Lebanese community in Nigeria

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The Lebanese Community in Nigeria is one of the largest Lebanese communes in West Africa.

Pre-independence

Lebanese immigrants and aliens played a prominent role in commercial activities especially in the groundnut trade and transport sector in Northern Nigeria. However, the role of the Lebanese became a subject of debate during the independence movement as some Nigerian politicians were wary of non Western dominance in the economic sector, also hostilities to the Lebanese was expressed by some indigenous traders in some local communities.

Early Lebanese emigrants in the modern era came to the West African region in the late nineteenth century, the motivation to move out of the their homeland was based on various factors including quest for survival, trade opportunities, poverty and tension as a result of religion and politics. Major locations of interest of the Lebanese were the United States and Latin America, the travel plans of the early migrants sometimes took them through the French country of Marseille from there some took the voyage to west Africa and Nigeria. During the period, the Lebanese were sometimes grouped with other groups and called Syrians, Arabs or Levantine in West Africa. The major destination of call in Nigeria was Lagos which was then the seat of colonial administration, further consolidation of colonial rule resorted to migration hinterland. Various oral-sources indicate the Lebanese presence in Nigeria by the 1890s and by the 1920s, written accounts on successful individuals such as Michael Elyas, Assad Joseph, Elyas Minaise were printed. Ilyas Al Khuri is sometimes described as the first Lebanese emigrant to Nigeria while Yusuf Bisharah reached Kano in 1900, by 1914, when Saul Raccah came to Kano there were already fifteen Lebanese. The early migrants became a nucleus of further immigration after the first world War from Lebanon and other West African countries. Many of the Lebanese migrants in Lagos came from the Mizyara region north of Lebanon while many of the Muslim Lebanese came from Juwaiyya region in South Lebanon. The Maronite Lebanese in Southwestern Nigeria attended the Catholic Church while the Greek Orthodox attended the Anglican Church. The Muslim belonged to various sects including the Ahmadiyya, Sunni and Shiite.

In the commercial sector the Lebanese migrated to locations where they could earn a profit, took advantages of the socio-economic environment and tried to understand market opportunities available. Some created opportunities catering to the middle class and elites. The major activity in the 1930s was in trading, retail and in the transport sector. By 1950, some were engaged in importing hardware, textiles and other goods directly from Europe, however, beginning from the 1950s, immigration policy was more strict, Lebanese individuals began diversifying to other areas with less subject of criticism and into capital intensive sectors.