Until recently, when it ceased to be an important pastime, scholars engaged in debate over the motives behind, and the nature of, European imperial enterprise in the colonial territories of Africa. Opinion was divided between those who stressed the altruistic goals and the positive impact of the European ‘civilising’ mission in Africa and others who highlighted the ulterior motives behind, and the uncomplimentary features of, colonial rule. One issue in contention as far as British imperialism was concerned, was the policy of ‘free trade’ in the colonies. It was held by some that Britain operated the ‘imperialism of Free Trade’, that is, it hid under the espousal of that policy in order to acquire colonies and to gain advantage over its rivals in the contest for colonial trade. On the other hand, much was made of Britain's ‘open door’ policy in its colonies as contrasted with the French, for example, who were for the most part protectionists. Yet, as a number of studies have shown, the British were no less protectionist given certain circumstances, and this case study provides further examples of this tendency in inter-war Nigeria. To place the discussion in a proper context, we shall clarify the nature of the fiscal system in British colonies, for this was the linchpin of the administration and the key to understanding economic policy.