Where to Start?
Nigeria as we know it today, was formed in 1914, when Northern and Southern Nigeria joined to form the country. Northern and Southern Nigeria, at least from a philatelic perspective, did not themselves exist until 1901. Northern Nigeria was formed then from the northern region of what was called the Niger Company Territories, plus some other regions to the west, which had not previously had postal service. The Niger Company Territories were composed of what is now a large part of Cameroun, plus the area around Port Harcourt. Southern Nigeria was formed from the southern region of the Niger Company Territories and the Niger Coast (Oil Rivers) Protectorate. Lagos was a separate colony, which did not join Southern Nigeria until 1906.
Each of Lagos, Niger Coast Protectorate, Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria issued their own stamps. The Niger Company Territories did not use their own stamps, but rather made use of British stamps, which at that time were the 1887 Jubilee Issue. The subject matter of all these, plus the Nigerian stamps up to 1936, depicted only the monarchs - Queen Victoria from 1874-1902; King Edward VII from 1902-1912 and King George V from 1912-1936. Most of the interest in studying these issues lies in the cancellations (postmarks, handstamps) which depicts a rich postal history, and the different printings of the stamps, which differ in small details, such as the papers and colours in which the stamps were printed, among other things. I will introduce you to these issues in later posts.
Starting in 1936, Nigerian stamps began to illustrate aspects of life in Nigeria as well as industries: Cocoa palms, tin dredging, the docks, a fishing village, canoe pulling, Fullani cattle herd, Habe minaret, cotton ginnery, the bridge at Jebba and Buea Road. Some stamps still showed just the monarch, being King George VI, but starting in 1953, all stamps illustrated some industry, place or aspect of Nigerian life. The 1953-60 issue, depicts ancient currency, Bornu horsemen, tin mining, the intersection of the main rivers, cocoa plantations, groundnut farming, timber, the Ife bronze mask, coconut oil palms, bananas, cattle farming and new and old Lagos.
Independence came on October 1, 1960, and with it, a complete modernization and change in design. The first series, which was released on January 1, 1961 depicts all the hope and promise of a new nation, illustrating industries, artifacts and national landmarks with pride: groundnuts, coal mining, education, Oyo carving, weaving, pottery, masks, camel train, hornbill, Central Bank, Nigeria Museum, Kano Airport and Lagos Station. From here, every year there would be a set to celebrate the anniversary of independence, and starting in 1963, the Republic. There were sets to commemorate the tourism industry and other events throughout the 1960's. but a large number of the issues until the 1970's celebrated the heroes of independence: President Azikiwe, King Jaja of Opobo and Herbert Macaulay. In 1965, a new series appeared which depicted Nigeria's range of wildlife: Lions, Elephants, the Splendid Sunbird, the Cheetah, Leopards, Saddle Billed Storks, Grey Parrots, Kingfishers, Crown Birds, Kobs, Giraffes, Hippopotami and Buffaloes.
Then on May 1, 1967 civil war breaks out when Biafra declares its independence. Biafra issues its own stamps and achieves international recognition. Many of the issues depict the bloodshed that Biafrans endured and towards the capitulation, which came in 1970, the issues depict the ongoing hardship suffered during the war. Throughout the rest of the 1960's, the stamps depict the ongoing modernization of Nigeria.
In 1973, Nigeria adopts its own currency, abandoning the pound-shilling-pence system. The 1973 series, which ran until 1985 depicts Nigerian industry: hides and skins, oil refining, petroleum, cattle ranching, timber, Yankari Game Reserve, civic development, sugar cane, oil palms, vaccine production, docks, fishing festival, pottery, Eko Bridge and Lagos Teaching Hospital. Throughout the 70's the theme was the international presence of Nigeria and the organizations that Nigeria is involved in: OPEC, the African Development Bank and the OAU.
In the 1980's, the inflation began. Up until this point, the highest denomination was 2 Naira. The standard stamp was 30k (kobo). By the early 1990's the standard stamp was 10 Naira and then 30 Naira. The fight against corruption became a theme that was depicted more than once, and by the 2000's the return to democracy was celebrated heavily and the concept of freedom and its past fighters from around the world were recognized.
I have only just done a brief overview of the history of Nigerian stamps. My next post will illustrate the various issues I have just described with some scans, and then I will begin to discuss each issue in further posts.