Frederick Lugard was the British colonial administrator of West Africa from 1895. He was one of the foremost practitioners of the colonial system of indirect rule, whereby traditional structures and hierarchies are retained when a country or territory is occupied while the traditional leader is co-opted and reduced to an employee of the Crown. Lugard employed this system with great success in West Africa. However in reducing traditional systems of governance to a subordinate position in relation to British rule also undermined the social cohesion of the subject country to the extent that the British, having the final say in all matters lawful, were able to exploit it for their own benefit.
The British were also more than willing to impose their system of indirect rule militarily. This more often than not was encountered when traditional rulers sought to assert their independence from British rule. As the British considered traditional rulers as subject to their laws, they also felt justified in removing rulers who posed a threat to British interests. This was the case on 3 February 1903 when Lugard, in an attempt to subdue the Fulani Emirs of the Sokoto Caliphate mounted assaults on Kano and occupied it. This action substantially weakened resistance to British rule in the region.