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Bassa

BASSA, a province of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria, occupying the angle made by the meeting of the Benue river with the Niger. It has an area of 7000 sq. m., with a population estimated at about one and a half millions. It is bounded N. by the Benue, W. by the Niger, S. by the frontier of Southern Nigeria, and E. by the province of Muri. The province is heavily forested, and is estimated to be one of the richest of the protectorate in natural products. It has never been penetrated by Moslem influence, and is inhabited in the greater part by warlike and unruly pagans. Early in the 16th century the Igbira (Okpoto or Ibo) were one of the most powerful pagan peoples of Nigeria and had their capital at Iddah. At a later period the Bassas conquered the western portion of the state and the Munshis the eastern, while the Okpoto still held the south and a wedge-shaped district partially dividing the Munshis and Bassas. The Bassas are a very remarkable pagan race who permeate the entire protectorate of Northern Nigeria, and are to be found in small colonies in almost every province. They are clever agriculturists, naturally peaceful and industrious. The Munshis, though also good agriculturists, are a warlike and most unruly race, as are also the Okpoto.

The districts which now comprise the province of Bassa came nominally under British control in 1900, but up to the year 1903 administrative authority was confined to the western half with Dekina (in 7° 3' E., 7° 41' N.) for its capital. In December of 1903 a disturbance resulting in the murder of the British resident led to the despatch of a military expedition, and as a result of the operations the frontiers of the districts under control were extended to the borders of the Munshi country in about 8° E. The western portion of the province, occupied by friendly and peaceful tribes upon the Niger, has been organized for administration on the same system as the rest of the protectorate. Courts of justice are operative and taxes are peacefully collected. The Okpoto, however, remain turbulent, as do their neighbours the Munshis. Spirits, of which the importation is forbidden in Northern Nigeria, are freely smuggled over the border from Southern Nigeria. Arms and powder are also imported. The slave-trade is still alive in this district, and an overland route for slaves is believed to have been established through eastern Bassa to the Benue. In consequence of the natural wealth of the province, there are trading establishments of the Niger Company and of Messrs Holt on the Niger and Benue, and colonies of native traders have penetrated the country from the north. Roman Catholic and Protestant missions are established at Dekina and Gbebe.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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