonial Igala economy and would be of great help to the research study.10

The pre-colonial economy of Igalaland was extensively discussed by M. S. Abdulkadir in his work 'An Economic History of Igalaland, central Nigeria'. The author examined how economic activities practiced in Igalaland such as agriculture, trade, indigenous arts and crafts, labour organization and markets affected the pre-colonial economy of Igalaland. And how it led to considerable inter-regional, interdependence and specialization which benefited the pre-colonial economy of Igalaland. This work serves as a background to this study.11



1.     E. O. Akubor, ‘Trade and Commerce along the Niger’ Developing country studies, Vol. 4, no. 22, 2014, pp. 73-79

2.     T. Falola, 'Trade and Markets in Pre-colonial Economy'. In G. O. Ogunremi and E. K. Faluyi eds. An Economic History of West Africa since 1750,  Lagos; First Academic Publishers, 1996, p. 61.

3.     T. Falola, 'Trade and markets in the Pre-colonial Economy',  p.62.

4.     P. T. Zeleza, A Modern History of Africa, cited in Idoko Idris, 'Pre-colonial Markets and Economic Development of Igalaland' in Journal of African Politics and Society. Vol. 3, No. 2, p48.

5.     O. N. Njoku, 'Economic History of Nigeria in the 19th and 20th centuries'. Enugu: Magnet Business Enterprises, 2001, pp. 2-19.

6.     Walter Rodney, 'How Europe underdeveloped Africa'.  Nigeria: Panaf Press, 2009, p. 36.

7.     A. G. Hopkins, 'An Economic History of West Africa'. London: Long man, 1973, p. 28.

8.     G. O. Ogunremi, 'Economic History of West Africa since 1750'. Lagos: First Academic Publishers, 1996. pp. 14-27.

9.     T. Falola, 'Trade and Markets in Pre-colonial Igalaland' pp.61-70.

10.                         P. E. Okwoli, 'A Short History of Igala' Illorin: Maitanmi Publishers, 1973, pp. 10-15.

11.                         M. S. Abdulkadir, 'An Economic History of Igalaland: Central Nigeria' 1986-1939. Zaria: A.B.U Press, 2014, pp. 17-50.

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