James Ferguson and other former slaves who, after some time in Sierra Leone, moved on to settle at Abeokuta in western Nigeria, appealed for Christian teachers. In 1842 Thomas Birch Freeman, at the request of the Missionary Committee in London, went from the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and established work which after many trials gained a foothold among the Yoruba peoples.
In the 1870s a PM mission was launched in eastern Nigeria. In August 1869 William Robinson and James Hands, captain and ship's carpenter of the Elgiva, both of them Primitive Methodist local preachers, held a service on the beach at Fernando Po (now Bioko) in Equatorial Guinea. A group of local Christians, led by Mamma Job, a freed slave and Baptist convert, begged for missionaries to be sent, and in response Henry Roe and R.W. Burnett arrived the following year. From there the gospel was taken by Efik and Igbo workers from southern Nigeria, and a mission was established there in 1893 by the Rev.Marcus Brown.
The former Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Districts remained separate until an autonomous Nigerian Conference was inaugurated in 1962. Shortly afterwards Church Union negotiations foundered and the adoption of a very hierarchical form of church order (including such unfamiliar titles as 'Pre-eminence') in 1976 led to a schism in Methodism which was not healed until the new constitution was modified in 1989.
A strong commitment to medical work, embodied in such places as the Wesley Guild hospital in Ilesha, the renowned leprosy settlement at Uzuakoli and the Mary Leuty hospital at Ituk Mbang, was not diminished by government take-overs and new developments in the 1990s included pioneering work among mentally ill destitutes at Amaudo in the east. (See Nigeria Health Care Project.) A century of Wesley Guild's involvement in Health care in Nigeria was celebrated at Westminster Central Hall in October 2012.
In 1956 a membership of 62,000 was reported, with a community roll of 114,000. By 2002 these totals had risen to 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 respectively.