THE PORTUGUESE AND CATHOLIC MISSIONS IN NIGERIA

The first unit will introduce you to the Portuguese voyages of the 
15th Century that brought Christianity to Nigeria.
However, the planting of Christianity in Nigeria soon terminated 
because of their involvement in slave trade .
Many Nigerians were sold to them and were taken as slaves into 
exile, such as America. For this reason, Nigerians were not 
converted to Christianity by the Portuguese. Christianity could not 
penetrate into Nigeria through the Portuguese slave-traders and 
the religion soon fizzled out of Nigeria. This unit will also 
introduce you to the coming of the Roman Catholic Church into 
Nigeria, but, the Denomination too soon short lived in Nigeria in 
the early 18b Century. However, in this unit, you will also learn
how the Yoruba wars of the early 19b Century paved way for th
the sale of many men to various places in the world. But the sale 
of these slaves became blessings to Nigerians after their freedom.
Many of these people who were sold into slavery by Nigerians, 
got converted into Christianity at their new world in which they 
found themselves.
In 1841, the British government embarked on the campaign for 
the abolition of slavery in Africa, many slaves were set freed. 
The freed slaves settled at Freetown, Sierra-Leone. The freed slaves 
had accepted Christianity as their main religion instead of the Africa 
Traditional Religion into which they were born. These freed slaves 
were also said to have engaged in the legitimate trade. The freed 
slaves introduced Christianity to their relatives in Nigeria. They also 
invited missionaries to Nigeria to continue planting the Christian 
religion which they had introduced in their various towns and 
villages in Nigeria. In other words, this unit discusses the planting 
of Christianity in Nigeria through trade and the freed Nigerian 
slaves. Therefore, the specific objectives and outline below are 
what you should expect to learn from this unit.
2.0 OBJECTIVES
• explain the period which Christianity took root in Nigeria.
• analyse the roles of the freed slaves in the planting of 
Christianity in Nigeria
• state the roles of the early missionaries in Nigeria 
• describe the problems and prospects of Christianity in Nigeria.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
 

3.1 The Portuguese and Catholic Mision in Nigeria

About 15b century A.D, Henry the Navigator of Portugal, desired th
to sail further in the Atlantic Ocean . He loved buying the gold of
West Africa. Henry wanted to get the West African gold directly, 
without going the Muslim Kingdoms in North Africa and Arabia 
in the middle East.(Ade Ajayi 1977). Henry sent out his ships 
accompanied by some Roman Catholic Missionaries to Nigeria. 
They visited Benin and Warri. Around the riverian areas in Nigeria, 
slave trade was the business of the day. Most of the kings the 
missionaries preached to were interested more in the Portuguese 
guns than were in Christianity. For this reason, the planting of 
Christianity by the Roman Catholic missionaries failed in fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries A..D. in Nigeria.
The Contribution of the Britih Parliament to the 
Stopping of Slave-Trade in Nigeria
 
Andeyatso Addo et al, (1985), in their work entitled The Church 
Missionary Society and the Anglican Church, state that the Crown 
passed the bill of the abolition of slave trade into law in 1807. The 
Crown Government therefore assigned some British naval officers to 
patrol the sea and arrest whoever they found involved in carrying slaves 
on boats from Africa to their own countries. 
The British navy would capture boats that were used by the Portuguese 
carrying slaves, and would send them to Freetown slave court for trial. 
At Freetown, the slaves who were in the captured boats were set freed 
and the captured boats were seized and sold by the British Armed Forces 
to the rich freed slaves.
The arrival of freed slaves into Sierra-Leone in 1841, made Christians 
in the Great Britain to change the policies of the government. As 
a result, many Britons saw the evils of slavery and took steps 
to stop it. William Wilberforce encouraged the British government 
make slave trade illegal and to send British armed ships on the oceans. 

3.3 The Arrival of Freed Slaves of West African Ancestry in 

Free Town 
At the close of the 8b century, freed slaves of West African th
ancestry began to arrive and settle in Freetown. Reverend 
Mulvilles an Anglican priest came to Sierra/Leone to serve as Chaplain 
to the European traders. He preached the gospel to the freed slaves 
and cared for them at Free town.
He later returned to Britain and he became one of the Chief 
advisers of the Church.

3.4 The Arrival of Freed Slaves in Nigeria

Some of the freed slaves in Sierra-Leone were engaged in trading.
They travelled from Sierra-Leone to Lagos and Badagry. The Yoruba 
freed slaves were organized. They engaged in buying captured boats 
condemned by free town slave courts. One of the boats bought by 
them was named Wilberforce. Some of the freed slaves settled at 
Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, Nigeria. Many of them were 
educated by the Church Missionary Society. Their association with the 
British government helped them to purchase fire arms. 
Abeokuta served as a home place for those freed slaves that 
settled there.
While in Abeokuta, they practiced their Christian faith. They also 
preached the religion to others who were not Christians. They converted 
many to Christianity. 

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE
Account for the stoppage of Christianity in Nigeria around fifteenth 
century.

4.0 CONCLUSION
In this unit, you have learnt about the Portuguese voyages of the 
fifteenth century that brought Christianity to Nigeria.
You have also learnt what led to the stoppage of Christianity in 
Nigeria at the period in question. For example, the involvement of 
the Portuguese Christians in slave /trade led to the stoppage of the 
spread of Christianity in Nigeria. The Yoruba wars of the early 
nineteenth century caused many Yoruba people to be sold into slavery. 
They were taken away by their buyers into various parts of the 
world. However, some of them had close contact with their 
masters who them and introduced Christianity to them. When such 
slaves were set free, they returned to Nigeria and introduced 
Christianity which they had come across to their relations.
 
5.0 SUMMARY
The following is a summary of the major points in the unit:
The involvement of the Portuguese Christians in slave / trade 
discouraged many Nigerians to accept Christianity. The campaign 
against slavery by the British government led to the eradication of 
slave/trade in Nigeria in 1841. As a result of this, many Nigerians 
who were sold into slavery regained their freedom and returned 
to their home towns to introduce Christianity which they had 
accepted in foreign lands.

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
The campaign against slavery by the British government around 
1841 was a blessing to many Nigerians who were in slavery in 
exile. Discuss.
REFERENCES/FURTHER READINGS
 
Ade Ajayi J.F., (1977).Christian Missions in Nigeria 1841-1891: 
The Making of a New Elite, Lagos: Longmans Group Ltd.
Kalu, O.U. (1980).The History of Christianity in West African, Essays 
Lectures, London and New York: Longmans Group Ltd.
Taiwo, C.O. (1980). The Nigerian Education system: Past, Present and 
Future, Lagos: Thomas Nelson Nig. Ltd.

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