Our History

History of SIL Nigeria

This is a simple background on where we came from

Language development through Bible translation began early in Nigeria. The Efik Bible was completed in 1868 and the Yoruba Bible in 1884.

SIL first began work in Africa in 1960 when John Bendor-Samuel started the work in Ghana, and then, in 1964, he formed an agreement with the University of Nigeria – Nsukka (in Eastern Nigeria). Over the coming years the number of staff grew to around 50. John Bendor-Samuel was Director of the Branch and their base was in Enugu.

Following the Biafran war it was no longer possible to work with the Eastern University, SIL then formed an agreement with Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and was based out of Zaria. In 1971 Ron Stanford was elected Director and Dick Bergman, Associate Director.

In 1973 the Branch bought land in Jos and started building a centre. In 1976 the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT) was formed and the site was given to them.  To this day NBTT occupy that land and continue as one of SIL’s partners.

1977- 1986 : With the agreement of the government, a few SIL members continued to work in Nigeria. This led to the training of early NBTT staff. Nigeria and Ghana together formed the West Africa Group of SIL, Directed by Ralph Todd who was located in Ghana.

1987-1998 : In 1987, Don and Jean Lindholm, working from Ghana, tried to create avenues for SIL personnel to work in Nigeria. Finally, in 1989, the Nigeria Evangelical Fellowship received a quota position for Don and Jean, who took up residence in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. Don became the Nigeria Group Coordinator and started to develop partnerships within Nigeria. The number of staff rose to 32. This was a period of stability and growth in the group.

1999-2005: Bob Lever became the Group Coordinator. More partners like The Seed Company (TSC), Partnership for Bible Translation and Evangelism in Nigeria (PABTEN), and Wycliffe International’s Nigeria Team (WBTI) also arrived.

2006-2015: In 2006, Ian Hollman became the group director and In 2008 Language Development Facilitators was registered as our official presence in the country, and in 2015 we were incorporated as Summer Institute of Linguistics Nigeria, Limited by Guarantee. During this time the number of staff grew to 70, serving directly with language communities and also with equipping and training our partners.

2015 – onwards Tom Crabtree took over from Ian Hollman as director of SIL Nigeria. At present, SIL Nigeria, with staff numbering over 80 and growing, is bigger than it ever has been.