At the end of this topic, you should be able to:
• explain the method used by the Holy Ghost Fathers to 
spread Christianity in various villages in Eastern parts of 
Nigeria. Enumerate their achievements in the areas.
3.1 The Purchasing of Slaves and Their Conversion into 
Christians by the Holy Ghost Father
The method of evangelization that was embarked upon by the 
Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Missionary Society in Africa was the 
buying of slaves whom they settled in villages and converted into Christianity Around Nineteenth Century. This method was used to 
gather the scattered slaves who were displaced by the French and 
the European slave traders. The Europeans assembled the African 
freed slaves and gave them liberty in their various settlement areas. 
However, they used the slaves cheaply in the labour market. The 
missionaries also used the slaves cheaply to get themselves 
established in Africa. Around 1877, the Holy Ghost Fathers started 
uying African slaves at Bagamoyo. They used the opportunity to 
evangelize the African slaves whose souls were neglected in 
evangelism work. In 1892, the Superior of the Holy b Ghost 
Fathers wrote from Paris to the Cardinal Prefect of the College 
of Propaganda in Rome to inform him of how they bought children, 
trained them , converted them into Christianity and settled them 
in Christian villages. He wrote: 
…in all our missions our Fathers bring up young 
children, both boys and girls, at great expense and a good 
number of these, especially of the girls, are children
bought out of slavery. We have to look after them for 
several years until we can establish them and make 
Christian house-holds and then Christian villages.
In 1896, 880 children were bought in the slave markets in 
Congo and 830 at Oubangui between 1894 and 1899 
respectively by the Holy Ghost Fathers. In March 31, 1897, 
Father Hacquard, a missionary in Timbuktu reported to the General 
Assembly of the Anti-Slavery society in Paris that they had 
adopted slaves whom they settled in Christian villages. By this 
method, the inhabitants of the Christian villages were converted 
into Christianity by the Holy Ghost Fathers. However, the Holy 
Ghost Fathers had the problem of financing in the Christian 
village evangelism method. But on 5b May,1888, a partial th
solution was reached through the letter which Pope Leo Xiii wrote 
to the Anti-Slavery Society in Paris to establish and finance thirty 
Christian villages for evangelism among Africans who settled in 
the French territories. The Archbishop of Algiers Cardinal 
Lavigevie, pleaded for the abolition of slavery in Brazil. He made a 
request for abolition of internal slavery in Africa. The Cardinal put 
forward the following plans to other Bishops to stop the internal 
slavery in Africa. Armed monks should be formed to fight the 
Negroes in order to end up the trafficking in slaves in Africa by 
using force of arms. The Pope suggested to the Missionaries to buy 
the African slaves and settle them in a place called ‘Christian 
village’. The suggestion of the Pope was taken by the 
Missionaries in Nigeria. In the Eastern part of the country, the 
Holy Ghost Fathers bought Nigerian slaves and settled them into Christian villages. In other to aid the Missionaries in the Eastern 
part of Nigeria to evangelize the people, the Pope introduced 
collection of money on 6b January annually in every Catholic th
Church for the Holy Ghost fathers for planting of Christianity in 
Nigeria. About fifty people were sent to evangelize the area. Among 
these people, there were twenty freed slaves in the mission work. In 
1890, about fifty- five slaves were bought and in 1891, the missionaries 
ought about seventeen slaves. The slaves that were bought settled in 
Christian villages. In 1906, the Holy Ghost Fathers had established three 
Christian villages in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. Agouleri mission 
stations had Saint Joseph as its headquarters for evangelism in the area. 
The mission also had about 500 Christians who were in charge of the 
spread of the gospel at Onitsha Wharf. Around 1902 The Vatican 
suggested that all Catholic Churches should contribute money for the 
spread of the gospel in Nigeria. All Catholic Churches throughout the 
world, contributed money for the work of evangelism in Africa, 
especially, Nigeria. The French Anti—Slavery Society accepted the 
suggestion of the Vatican and promised to make funds available 
to the Missionaries in Africa, especially, those who were in the 
Eastern part of Nigeria. 5o,ooo Francs was sent to the 
Missionaries in the Eastern parts of Nigeria for the evangelism 
work by the named organization. However, in 1911, in Eastern 
Nigeria, the Superior of the Roman Catholic Mission, Shanahan, 
had a dispute with the Cardinal of the Propaganda colleagues in 
Rome over the misused of the money donated by the 
organization for the purpose of evangelism in the area. This was 
ecause he was accused of embezzling the money that was meant 
for evangelism in the Eastern parts of Nigeria by the Church. 
3.2 The Spread of Roman Catholic Mision at Nkisi
In September 1885, four French Missionaries were sent to open a 
Mission station in the Eastern part of Nigeria. They opened a 
mission station at Nkissi near Onitsha Wharf which was opposite 
the bank of River Niger, near the slave market in the area. In 1886, 
Samuel Ajayi Crowther who was an Anglican priest donated a 
piece of land to the Roman Catholic Mission to establish a 
Mission station at the Niger Delta Pastorate area. The area which 
Ajayi Crowther gave to the Holy Ghost Fathers to plant 
Christianity was formally used for buying slaves in the Eastern 
part of Nigeria. At Onitsha Wharf, a slave was bought for 90 
Francs on 12b June 1886 . Furthermore, on 6 August 1886, a three-year- th
old boy was sold for 12 sacks of salt. In 1891, the missionaries bought 
seventeen slaves. The slaves were established in Christian villages. In 
1906, the Holy Ghost Fathers had established three Christian villages in 
the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. Agouleri Mission Station had Saint 
Joseph as its headquarters for evangelism in the area. The Mission also 
had five hundred Christians who were in charge of the spread of the 
gospel at Onitsha wharf in Nigeria around 1902.
3.3 The Evil Practices of the Onitsha Indigenes in the Early 
The Onitsha wharf Missionaries witnessed the practices of human 
sacrifice and slavery at Onitsha. It was said that the slaves departed 
Nupe kingdom for Onitsha. And the Asaba people bought them. For 
instance, two slaves were sacrificed during the enthronement of obi 
Moreover, Obi titleholders were very many at Asaba. Each titleholder 
used to sacrifice slaves for their enthronement or burial. Besides, the 
Asaba people used to buy slaves from Nupe traders at Onitsha. The 
tasks for the missionaries at Onitsha and Asaba areas were to stamp out 
these evil practices among the indigene of the named towns. For these 
reasons, the missionaries started to purchase some of the slaves that 
were bought by the Obis in area. In 1887, the slaves that were bought by 
the Holy Ghost Fathers or Missionaries were used as labourers to build a 
hospital at Onitsha wharf for treating the sick among the slaves that 
settled in the area. However, they were accused of using the slaves for 
labour but the Missionaries claimed that slaves were used to build the 
hospital for charitable purpose.
The Practice of Christianity in Agouleri Village 
In 1891, the Onitsha missionaries converted a Chief named Igigo 
Agouleri. At the village, the Holy Ghost Fathers celebrated Mass each 
morning at 4.45 am followed by communal prayer and meditation of the 
Christians whom they bought and settled there. After the morning Mass, 
the Christian ex -slaves were engaged in work on the coffee plantation 
that was owned by the Missionaries. In addition to these, during 
afternoon everyday, the Christian ex-slaves learnt catechism in the 
church. The Christian ex – slaves used every evening to work around 
the mission buildings. In 1891, about seventy Ossamori who were 
adherents of the Anglican faith joined the Roman Catholic Church. In 
1893, the Missionaries established a primary school at Onitsha wharf 
about five hundred people were admitted into the school to receive 
Western education .This served as the beginning of the Roman Catholic 
education in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Some of the ex – slaves, who 
were trained in the school, were engaged as teachers, interpreters and 
clerks in government service.
The Problem of Christian Village Evangelism in Onitsha 
The Royal Niger Company was the lord of the Niger Delta area in the 
early 1890s. For these reasons, the company controlled all activities in 
the area. For example , the company imposed payment of 25 percent tax 
on all goods for the Missionaries that were sailed by the sea to Onitsha 
area .In addition to this, they were also taxed the sum of three pounds 
for the transportation of a ton of goods brought through the sea to 
Onitsha . Besides, whatever goods the Catholic Missionaries paid for at 
the Royal Niger company, would be delayed before delivery. The 
imposition of taxation on the goods of Catholic Mission by the Royal 
Niger Company led the Holy Ghost Society authorities into debt. In 
Nigeria, from 1885 to 1890 the Royal Niger Company saw the French 
Holy Ghost Society as French aides and abettors of French interests on 
the Nigeria soil. For example, Gold accused the Superior of the Holy 
Ghost Mission of engaging in slavery and had him prosecuted and fined. 
He also claimed that the mission site that was given to them by Ajayi 
Crowther to established a Mission station belong to the Royal Niger 
Company. And that the Royal Niger Company was owned by the British 
Government. Therefore, the landed properties which were occupied by 
the French Holy Ghost Fathers belonged to the British government. So, 
their occupying of mission stations in Onitsha and Asaba was illegal. 
Marshall therefore, replaced the French Missionaries with the English 
Missionaries in the Niger area. He summoned Cardinal Ledochowzki, 
Prefect of the Congregation of Propaganda in Rome, and Cardinal 
Vaughan to remove the French Holy Ghost fathers from the Niger
-Delta areas in Nigeria. Furthermore, Marshall also wrote to the 
Superior General of the Catholic Society in Paris, Father Emonet that 
there was rivalry between the French and the English missionaries in the 
land. Therefore , he would like the French missionaries to leave the area 
for the English missionaries, since they belonged to the British 
government that owned the disputed land .This also made the new 
Cardinal get involved in the disputed land by looking for a West 
African Bishopric to which a British – born person could be appointed . 
All these problems with the Royal Niger Company, over taxation, the 
uying of slaves and the French presence in the Eastern part of Nigeria 
made the operation of the Christian Village expensive and unprofitable 
in Nigeria. In addition to this, it was felt by the missionaries that it was 
etter for Africans to evangelize themselves rather than using White 
Missionaries. This view compounded the problems of Catholic Mission 
in Nigeria in the early 1895 to 1890s. The attitude of the Holy Ghost 
Fathers showed their bias towards the Africans that they had little or no 
faith in the Africans evangelized in Nigeria. For they focused on the 
Christian village evangelization methods in the eastern part of Nigeria 
that was led by the white men only. The Holy Ghost Fathers also introduced other methods of evangelism in Nigeria. For instance, 
Lejeune, Superior of Onitsha Wharf Mission from 1900 to 1905, 
demanded for funds from the Cardinal Golti, Prefect of 
Propaganda of Christianity in Rome, to tackle the problem of 
slavery in Nigeria. As a result of this, the Missionaries converted 
sixty-five people in Agoudleri in Nigeria. In 1901, Golti sent Lejeune 
20,000 Lira to be used for the conversion of African slaves to 
Christianity. Despite these methods that were used by the 
Missionaries to fight slavery in Africa, it was not totally 
eradicated. For this reason, Lejeune embarked on a research for 
an alternative method of evangelization which would be more 
effective in the spread of the Gospel in the Eastern Nigeria. The 
method was the introduction of Christianity to the Chiefs and 
Leaders of the Agouleri village. Through this, many people were 
converted to Christianity in the area. 
It is expected that from the study of this unit, you should have 
learnt the following points:
The purchasing of slaves and their conversion to Christianity by 
the Missionaries. The spread of Roman Catholic Mission in the 
East of the Rivers Niger and Benue in Nigeria The practice of 
the Onitsha indigenes in the early periods of Christianity.
Having gone through this unit, you would have understood the 
following point: The Missionaries embarked on the buying of 
slaves in Onitsha area, settled them in villages and converted 
them into Christianity.
The Pope introduced collection of money in the Catholic Church 
to aid the Missionaries in the spreading of the Gospel in the 
Onitsha area. 
The Royal Niger Company was the lord of the Niger Delta 
area in early 1890s. Goldie accused the leader of the Missionaries 
of engaging in slavery, had him prosecuted and fined. Lejeune 
replaced Goldie in 1901 in Niger area. He searched for an 
alternative method of evangelising the people of Niger Delta area.
Discuss the following:
1. Goldie 
2. Marshall
3. Obi title holders at Asaba land in 1885.
KALU, O. U. (1980).The History of Christianity in West Africa Essay 
Lectures, London: Longmans Groups Ltd. 
Ade Ajayi, J.F. (1977). Christian Missions in Nigeria 1841-1891: The 
Making of New Elite, London: Longmans Groups Ltd.

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