The Agbękoya, a Tax Revolt in Nigeria in 1968–69

Today’s hunt through the archives was inspired by this Associated Press dispatch from :

Chief Beheaded

 — Rioting villagers beheaded Oba (King) Olajide Olayode and killed five of his chiefs, one of his wives, and a son in the Western state town of Ogbomosho, reports reaching this Nigerian capital said. It was feared a number of civilians also were killed or wounded as police and army units moved in to take over, a Daily Sketch reporter said. He added that residents of the town had set up roadblocks to resist tax-collecting efforts.

After digging around a bit, I learned that this was one phase in the “Agbękoya”, a peasant uprising / tax revolt that had begun . Wikipedia’s summary includes the following:

Peasants shouted Oke mefa l’ao san! Oke mefa l’ao san! [“we are only paying 30 shillings”] as they marched through the village after village to persuade the local farmers not to pay any taxes to the military governor of the Western state.… Soon, some farmers and their leaders gradually left the villages and marched towards Mapo hall, the seat of the regional government. There, they ransacked the offices of officials, declaring that they would only pay $1.10. Mayhem then descended on the capital city and many villages.

To curtail further violence, the government employed the use of force and violence to quell the uprising and arrested some of the Agbękoya leaders. However, farmers took to violent reprisals on government structures, and as a result, many officials were killed.… As a method of protest against the military government, the Agbękoya attacked major symbols of state power like court houses and government buildings, setting free thousands of prisoners alongside their jailed members.…

The aftermath of the riots resulted in the removal of local government officials administering the villages, removal of Baales [civil authorities], reduction in flat tax rate, end of the use of force for tax removal, increase in price of cocoa and the improving of roads leading to the villages. The government at the time agreed to these concessions.…

Jeremy Seymour Eades’s The Yoruba Today adds these details:

During the period of the civil war, taxation was the most pressing issue. Enforced austerity, combined with inflation, low cocoa prices, and frequent (and often brutal) tax raids exacerbated the situation. Disturbances started in Ibadan in with an attack on the local government offices, and they spread to Ęgba, Ǫyǫ, Ędę and elsewhere. Tax-collection was suspended and a commission of enquiry was appointed to look into the reasons for the trouble. Its report concluded that the riots had been spontaneous and were due primarily to the high levels of taxation. There were complaints from all over the state about the sole administrator system, corruption in local government, and the failure to provide local amenities, despite the high taxes. The government accepted these complaints in principle, but refused to lower the flat rate of income tax to the level demanded. In the government gave an ultimatum to tax defaulters, and the raids started again. The Şǫhun of Ogbomǫʂǫ was killed by rioters in July, and in Ibadan the rioters freed all the prisoners, including tax defaulters, from Agodi Prison in . The leaders of the rebellion in Ibadan were mainly illiterates, small-scale farmers, and men who had not been involved in politics before. The most prominent leader to emerge was Tafa Adeoye, a farmer from Akanran… In , Chief Awolowo [who had only recently been released from prison] made a well-publicized trek through the bush to negotiate with Adeoye, and many of the demands of the Agbękoya were met. The flat rate of taxation was reduced to £2 a year, an amnesty for tax defaulters was declared, and Agbękoya members were soon out helping local tax officials in the task of collection.