The British Colonial Administrators in Southern Nigeria reportedly destroyed African shrines to escape the consequences of oaths entered into at the shrines to secure contracts.
The colonial masters feared that entering into oath to secure both commercial and political was risky for them. It reportedly gave them anxiety.
Research documents confirmed that they could not undermine the importance of such agreements from firsthand knowledge since they themselves had relied on contracts sworn at certain prominent shrines along the coast during the Atlantic slave trade.
British officers were keenly aware of the importance of oaths in settling disputes between African polities at the shrines.
They were afraid about the oaths of resistance sworn at certain renowned shrines.
As a solution, they destroyed major shrines as a means of imposing a new governmental and commercial order.
They see the destruction of shrines as a more affordable means to enforce dominion than going the route of military occupation, especially when dealing with the acephalous political systems common in the southeast.
Their intention was also to discredit African gods and expose their priests as charlatans, thereby discouraging armed resistance.
British officers also argued that African priests were diabolically and manipulated a gullible (childlike) African population and intimidated it into terrified submission through the practice of “ritual murder” on blood-soaked altars.
However, reports confirmed that he targeting of shrines did not yield the expected result as shrines were rebuilt immediately and the people battled with the colonial officers for decades.
One of the the most famous story is the blowing up of the Ibinukpabi (or “Long Juju”) of Arochukwu around 1900 to 1902. The destruction of the shrine led to continuous insurrection through the 1910s.
Another case in point was the Oron shrine which was demolished in 1897. After the destruction, the British struggled to rule over Oron successfully until the1920s.
Despite the battles and challenges that came from shrines destructions, the British commanders held fast to their beliefs that they would be able to subjugate the people if they could eradicate their most important shrines.
Later, when the had sufficient administrative control over the people from the 1920s, the British-instigated destruction of altars declined.