Queen Elizabeth II made many visits to Commonwealth nations during her reign while they were under colonial rule and after they had gained independence.
Lagos was occupied by British forces in 1851 and formally annexed by Britain in the year 1865. Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901. The period of British rule lasted until 1960 when an independence movement led to the country being granted independence. During that time, the country was under the rule of King George VI.
Following the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, at age 25.
From 1960 to 1963, Nigeria was a sovereign state but still under British rule. Following Nigeria’s independence, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the Governor-General under Queen Elizabeth II, who was still the head of state in Nigeria.
Some political parties did not sit well with Nigeria still being under British rule, so three years after the independence, the nation became a republic meaning that the head of the state was the President and no longer the Queen.
Although her reign as Queen of Nigeria came to an end on October 1, 1963, she maintained a cordial relationship with Nigeria until her death on September 8, 2022.
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A brief history of Queen Elizabeth’s visits to Nigeria
Being part of a colonial state and part of the Commonwealth in1952, Queen Elizabeth being the reigning sovereign had an obligation to visit. During her reign, Elizabeth II made well over 50 trips to visit Commonwealth nations and she did so to Nigeria only twice.
In 1956, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nigeria, three years after she ascended the throne. Sir James Robertson served as governor-general during this period, making him a proxy to the throne.
During her visit, she toured the country with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. She spent a total of 20 days from 28 January to 16 February.
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The queen also commissioned a bronze sculpture from a local sculptor, Ben Enwonwu while in Nigeria.
The second time Elizabeth II visited Nigeria was in 2003, hosted by then president Olusegun Obasanjo.
She visited with her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh and stayed from 3 to 6 December. The purpose of her visit was to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which was in Abuja on Friday, 5 December.
In a letter addressed to President Obasanjo, Elizabeth II stated that her visit was a demonstration of the value Britain attached to its relations with Nigeria and recognition of the country’s role on the international stage. While there, Elizabeth II opened the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. During her time, she also attended other events and visited a market.