Morrison Collection: 1: Jekko Falls Hydro Electric Scheme : Pts 1 & 2 1937-1938

This film is held by the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum (ID: 2001/079/001).


Reels 1 and 2 of the Morrison Collection show the whole of the construction of the Jekko Falls Hydro Electric Scheme from beginning to end, including shifting earth, rocks etc., drilling, building the foundations of the dam, bringing in heavy machinery, and the installation of the turbines.

Production / Donor Details: The films in the Morrison Collection were shot by William Graham Morrison, who went to Nigeria in 1931 as a civil engineer with the Nigerian Electricity Supply Co. He was the surveyor for the first Hydro Electric Power Station at Jekko Falls, and afterwards worked for ATMN (Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria). Mr. Morrison left Nigeria in 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War. Films donated by Mrs. Lang Brown, who features in several reels as a small child.



Tin extraction in Nigeria dates to well before the colonial period, and though there was no European knowledge of Nigerian tin before the late nineteenth century, it had certainly been mined, smelted and traded by indigenous producers of the interior (often centred on the Islamic Emirates of the north) for a very long time, perhaps over a thousand years. The metal was evidently an established (if minor) part of the northern economy, and some producers may even have paid for labour with cash wages (Freund, 1981, 10-11; Alexander 1990, 44).

The beginnings of the British exploitation of Nigerian tin are frequently associated with William Wallace, an ‘intrepid and avaricious agent’ of the National African Company (Freund, op.cit., 32). According to Fell’s 1939 account of the Nigerian tin industry, Wallace in 1884 discovered that ‘tin was being produced by the natives of the Bauchi plateau’, and the discovery was quickly followed up by a prospecting expedition, undertaken by the Royal Niger Company (Fell, 1939, 246; see also Freund, op.cit.). However, although tin was found on the Jos Plateau, the Company did not immediately move to extract it industrially, and it was not until the Nigerian interior had been brought within the Empire proper by Lugard’s conquest that industrial tin-mining became a financially viable prospect (Freund notes that mining projects of a size substantial enough to arouse the interest of the City required investment and infrastructure on a scale that only Government could underwrite (ibid.)).

During the period 1900-1910, the Niger Company (as the Royal Niger Company became after 1900) began to expand into Jos; they came hand-in-hand with Lugard’s conquerors, relying on the military machine to coerce or use open force against Plateau communities if they put up resistance to the British intrusion. The first company established in the area under the auspices of the Niger Company was the Naraguta Tin Mining Company, which had been set up in around 1904; its expansion had been guaranteed by several military campaigns (Morrison, 1977, 207). With the people of the Plateau largely conquered, most of the tin-mining areas were secured as safe for the British by 1907, and British-based traders and companies began to move seriously on Nigerian tin thereafter; the Government issue the first prospecting licences in 1910, and by the following year ‘some 200 European prospectors were at work in Nigeria’ (Freund, op.cit., 37-45).

The following decades saw the rapacious expansion of British tin interests on the Jos Plateau, the location of the primary tin deposits. Numerous mines and companies were opened, a railway line was laid linking the minefields to the coast, and the indigenous industry, including the pre-colonial Northern Hausa interests in tin, were effectively dispossessed and eliminated. Between 1900 and 1930, £30 million worth of tin was exported (Morrison, op.cit., 205). Labour was drawn mostly from the local populace, although some was imported from further afield; the introduction of cash taxation was intended to act as a spur to recruitment. Conditions were poor, and there were often labour shortages. In the early days of the mines there was frequent resort to conscript or corvée labour, supplied by the local Native Authorities, though this practice was stopped in 1920 in favour of ‘voluntary’ labour on the model that was practised in Southern and Central African mines. By the end of the 1920s, around 40,000 people were employed in the Plateau minefields; this figure fell sharply during the Depression, but increased once more during the run-up to war (see Freund, op.cit., 73-109 for a detailed account of mine labour up to 1940).

However, obtaining a stable labour force remained a problem, and during the 1930s many of the companies turned to mechanisation as a solution, investing in heavy digging and sluicing machinery to speed up and increase the volume of the extraction process despite a fluctuating workforce. The largest corporation, Anglo-Oriental, led the field, installing half a millions pounds worth of machinery in its mines during 1936-7. Freund reports that by 1939, ‘58 per cent of earth moved in Nigerian tin production was by electro-mechanical means and only 29 per cent by hand labour’ (ibid.,126). Power for this rapid mechanisation of the minefields came from hydro-electric power-stations, which were built to exploit the steep watercourses, falls and rapids at the edge of the Jos and Bauchi Plateaus. The first two power stations had actually been opened over a decade earlier at Kurra Falls on the Sangha river and Kwall on the Ngell (ibid., 114-5); by the mid-1930s they were owned and operated by the Nigerian Electricity Supply Company (NESCO). Anglo-Oriental’s mechanical expansion and increased demand for power prompted NESCO to build a third station at Jekko Falls, some five miles below the Kurra station, and which would generate current in part from Kurra’s overflow. Fell reports that the new power station was opened by the Governor of Nigeria in December 1938 (Fell, op.cit., 250), and Freund attributes the increase in tin production capacity that Jekko enabled directly to the consolidation of the various branches of Anglo-Oriental into Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN), ‘the world’s largest single tin-producing company’ (op.cit., 126). In 1948, 95% of the power generated went to the tin mines (Buchanan, 1952, 314)



The first three reels of the Morrison collection document the entire construction of the Jekko Falls 1 hydro-electric power plant, on which project the filmmaker, Mr. Morrison, was the chief surveyor. The films cover everything from early visits to the area and surveys in 1937 to the plant being operational in 1938. The first reel also contains a sequence showing a visit to the site by the Governor of Nigeria, Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon (various other individuals, including the director of NESCO, Harvey Brace, are also identified in the notes on the films, written by Morrison, which are held by the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum).

The first reel begins, however, with images of leisure, evidently taken during a visit to the area: a colleague of Morrison’s is filmed fishing with dynamite in the pools beneath the Lower Jekko Falls (not the location of the power plant). He is first seen preparing a bundle of sticks of dynamite (known as the ‘bait’), before we see an African man – identified in the notes as ‘Headman Gashin Baki’ – retrieving the fish and throwing them ashore; a European man (‘Reade’) is also seen swimming in the pools. There are then several shots of the geography of the area, including pictures of a theodolite being used to survey the area, and some shots from the top of ‘Station 17’, the precipitous falls that was to be developed for the power station. There follow some shots of several pith-helmeted British officials visiting the site (identified in the file as ‘Mr. Butler’ and ‘Mr. Foley’), and some scenes of the river in full flood, before the film moves on to scenes of the initial stages of work on the dam, in this case the hard labour of digging and rock-breaking by the riverside. A European oversees the workers. There are various further shots of the geography, and some scenes involving the clearing of heavy vegetation toward the opening of a road to the site, before we return to the worksite (the Governor’s visit can be seen from around the 11 minute mark in the first reel; he is wearing a white suit and striped tie). The rest of the reel, and all of reel 2 document the building and completion of the plant. Part of reel 2 is shot in colour.

The footage documents in detail African labour on a colonial industrial project in an area which had seen its local industry, centred on the same product, destroyed and commandeered by the British, who then developed an independent rural area into a large industrialised colonial zone, drawing in labour from afar to work in the mines. The film captures the creation of an industrial infrastructure, and thus the industrialisation process in a largely pre-industrial area is represented here at an early level of development. Later sequences, which move between shots of the shining machines and European engineers within the new power plant and the often semi-naked workers who are involved in the low-level labouring work, provide a dramatic illustration of the speed and intensity with which the Jos Plateau was transformed from a rural, independent area to an industrialised colonial zone.

Jekko Falls 1 still provides power to Jos and to the Nigerian national grid (around 4 megawatts, according to a 2006 Nigerian government document titled ‘Renewable Energy Action Program’: 16), and the various NESCO projects on the Jos Plateau have provided ‘virtually uninterrupted power’ since completion (ibid).

Francis Gooding April 2010


Works Cited

Alexander, Michael J. ‘Reclamation after Tin Mining on the Jos Plateau, Nigeria’ The Geographical Journal, vol. 156, no. 1 (March 1990), 44-50.

Buchanan, Keith ‘Nigeria – Britain’s Largest Remaining Colony’ Economic Geography vol. 28, no. 4 (Oct 1952), 302-22.

Federal Ministry of Power and Steel ‘Renewable Energy Action Program (REAP)’ (Abuja: ICEED 2006; available at

Fell, Godfrey ‘The Tin Mining Industry in Nigeria’ Journal of the Royal African Society, vol. 38, no. 151 (April 1939), 246-58.

Freund, Bill Capital and Labour in the Nigerian Tin Mines (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1981).

Morrison, J. H. ‘Early Tin Production and Nigerian Labour on the Jos Plateau 1906-1921’ Canadian Journal of African Studies vol. 11, no. 2 (1977), 205-216.



  • Morrison Collection: 1: Jekko Falls Hydro Electric Scheme : Pts 1 & 2 1937-1938 (Archive)
Series Title:
Morrison Collection

Technical Data

Running Time:
approx 33m 20s
Film Gauge (Format):
8mm VHS BetaSP

Production Credits

Production Details
See synopsis